In its previous innings, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had pulled the plug on its chaotic government after 49 days, saying it didn’t have the numbers and the Congress and BJP were blocking its key bills.
In its second innings, even a historic mandate hasn’t been able to keep the party from slipping into chaos during the first 49 days; the only difference being that the challenges this time have come from within the party.
In the last one month or so, AAP has had to sack a number of leaders — including Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan — who questioned the lack of internal democracy in the party raising fears of a possible split.
In the latest war of words, Prashant Bhushan on Friday fired a fresh salvo at Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, accusing him of turning AAP a "high command-oriented" party and betraying trust of lakhs of supporters.
In an open letter to Kejriwal, Bhushan said "God and history will not forgive what you are doing to the party."
This gave much ammo to the opposition, which said that governance has taken a backseat with the CM and his deputy preoccupied in intra-party fights. This means the positivity of an unprecedented electoral win in February has slightly faded away and dismayed its rank and file.
But those in the government insist the delivery mechanism is running smoothly. Vipul Mudgal, project director at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), says: “So far so good. They mean business. They’re not doing showroom inaugurations, so common to Delhi politicians.”
But Mudgal feels the party lacks the real differentiator.
“The problem is that they lack ideological support. They must have an economic vision. Otherwise, they would be reduced to short-term populism. Some of their actions will reach some distance and fritter away. People have aspirations; they want more.”
Like in its previous innings, AAP has kept some of its promises, mainly cheaper power and free water with conditions. The government looks relaxed, working on a long-term basis. There has been no serious confrontation and there is a willingness to work with the Centre.
But political scientist Neera Chandhoke is not impressed. “Freebies are not why I voted for them. Delhi is becoming an unlivable city. They need to break the builder lobby. They need to better the chaotic traffic system,” she said.
Mudgal praises AAP on some counts. “The CM is closely watching his cabinet colleagues and others in the government. The message is clear: you get into any controversy and you’re out. They want to show results. Full marks to them for taking on the high and mighty,” he said.
A Hindustan Times-C fore survey on last Saturday had claimed that 83% of the 2,036 respondents feel that the rift in the party is hurting the image of Arvind Kejriwal’s government. As many as 70% respondents felt the infighting was taking the focus away from the poll promises.
“It’s disappointing. They have not really learnt to transit to a political party with some sense of internal democracy. The way they removed their internal Lokpal is shocking. Remember, they quit for the Lokpal? Looks like they’re going to lose the chance. And if they do, they’re not going to come back,” Chandhoke said.