Wednesday, May 03, 2017

AAP in a state of befuddlement



Ratnakar Tripathy

We are going through times when politics has become highly volatile and unpredictable. It has become genuinely difficult or even impossible to make forecasts. And yet I am time and again amazed by the pretense of clarity shown by experts after the event, as if they knew beforehand what’s up and for some reason decided not to share their deep insights. Fear of proving wrong can be quite paralyzing of course and any analysis of events must face the risk of being proven wrong. It was thus amusing to read comments and analysis of the recent turmoil in the Aam Admi Party [AAP] which does seem to be in a state of a daze after its defeat in the Delhi municipal elections.  Sanjay Kumar, political analyst and professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies claims that “The results have come exactly how it was predicted and even if the exit polls was not conducted, if you just walk the streets and talk to people you would have been able to guess these results.” But he does not explain why a party known for delivering more than any other should lose to a party that did not even allow any of its formerly incumbent councilors to contest the municipal election of last month. In brief, what does the voter want and what does the sweeping verdict reflect? Whatever the reasons, it is apparent that the AAP is under a severe strain simply to make sense of the results. Several news reports after the elections did indicate that the common voter cast his vote not so much for the BJP but the PM Narendra Modi, believing him to be capable of strong executive action. This piece of information carries within it the beginnings of an explanation.

I feel that AAP’s recent turmoil and the move against Kumar Vishwas is an indication of the bewilderment among the AAP leaders and the volunteers. AAP among all the parties believes in a rational democratic principle, namely, your voter necessarily chooses you for all the good work done and promised for the future. This belief has now come under serious questioning since by not allowing a single incumbent to fight the elections, the BJP in effect admitted that its councilors were non-performers, even if corruption may not be an issue. Despite the implicit admission, the BJP, of course, swept the elections and came back to power in all the municipalities of Delhi leaving AAP completely aghast at the verdict. I do not think AAP leaders have managed to find a satisfactory explanation for the rout even after several weeks and the reason for this may be the extraordinary climate of the day when the voters are swayed by a single personality and his promises, rather than a party as such.

Thus when the now expelled AAP leader Amanullah Khan alleged that Kumar is a BJP-RSS agent and Mr Vishwas hinted that Amanutullah Khan is a proxy for Sanjay Singh, Ashutosh and other top leaders, I would read it as a sign of overall daze caused by the common failure of AAP leaders to comprehend the election verdict of last month. Even I have the same problem although I am willing to question the rational principle implicit in AAP’s sense of wonder. I do feel that at least for the interim this principle is in a state of suspension and we do not know how long such an irrational political environment persists. When a political party is unable to see its plight with any clarity, factional fights are bound to grow and here again, I see mental befuddlement as the reason behind panicked accusations of a sort that does not seem sober at all.  This showed when Mr Vishwas told NDTV at the weekend that Mr Kejriwal is surrounded by "yes men" who are misguiding him. Mr Khan on his part had alleged that Kumar was plotting to overthrow Mr Kejriwal and if he failed would join the BJP, taking with him several AAP legislators. Clearly, AAP has to decide if following the rationality principle, AAP must introspect and find faults in its delivery system, or simply accept the verdict as a sign of bad times that will pass.

The trouble with the politics of exuberance is that despite all the opposition, the popularity of Modi is not waning steadily or fast enough. This by itself is frustrating and the AAP leaders still have to learn that the voter will not easily lend it the mantle of a stable political entity and the factional quarrels will just make this public hesitation worse.


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