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How will history look at Kejriwal’s Aapheaval?

columns Updated: Feb 16, 2014 00:38 IST

Hindustan Times
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"So how will history remember the Aam Aadmi Party government and Arvind Kejriwal?" That was how Pertie broke the news that AAP ki Sarkar had resigned. His question, however, wasn’t easy to answer. Let me explain why.

The last few weeks of the Aam Aadmi Party government have been mired in controversy. Its treatment of African women, the chief minister’s impetuous dharna and the dispute with the Lieutenant Governor over the process to pass the Lokpal Bill — but not its content — turned many middle class Delhiites against AAP. Several regretted voting for it. A few felt let down.

So there can be no doubt that the Aam Aadmi Party government disillusioned many of its supporters. But that’s not the full story. After all, the middle class was at best just a slice of its support. The bigger share of this cake, I’m confident, views the departing government very differently.

I am, of course, referring to the genuine aam aadmi! They will remember how much this government delivered of its promises in just 49 days. Electricity tariffs were halved, 660 litres of water delivered free, an anti-corruption helpline launched, a CAG audit of discoms instituted, FDI in retail scrapped and a magisterial inquiry ordered into Nido Tania’s death. Frankly, Arvind Kejriwal is perhaps right when he claims no other government has done so much in so short a time.

So even if he disappointed the likes of us — and I use that pronoun advisedly — Mr Kejriwal can still claim to depart office with his head held high.

Now, if delivery of manifesto promises begets loyalty and electoral reward, AAP should win more seats in the next elections for Delhi. This could also boost its Lok Sabha performance.

The problem is the circumstances in which those elections are likely to happen. In all probability, the state elections will be combined with those for the Lok Sabha. In that event will a Modi wave — assuming its developing, as many do — push AAP aside? Or will AAP be the wind-breaker that successfully resists it? The outcome in May 2014 is a lot harder to predict than December 2013.

There are two reasons for saying this. The first is Narendra Modi is growing more potent, almost by the day, whilst the collapse of the UPA, both in terms of its support and its own confidence, is cascading. This makes the challenge tougher for Mr Kejriwal’s little party.

The second reason is that many of his middle-class supporters could now prefer the BJP, perhaps because of Mr Modi himself. This means his dependence on his aam aadmi voter has increased. He needs to ensure they vote in bigger numbers than ever before.

I don’t want to predict the outcome of the next elections. At this point that would be a fool’s game. But I am confident Mr Kejriwal’s achievements will stand him in good stead.

Finally, his unjustified claim that the Congress and the BJP forced him out because they refused to accept his Lokpal Bill can only strengthen his aam support. For the fact that the two parties only objected to his defiance of rules and legislative — though not constitutional — requirements whilst trying to introduce the Bill, and not to its actual content, is a fine technicality many, if not most, will ignore.

The aam interpretation is bound to be that the big two swept their favourite Kejriwal from power. Now, with their jhaadu, they’re likely to look for revenge.

Views expressed by the author are personal

‘So how will history remember the Aam Aadmi Party government and Arvind Kejriwal?” That was how Pertie broke the news that AAP ki Sarkar had resigned. His question, however, wasn’t easy to answer. Let me explain why.

The last few weeks of the Aam Aadmi Party government have been mired in controversy. Its treatment of African women, the chief minister’s impetuous dharna and the dispute with the Lieutenant Governor over the process to pass the Lokpal Bill — but not its content — turned many middle class Delhiites against AAP. Several regretted voting for it. A few felt let down.

So there can be no doubt that the Aam Aadmi Party government disillusioned many of its supporters. But that’s not the full story. After all, the middle class was at best just a slice of its support. The bigger share of this cake, I’m confident, views the departing government very differently.

I am, of course, referring to the genuine aam aadmi! They will remember how much this government delivered of its promises in just 49 days. Electricity tariffs were halved, 660 litres of water delivered free, an anti-corruption helpline launched, a CAG audit of discoms instituted, FDI in retail scrapped and a magisterial inquiry ordered into Nido Tania’s death. Frankly, Arvind Kejriwal is perhaps right when he claims no other government has done so much in so short a time.

So even if he disappointed the likes of us — and I use that pronoun advisedly — Mr Kejriwal can still claim to depart office with his head held high.

Now, if delivery of manifesto promises begets loyalty and electoral reward, AAP should win more seats in the next elections for Delhi. This could also boost its Lok Sabha performance.

The problem is the circumstances in which those elections are likely to happen. In all probability, the state elections will be combined with those for the Lok Sabha. In that event will a Modi wave — assuming its developing, as many do — push AAP aside? Or will AAP be the wind-breaker that successfully resists it? The outcome in May 2014 is a lot harder to predict than December 2013.

There are two reasons for saying this. The first is Narendra Modi is growing more potent, almost by the day, whilst the collapse of the UPA, both in terms of its support and its own confidence, is cascading. This makes the challenge tougher for Mr Kejriwal’s little party.

The second reason is that many of his middle-class supporters could now prefer the BJP, perhaps because of Mr Modi himself. This means his dependence on his aam aadmi voter has increased. He needs to ensure they vote in bigger numbers than ever before.

I don’t want to predict the outcome of the next elections. At this point that would be a fool’s game. But I am confident Mr Kejriwal’s achievements will stand him in good stead.

Finally, his unjustified claim that the Congress and the BJP forced him out because they refused to accept his Lokpal Bill can only strengthen his aam support. For the fact that the two parties only objected to his defiance of rules and legislative — though not constitutional — requirements whilst trying to introduce the Bill, and not to its actual content, is a fine technicality many, if not most, will ignore.

The aam interpretation is bound to be that the big two swept their favourite Kejriwal from power. Now, with their jhaadu, they’re likely to look for revenge.

Views expressed by the author are personal