An AAP Member's Advice To Kumar Vishwas On How To Be An MP

Published: January 10, 2018 18:19 IST
Politics is a ruthless business, a lesson that Kumar Vishwas learnt to his cost this week. After days of public campaigning, he failed to be nominated for one of Delhi's three Rajya Sabha seats that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) filled by virtue of its overwhelming majority in the Delhi Assembly. Not choosing him may seem unjust at first glance, but I believe it was unquestionably the right decision.

Until April last year, I would have completely agreed that Kumar Vishwas had earned the right to represent AAP in the Rajya Sabha and even his worst detractors within the party would not have disagreed. But that was before he took advantage of the back-to-back electoral defeats of the party in Punjab and then the MCD polls in Delhi to launch what can only be described as an attempted coup, the gory details of which may be in dispute, but the existence of which is not, despite the denials of Shri Vishwas. I still did not really hold it against him; after all, he did what any ambitious politician would do, believing the leader of his party was vulnerable and taking a shot to displace him. He failed - and losing the Rajya Sabha seat is a cost of that failure, no point crying about it now. But the thing that personally turned me as an AAP member against Vishwas was his targeting, out of all the leaders who had criticised him, AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan for suspension; it had a definite stench of the communal about it and left me outraged. I remain an unreconstructed Nehruvian to the end and made my displeasure loud and clear at the time.

That Kumar Vishwas is one the founders of AAP, that he gave the party his all in the first couple of years, that he tried to play peacemaker during the schism with the Bhushans and Yogendra Yadav, that he was an effective spokesperson for the party's cause when he chose to be, all these assertions are perfectly true and can never be taken away from him. However, like the Bhushans and Yogendra Yadav, he was never able to make peace with the reality that every party can only have one leader at a time. The transition to electoral politics is neither easy, nor for everyone. A gap in terms of comparative performance started to become obvious during the 2014 Lok Sabha election itself. Kumar Vishwas won an embarrassing 3% of the vote in Amethi - even Yogendra Yadav won 6% in Gurgaon; Arvind Kejriwal won over 2 lakh votes in Varanasi while facing off against Narendra Modi himself during a Modi wave. I don't think Kumar Vishwas the politician ever recovered from the Amethi loss and perhaps that is why he did not stand for election in the 2015 Delhi assembly elections, the result of which left no doubt about who led AAP. There is just no comparison.

As part of a patch-up compromise last summer after the attempted coup, Kumar Vishwas was given charge of Rajasthan to lead AAP's campaign in the state elections due later this year. To say his performance has been equivalent to an absentee landlord would not be far from the truth. His preoccupation with his poetry events, television appearances and self-promotion in general has only increased, leaving little if any time for the daily political grind. In that way, you could say he was the perfect candidate for the Rajya Sabha. And he may have still got there if had not broken the first rule of Indian politics: never ever publicly proclaim an ambition to any office, it is a sure path to never getting there. The final straw was when a small group of his followers set up a shamiana and camped in the lawn at AAP party headquarters, demanding that their leader be given his due. Trust was irrevocably broken by this time and there was no going back.

In recent days, Kumar Vishwas' right-of-centre political ideology has seemed to lurch further rightwards, especially in his appearance on Rajat Sharma's show this past weekend where he sounded more than ever like a dyed-in-wool BJP man, and as a result, probably lost the last remaining sympathy many AAPians had for him. The suspicion that Vishwas would enter the Rajya Sabha and then defect to the BJP was the main reason he did not get nominated and his behaviour in the past few days has only confirmed its veracity.

I suspect Kumar Vishwas is headed into the BJP's warm embrace; in any case I have some friendly advice for the poet (having just realised he has blocked me on Twitter, it is likely my final piece of advice to him): whether you remain in AAP or migrate to the BJP, please choose a Lok Sabha constituency at the earliest and then spend the next year assiduously tending to it so you are fully prepared by the time the general elections arrive. That's how you enter parliament with your leadership credentials and honour intact.

The choice of Sanjay Singh, AAP's hardest working leader, for one of the Rajya Sabha slots was met with universal praise, while the choice of the two Guptas was met with reactions varying from confusion to rage. Not picking Kumar Vishwas meant that those leaders close to Kejriwal would naturally have to sit it out as well to avoid more internal strife and accusations of favouritism. As a result, Kumar Vishwas is not the only AAP leader in a sulk this week. Frankly, there are few more pathetic sights than seeing leaders clamouring for a parachute into parliament when the Lok Sabha elections are only a year away.

Since 2015, I have heard every prediction regarding the ultimate fate of AAP's three Rajya Sabha seats from Mrs Kejriwal getting a spot, despite it being against the party constitution, to assurances that the AAP's Delhi government would be dismissed well before the Rajya Sabha election. Underestimating AAP has become a bit of pastime for members of the establishment and AAP would not have it any other way.

One of my main gripes about AAP's leadership has been that they are overly inflexible and naïve in the way they practice their politics, since it is entirely possible to be savvy without being dishonest. Thus, if the main charge being made against two of AAP's Rajya Sabha MPs is that it is a cynical ploy to maximise an electoral advantage in a community that till now has formed the core of the BJP's urban base, I would simply say without any hesitation that it is about bloody time. Professional politics is no place for amateurs

(Krishan Partap Singh is a novelist and a member of the Aam Aadmi Party.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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