Time for Kejriwal to Show What He's Made Of

Published: June 10, 2014 10:44 IST
(Captain GR Gopinath founded Air Deccan and is considered a pioneer in the low-cost airline sector. He quit Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party on May 24, five months after joining it)

The wayward and wilful ways of AAP and 'party supremo' Arvind Kejriwal, to use the expression of Yogendra Yadav, and the huge AAP defeat in the recent election, has wrecked the hopes of millions of people across the country who had looked up to the new party as a torch-bearer against corruption and harbinger of clean politics.

The fledgling party stunned the country by securing a massive mandate in Delhi state elections, just short of a simple majority. Kejriwal, the political upstart, became the youngest chief minister of Delhi state with support from the Congress, its arch enemy.

But then a series of rash actions, ill-conceived adventures, and intemperate behaviour by the leaders of the party and Kejriwal himself landed the party in a number of controversies.

Success breeds arrogance and delusions of grandeur and invincibility. From dizzying heights, the AAP crashed. It is now besieged with factional fighting and clashes of ego and is on the brink of disintegration. When a party wins and comes to power, riding purely on the charisma of a strong leader whose very name spells magic, and if that ensures electoral victory as happened with Indira Gandhi, people follow fawningly. But when the same leader calls all the shots and delivers a defeat, dissent and rebellion set in.

All is not lost for the AAP. Now that Congress is on a path of Harakiri and Rahul Gandhi has chosen to be a back-bencher, there's a glaring vacuum for a responsible and strong national opposition party, a necessary bulwark against the dominant BJP. Kejriwal can fill this void. Though AAP supporters may have veered away before elections to the Modi camp, they still speak wistfully of the young party of crusaders on whom they pinned such high hopes. They are disappointed the party took the road it did.

The first step for Kejriwal is to take stock and reflect along with his team mates what went so horribly wrong for the party and what mistakes were made by many senior leaders, including himself. That calls for complete honesty, humility and courage along with public atonement. Kejriwal is still held in high esteem by the public for his probity and integrity, whatever may be his other faults.

It was well known even during the Anna campaign that he was the-hard liner in Anna's camp of moderates and unaccommodating in his ways. That  failing, of not seeing another's point of view, his unwillingness to see the writing on the wall when the tide of public opinion is running against his party, has served him poorly since.  

Instead of blaming the AAP performance on "paid media" or attributing Narendra Modi's victory to divisive majoritarian politics, Kejriwal and Co should look inward and emerge stronger. They must recognise that it takes time to build an enduring political institution in a country as large and diverse as ours. They must prepare a road map and be ready to undertake a task of this magnitude, diligently and painstakingly which may take many years.

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