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.
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.)
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