The rumblings and rebellions in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have an air of deja vu about them. The portents were no different when the earlier national options, the Janata Party and the Janata Dal, were put to seed by men with vaulting ambitions that brooked no reason.
Will the political infanticide of the seventies and the eighties be replicated? Or a few good men rise to pull the AAP back from the brink of precipice?
The stakes for Arvind Kejriwal are higher in his face-off with Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav. The former (Prashant Bhushan) has a flourishing legal career and the latter (Yogendra Yadav), a psephologist of some distinction, was in any case a lateral entry to the anti-graft movement that bred its political variant.
If he’s serious, Kejriwal has the option to salvage the ground he may have lost. As he wasn’t present at the national executive meeting that ousted the dissenting duo from the party’s political affairs committee, he can rise above factions, or at least claim to be doing so, to set up a rapprochement. That would add to his stature - showing him as the kartaa of the AAP Parivar.
But it takes two to duet. Will Prashant Bhushan walk a step to strike common ground with Kejriwal after having declared that he wasn’t ready for the compromises the party convener was open to making. Insiders claim he kept threatening in the course of the election campaign, that he’d go public against ‘tainted’ candidatures for the assembly.
While he put the gun to the party’s temple, his father, Shanti Bhushan, cover fired for Kiran Bedi, the BJP’s candidate for the CM’s office. Such ambush attacks, threats and retaliatory stings devised by Kejriwal loyalists, turned the AAP into a house of intrigue. Of deepening distrust.
The party would fall apart sooner than later if it doesn’t act against in-house snoops. The monster is of its own making; a creeping effect on its internal functioning of the surveillance culture it taught people to fight graft. Fear can’t be the driving force to run societies or political parties. Public life is essentially about trusting and verifying.
If that’s the lesson for Kejriwal, the likes of Prashant Bhushan would be better off accepting that sagacious politics isn’t about being self-righteous. It’s about mutual accommodation so long as the core values one propounds are intact. A quick reading of the Arthshastra would tell the learned lawyer that at times, political adversaries have to be beaten on their own ground.
The larger good principle, which in the present case is about preserving unity in order to deliver on promises made to the people, is no pure metal product. It’s a mouldable alloy.
In politics, those who don’t bend, break. Prime examples of it are Morarji Desai and Charan Singh, who chose mutual destruction over reconciliation in the late 1970s to oversee the fall of the Janata Party regime.
Bhushan senior, who was Morarji’s law minister, should know that better than anyone else. Wisdom drawn from that experience dawned perhaps when he pleaded “shanti” in support of Kejriwal’s leadership. The appeal didn’t cut ice because of the love he had professed earlier for Bedi.
Reverting to Kejriwal, the AAP leader currently undergoing treatment in Bangaluru, must organize immediate cure for the faction-torn party on his return. For starters, he should ask his camp followers to stop trolling the dissenting faction. That would cool tempers down, creating a climate for dialogue.
The Delhi CM must in his own interest accept the dissidents’ demand for transparency in party funding and expenditure. Or else he’d end up discrediting his government’s USP of fighting graft. Other sticky issues of expanding AAP’s footprints, the quality of candidatures and internal decision making are negotiable.
The opportunity is in the challenge Kejriwal faces. He must give some. And take some. Only then will the sum of it produce a wholesome accord. Accept also if he must, the one man one post model. In politics, power is de facto. Not de jure.