After the Lok Sabha drubbing, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal chose to go to jail, banking on the fact that his past antics succeeded in mobilising his support base. The ploy didn’t work and the AAP leader made a quiet exit. The letter he wrote from the prison also didn’t excite the cadre.
And his supporters seem crestfallen. “Delhi will have fresh polls soon. We lost all seven seats. Now that Narendra Modi is PM, the BJP wave is going to have a bigger impact. We need to work harder to stay in fight,” said a volunteer.
AAP was a golden opportunity that offered a political alternative but it lost out to ambition, immaturity and lack of internal democracy.
Kejriwal could have done much more for Delhi had he chosen to stay on. But without making wider consultations, he resigned in pursuit of his national ambitions.
Political scientist Ravi Ranjan said, “By being a CM, Kejriwal could have showcased his achievement to the national audience in a much better way and sought votes more effectively.”
His former colleague Rakesh Agarwal feels people did not take kindly to the opportunism evident in Kejriwal’s resignation and subsequent shifting of the target of his attacks to Modi, an achiever.
“His flip flops on reforming the government and going to jail on a non-issue irrevocably dented his image both among party volunteers and the electorate. AAP is touching a new low in terms of donations every day,” he said.
Without a well-structured origin, AAP chose to fight more than 400 Lok Sabha seats, which was always going to backfire. In the bargain, they seem to have lost much of their established territory, Delhi, as well. “It was a strategic mistake which exhibited AAP's political immaturity,” said Ranjan.
The victory in Delhi made the party leadership more ambitious. Kejriwal’s dharna on the eve of Republic Day just to save a minister without public mood was when the downslide began.
“AAP was evolving as a political alternative but they become complacent and self-confirming of their win. They were in hurry and thought that soon they will replace the Congress-BJP,” Ranjan said.
Now keeping its flock together and maintaining the morale of the volunteers must be high on the party’s agenda. Creating an organisational structure, devolving power to local units and attracting ‘thinking people’ to lead and volunteer are a few challenges staring at the party.
“AAP must hold elections and institute true internal democracy post haste after making up with the volunteers and leaders who have left. While dispensing with the culture of abuse and accuse, it must set high standards of transparency by complying with the RTI Act in full,” says Agarwal.
Subject committees must be truly activated and a governance agenda must be developed within two months, keeping the three states of Delhi, Haryana and Punjab in focus. Anything more is not within the capacity of the party, yet. Personality cult must give way to democracy and institutionalised processes, feels Agarwal.
Also, a group of prominent former volunteers and leaders of the party are planning to bring its leadership to account by publishing a report on what ails AAP and its debacle in the Lok Sabha elections.
“Two weeks have lapsed since the Lok Sabha poll results but instead of identifying the causes of the dent in the party’s fortunes, its leadership is acting as if all is hunky dory. It continues to indulge in antics and trying to play to the gallery. As responsible citizens and committed to the cause of ending corruption, we will now do what the party leadership ought to have done, and will lay bare all its ills,” said a former AAP leader.
“Kejriwal has been taking on governments just to grab eyeballs. This was the first time that he came in direct confrontation with court when he refused to furnish bail bond and chose to go to jail,” said Ranjan, adding, "But people could see through his design and it was quite evident when not many people turned up when he made a U-turn and decided to furnish a bond to come out of jail."