Note: This piece was first published at the Uncivil Society Reunion blog and is now being reproduced on IndiaFacts with permission from noted blogger Barbar Indian. Some minor edits have been made with regard to language and formatting.
The cult we today call AAP entered politics riding a tsunami wave of discontent against the UPA Government, particularly its gargantuan scams. This movement was created by Anna Hazare with the help of a TRP hungry media. To the naive, the AAP, led by Arvind Kejriwal, is the fresh face of politics. Of course we knew all along that it was a bunch of the worst kind of anarchists, agit-prop activists and people with plain malice against India and some of its socio-economic groups.
AAP unceremoniously discarded its pioneer and entered the political fray in Delhi. It claimed to be opposed to Congress, but suddenly veteran Congress hacks appeared in the party’s executive committee. It also immediately rejected the “communal” BJP.
This type of parties and indeed this type of messages are not without precedent. Many communist revolutions started in this manner. However, in a democratic set up, you have to win elections and run a Government, which cults like AAP are particularly loathe to do.
We can categorize the AAPers (leaders only) into three broad categories:
- Personal glory seekers: they want to win awards (Magsaysay) and want mind share and legacy but ignored by the establishment civil society for not being ‘posh’ (or loyal) enough.
- Freelance wheeler dealers who are too chicken to join politics directly but have a long history of seeking rent through litigation and blackmail.
- Congress moles and various insidious agendas for the ride.
As you can see, running a Government couldn’t be further from the minds of these people. So why did they want to fight the Delhi elections?
For one thing, the Lok Pal Bill concept was running out of steam fast. With the Lok Sabha elections around the corner, media was rapidly losing interest. The public was getting bored with the concept. Additionally, AAP quickly realized that it couldn’t survive by taking on the two major parties simultaneously.
With Sheila in danger, the Congress sensed an opportunity. Remember, by this time AAP had managed to completely burn its bridges with the BJP side of the house. Its nefarious ideology had come to resemble the Congress for the most part, so it was the most logical choice. For Congress, it meant AAP was going to take some of the anti-corruption heat off its back.
Congress provides the funding and part of the logistics and media backup. AAP provides the front line campaigning, legwork. BJP votes get cut, Sheila back in the game, Kejriwal regains relevance.
No one could have predicted that AAP would end up with 28 seats. They were supposed to be in the range of 4 – 12 seats. But the last opinion polls sent alarm bells ringing in the Congress HQ. They did two things: started sending out feelers to AAP for a post poll coalition (Sheila, Shakeel Ahmed). They also cut back some of the media backup (the conspiracy seekers can sense collusion in the sting). It did not help.
Let us list the various interested parties and what they are seeking out of the logjam:
Congress would have very much liked to form a Govt with AAP. Rahul Gandhi pretty much indicated during the media briefing that he wanted to be more like AAP. They were open until 8 December. Unfortunately, AAP ddoesn’twant to get busy with governance and Arvind Kejriwal has decided he can do even better. He insulted the Prince in TV studios in no uncertain terms, leaving no chances of an immediate reconciliation possible.
Congress will use the logjam to gain airtime for its leaders, take pot shots at BJP and focus on the Lok Sabha elections. It will keep a back channel open to try and spawn AAP at other metros, plus keep the damage from AAP leaders’ media appearances to a minimum. Congress will try to defer the reelection since it wants AAP to be free to damage BJP in other metros.
Note that there is a mistaken perception that since AAP cut more Congress votes, Congress will not warm up to it. This is a case of availability bias. Delhi has seen quite a bit of youth agitations, with memories of police batons and water canons still fresh. This might not be the case in other metros.
The AAP is an obvious no go for a coalition partner. BJP’s Delhi leaders might have wanted a compromise, but under the current scenario BJP has nothing to gain and a lot to lose. It can be said that BJP will lose a big chunk of its ideological supporters if it jumps into bed with that lot.
Obviously a coalition with Congress is out of the question. BJP’s best move is to demand a reelection as soon as possible. It also needs to meter its attack on AAP carefully, should the latter plan to contest nationally in the Lok Sabha elections.
3. Media / civil society
It is clear that the media wants to give airtime to Kejriwal and claim he is really like Rahul Gandhi or vice versa or something. They will keep hustling BJP spokespersons in studios.
In Kejriwal they seek the qualities which sadly their favorite party couldn’t deliver. This utterly shameless lot will cheer for their surrogate Prince and try and squeeze out the positive mind share of BJP.
* * *
Elated by the surprisingly good outcome in the Delhi elections, Kejriwal has upped the ante. He has thus succeeded in performing multiple backstabbings, palat firau and ideological somersaults in the span of his short political career and yet not just survive but grow stronger, exhibiting what a good strategist he is. It remains to be seen how aggressively he fights in the LS elections and at what level does he partner up with the Congress. But it is certain he is in no hurry to form a Government in Delhi. He wants to put a few people in the Lok Sabha, because ultimately that’s where the action is.
Sandeep Balakrishna is a columnist and author of Tipu Sultan: the Tyrant of Mysore. He has translated S.L. Bhyrappa’s “Aavarana: the Veil” from Kannada to English.