In Hindsight - AAPka Bubble Bust ? Not yet but...
General elections 2014 are just over and I have been involved in a number of discussions regarding the political scenario with my friends and colleagues. Now when I look back at those discussions, I really think a lot of interesting observations and conclusions came through to the surface. I am just putting up some thoughts on what and how I think of them in the hindsight. Some of these have been covered in media and I don’t claim anything to be very new. This post is about my thoughts on where Arvind Kejriwal led Aam Aadmi Party erred and should target to change in future.
I have heard many of AAP supporters raising sorts of toasts on the party winning 4 Lok Sabha seats from Punjab and increasing their vote share in Delhi. However, this is exactly what would harm AAP in case they are complacent at this achievement which is actually not even that. As far as Punjab is concerned, they flew through in the wave against Akali Dal, one which was so strong that even a Modi wave could not save Arun Jaitley. It is to the party’s credit that they brought those seats for the party but the evaluation should be on how they got them. As far as vote share in Delhi is concerned, it was Congress that surrendered their share to a common pool. And if looked at carefully, one would realize that while AAPs vote share increased from 29.5% to 33%, BJP moved from 33% to 46% which is a whopping 13% rise since the assembly elections. Though AAP was second in all the 7 seats which BJP won, they lost each seat with a margin of much over 1 lakh votes which could by no imagination be called a close fight. On a national scenario, more than 420 candidates out of about 450 had to surrender their deposit which means they secured less than one-sixth of the votes polled in their constituency. There are states where AAP scored votes lesser than NOTA. Now these are something which should make AAP more worried than happier.
Now if you are an AAP supporter, do not take this post as an anti AAP article. It definitely is not one. There is no doubt that they started some great initiatives during their short stint of power in Delhi and I certainly do not doubt their intentions. They obviously seem to be good people who really believe in changing the systems for betterment of India. I have not actually gone into the thought and intentions though in this article as I am not an insider for the party and have really no right to comment on their thought process. For an outsider like me, it would be their actions by which they would be judged. Now for a party that generated such euphemism in the public, it needs to be thought about how they ended here. There are some general weaknesses that seem to be the reason behind some of the actions they have undertaken and these needs to be worked upon. These may not be negative points for them but definitely are areas of improvement and are broadly captured in these 3 adjectives – immaturity, impatience and inexperience.
1. Immaturity - still a child at heart
Promising too much to be done too soon – One needs to understand that getting a moon is not possible in a day. It takes much longer to even reach there let alone bringing it. AAP during its campaign in Delhi started a practice of setting deadlines for most of what they promised. It in principle is a good practice to increase accountability and was appreciated. However, what the party forgot was to take into account the fact that execution of things depends on many stakeholders and procedures which are time consuming in themselves. It was these timelines which backfired for them when people expected them to create impact on ground within a week. It would have been better if they took a more mature approach towards the promises they had made.
Vowing for gaining trust – During the campaign and even much later, Arvind was seen vowing to not take support of any party to form a government. This was exhaustively covered by media because of the toughness in language and a promise people wanted to believe in. However it is a political reality that no one can be considered untouchable. And they realized this fact but only to their peril. They ultimately took the support of Congress to form a government and the earlier vow came to bite their back.
Plebiscite for decision taking – This is sheer immaturity if AAP believed that electorate would believe in the plebiscite they conducted before taking Congress support. Infact this was probably taken as a lack of decision making power. They were voted by people to take the decisions on their behalf and the first difficult decision they had to take was not a place to showcase their indecision. Moreover, there is no way the party could have showcased the credibility of this exercise and hence it simply made them butt of many jokes.
Take on the powerful – Arvind fighting from Varanasi could simply be termed as lack of political understanding. Right from start it was clear that it would be an impossible fight against an invincible opponent. On top of this the party considered that Amethi was winnable. This led them to invest huge resources including money, time and manpower in these two constituencies. These resources if optimally utilized could have helped them perform a lot better at other places. Moreover a party which stood on socio-economic/ public issues should not have made this fight personal which they inevitably did by making it an ego issue against NaMo and RaGa.
2. Impatient - want everything an hour ago
Quick tickets to show off – A party that came to power after promising a change to system got into a game of leaping on quick announcement which were a Band-Aid at best for the ailing society. While they should have focused on long term systemic changes, they resorted to subsidies and freebies. They did initiate CAG audit of electricity distribution companies. It would have been much better if they waited for the results rather than announcing subsidy. To aggravate it further, they showered benefits selectively to those who flayed laws in their support. This was seen as their hurriedness to showcase action before they quit for leaping onto the national elections.
All or nothing – They had just started serving the people of Delhi when we heard they resigned. Now this is just as surprising as it could get. Though they thought Jan-Lokpal was their promise and their sole agenda, electorate was suffering from many ills and this legislation did not seem as the sole solution for those. This was an important part of the agenda, however they should not have made it their only criteria for success. A party that could have served in many other ways chose to exit the responsibility at first test of its robustness.
Too much too early – They fielded candidates in around 450 seats throughout the country which was more than those fielded by BJP or Congress. It can simply be considered as impatience to gain national relevance in a year of their existence. This however, only diluted their campaign and created too many fronts compared to what they were ready for. There are leaders within AAP who foresaw that they had limited bandwidth but still they decided to go in a big way. But politics in not a sport where running in elections is more important than winning – it is NOT.
3. Inexperience - learning only by doing wrong
Carrying activism to governance – Arvind and team took to streets when they thought things were not going where they should. The grand dharna simply disturbed life of Delhites and did not actually lead to any meaningful action at end. The ultimate result of this was more frustration among masses rather than robin-hood image for AAP. The incident with Somnath could have impressed many but there was a large mass which thought that following procedures would have been a better approach.
Why not in my power – The government released a number of orders and strictures which were not within its jurisdiction. Be it related to the electricity rates or calling meeting of judges, many such announcements could not be implemented because they were simply beyond the scope of the Delhi government’s job. These only led people to believe in their inability to govern and brought lack of experience to surface.
Not ready yet but fight – They fielded a sea of candidates for the national elections who were simply not ready for such a fight. They needed grooming for interacting with the media, communicating their thoughts to public and managing a campaign. This simply did not happen and they were left to take on experienced political minds and powers on sheer basis of AAP brand. This relative inexperience was showcased in the poll results.
So, considering AAP lacked the maturity, aptitude and experience for a national-level election and ghastly errors in understanding people 's real sentiments, it should have stayed within Delhi to consolidate its position rather than launching a nation-wide campaign. Ideally, they should have not GONE ahead with government formation and should have preferred to get into elections. However, personally I think it may have backfired too and perception was created in masses that AAP was trying to force another election. So forming the government was justified. However, they should have aggressively pursued long term changes in the system. When they could not get the Jan-Lokpal through, they should have opted to divert their energy at other goals which were achievable through the executive powers they had in hand. Success of a few high impact initiatives could have given AAP a lot more credibility and popularity. Similarly, for the national elections, they should have focused on a selective region and limited number of seats. With the resources they had, they could have optimally utilized them and could have credibly staked claim on few seats. As for the road ahead, they need to communicate directly with the electorate and accept some of these shortcomings that they suffered from. It is only once they accept these; they can assure masses about their readiness to work on the weaknesses. They should look at bringing more professionalism at the way handle politics rather than considering this as amateur pastime. And above all, the party needs to learn that those who rise fast fall faster. It is the slow and steady who stay longer and grow stronger. Rome was not built in a day and nor can a political party with national influence.
PS: All these are my personal views and in no way am I trying to point fingers. I am just trying to showcase that a perception has been created based on AAP’s actions and this needs to be worked upon. If you disagree with any point above or agree with anything or want to bring up something which I missed, go ahead and register your views in the comments.
Photo Credits : Aam Aadmi Party