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In the eyes of his voters, Kejriwal is still a hope for the future

The MCD elections have proved that the wheels are coming off the brand of politics that Arvind Kejriwal had promised and used to win an unprecedented mandate

columns Updated: Apr 30, 2017 21:56 IST
Shashi Shekhar
Shashi Shekhar
Aam Aadmi Party,MCD Polls,Arvind Kejriwal
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal with deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and minister Satyendra Jain. In his impatience to win, Kajriwal kept compromising on the very principles he was flaunting to enter the electoral fray. That’s why many of his party’s ministers and MLAs with criminal links had to go to jail(Hindustan Times)

The initial leads for the Municipal Corporation of Delhi elections had barely started coming in when the allegations from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) began surfacing: It isn’t a BJP wave but an EVM wave. They were again blaming their loss on electronic voting machines. To back their allegations, why don’t the leading lights of AAP counter the challenge thrown by the Election Commission (EC) to test the machines?

These elections have proved that the wheels are coming off the alternative brand of politics that Arvind Kejriwal had promised and won an unprecedented mandate with. The defeat brings down the castles in the air that Kejriwal had built of making AAP a national-level alternative to the party in power. Let me take you back a few years. Kejriwal and his friends were then running an ideological crusade against corruption. At that time, it did not appear they would join politics, which is why a number of like-minded intellectuals were joining them. These were people who had begun to hate politics since they had lost trust in the intentions of their leaders.

Anna Hazare was strictly against politics but Kejriwal assured his supporters that if they were to change the way the nation’s politics functioned, they had to themselves become politicians. In some time, the ranks of such people who were willing to become politicians to change the face of politics swelled. As a result, Hazare confined himself to Ralegaon Siddhi in Maharashtra.

Kejriwal entered the political playground with the sole intention of winning. The story goes that a meeting of party leaders took place in Delhi’s Jangpura. In this meeting, Yogendra Yadav presented some statistics that suggested that they would lose in the first two elections but it was likely they would win the third. On that day, Kejriwal said he didn’t have time. The AAP will contest polls only to win. In his impatience to win, he kept compromising on the very principles he was flaunting to enter the electoral fray. That’s why many of his party’s ministers and MLAs with criminal links had to go to jail. Even now the sword of the law is hanging over their necks.

That is where Kejriwal’s ‘alternative brand of politics’ began to unravel. Differences of opinion began to emerge within the party. In this scenario, Kejriwal reacted in the manner his opponents would have. He sacked Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav from the party. Two of the four MPs in Punjab also turned against him. The founders of AAP began feeling claustrophobic. Allegations surfaced that AAP is just a coterie of two to four people that has no room for independent voices.

In Delhi lingo, his friends and he should have kept their thand (cool). But the exact opposite happened. Whenever they emerged in the public, they made a new allegation. AAP’s spokespersons followed the same trajectory. The result? The party’s perception kept turning negative. The person on whom the people had pinned their hopes to get their work done was nowhere to be found.

Here we should remember that the Aam Aadmi Party and Narendra Modi rose on the national horizon around the same time. Both resisted corruption and sided with the well-being of the common man. It was a unique time in Indian politics. Numerous scams were being revealed and the former PM was silent despite his impeccable credentials and capabilities. The people wanted change. They saw a liberator and saviour in both Modi and Kejriwal. I don’t know why Indians want to straddle two poles at the same time. As soon as he assumed power, Modi put his ministers into action and send out the message that even if they didn’t manage to fulfil election promises in a jiffy, they should make an honest attempt in that direction. This was the alternative space that AAP wanted to capture. But the Modi-Shah duo has compelled it to shrivel.

In the run-up to the elections, Kejriwal should have focused all his energies on Delhi’s development. Contrary to this, he began dreaming about going on to win the nation through Punjab and Goa. The results are before you. It is possible that in the days ahead, the BJP could try and topple his government and the party may face disintegration. But it’ll be a folly to assume that the political career of Kejriwal or his supporters is over.

One hopes Kejriwal will understand the ramifications of this new setback. In the eyes of his voters, he is still a hope for the future.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief Hindustan

First Published: Apr 30, 2017 21:53 IST