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It really couldn’t get any worse for Arvind Kejriwal, the Aam Aadmi Party chief, than this. Following his crashlanding in the Lok Sabha elections after the heady days of being Delhi chief minister, he is facing the heat from none other than a founding member of the party, the illustrious Shanti Bhushan. Among the many criticisms that Mr Bhushan has levelled against Mr Kejriwal is that he does not consult people.
Another killer is that he lacks the competence to organise the party. Unfortunately, for Mr Kejriwal, his track record is such that these criticisms may find quite a few takers. It is difficult to believe that anyone could so quickly and so foolishly fritter away the enormous advantage the party had when it stormed to power in Delhi. It represented at that time the antidote to all that was wrong with our political system — corruption, nepotism, dynasty, sloth, red tapism, unresponsiveness and so on. But Mr Kejriwal was simply unable to make the transition from street corner politician to responsible administrator. The next error Mr Kejriwal made was nursing vaulting ambition. Instead of consolidating in areas where the party had made inroads, he decided to spread himself really thin and challenge Narendra Modi in Varanasi and try and gather momentum in Uttar Pradesh. This diminished the party which had just found its feet.
Mr Kejriwal to his credit did admit to his failures, but his authoritarian ways have been criticised by more than one person in his party. His seeming indulgence of the likes of Somnath Bharti also eroded his image as Mr Clean. However, the fact that Mr Bhushan has criticised Mr Kejriwal should not mean the end of the road for either him or the party. Instead, it should occasion some much-needed introspection.
There is definitely space for a party like AAP, especially in the light of the fact that the Congress and the Left are in retreat. But, as Mr Bhushan says, the party’s strategies and expansion have to be formulated realistically and democratically instead of through panels and cliques in Delhi. Mr Kejriwal’s personality is still very much a USP for the party but he really has to go back to his core competence, that of heading a viable people-oriented party which deals with very localised issues. It had a real people connect earlier and it is this that Mr Kejriwal must rediscover. If that happens, then Mr Bhushan’s criticism will have led to the greater good of the party.