Surveys show that AAP will come back stronger when Delhi Assembly elections are held again. Its online donations, AAP’s self-professed barometer of its appeal, went up by 700% a day after it “sacrificed” itself at the altar of the Jan Lokpal Bill. Arvind Kejriwal and his team are certain that it will reap good electoral dividends. But with still a couple of months to go for the Lok Sabha elections, one has to closely watch how the politics unfolds.
Corruption is the biggest malaise in India and AAP changed the political and public discourse by bringing it to the political centre stage. But the government the people voted for — almost 30% of Delhi voters chose the political greenhorn over the Congress and BJP in December polls — was expected to deliver certain tangibles even as it fought its larger battle against corruption.
The AAP’s agenda looked promising. The debutant party floated some novel and some radical ideas in its election manifesto. Apart from the promise to introduce the Jan Lokpal Bill within 15 days of coming to power, it spoke about Swaraj. It assured citizens that there would be improvement in public health services, that government schools would be better run, that a citizen’s force would be established to make Delhi safer.
Overall, the promise was of inclusive and participatory governance.
Once in power, Kejriwal prioritised a 17-point agenda. The AAP claims it delivered more in 49 days that any government could in years. It was not easy to negotiate the exigencies of the establishment and honour their anti-corruption and pro-empowerment mandate. Their unorthodox ways even earned them uncharitable tags of being populist and anarchist.
But Kejriwal did not sit idle. His government started an anti-corruption helpline within 10 days of coming to power. More than collecting footage of sting operations conducted by citizens, the idea was to create fear among the corrupt. It was beginning to work. It ordered construction of 500 new shelters for the city’s homeless.
For the first time in Delhi, school infrastructure was audited by citizen’s groups. Parents harassed by the tedious nursery admission process found hope when the government started a dedicated helpline. Another helpline was handling grievances related to government departments and public services.
Governance means nothing if driven by corrupt considerations, said AAP leader Prashant Bhushan in an interview this Sunday.
But however fundamental the idea of Jan Lokpal was to the AAP agenda, it was merely one of the many deliverables. Now, with the AAP government gone, the future of their unique initiatives looks uncertain. In the absence of political will, many of these may lose steam. The ones run by AAP volunteers may wind up immediately.
From the beginning, AAP knew it was a minority government and that, sooner or later, it had to go. Instead of hastening the Jan Lokpal Bill flashpoint, it could have continued for as long as possible the rest of its transformational agenda that no political opponent would dare oppose inside the Assembly. Instead, Kejriwal decided to ride away on his high horse, abandoning the people’s verdict.
AAP, of course, hopes to return to power, this time with a majority of its own, and Kejriwal is promising to continue with his unfinished agenda when he has the legitimacy of numbers. But, at any rate, his resignation as the chief minister was a political gamble. While a large section of the electorate may back this all-or-nothing stand as idealistic, others will find it immature, or even opportunistic.
Whether Kejriwal returns stronger or not, for now, Delhi has reasons to feel let down.