Aam Aadmi Party 2015: The death of an ‘idea’; the birth of a party
The AAP did not come into existence as part of any design, but was product of the time. More than a political party, the AAP was an ‘idea ‘whose main goal was to inject a new political culture in Indian political system, particularly in electoral democracy. The AAP was a platform for all those who wanted to work for a ‘clean’ politics. Those who believed in political morality, total revolution and saintly politics started associating with the party. Means received priority over the end (power). The main goal of the party was not to capture power, but to clean the political system. Even while remaining part of the mainstream electoral democracy; still doing things differently was the very basis of its existence. The founders wanted the AAP to be an ‘experiment’ which would have demonstration effects on other political parties. The India against Corruption (IAC) members who founded the AAP just wanted to prove that they not only preach (as was the case with the Anna movement and was criticized by the mainstream political parties), but can also practice a ‘clean’ politics. The strategy was to bring the ‘public’ into public policy and the method of AAP’s work was built upon a basic principle- ‘medium is message’, that is ‘what we preach, we practice’.
In 2013 when the AAP became a political reality, two types of issues were agitating the minds of people in Delhi- political corruption and price rise. The people of Delhi were looking for some political alternative to the existing Congress regime, but the BJP, the main opposition party to the Congress in Delhi was so weak that voters had no faith in the ability of the BJP to dethrone the Congress. Kejriwal went on to brinkmanship and many of his ‘unlawful’ acts were applauded by the people. The result of Delhi assembly election was astonishing and defied all political logic. There was worldwide acclaim of the AAP model of politics. A dozens of AAP’s copycats sprouted in the country. However the AAP remained in the movement mode even after it headed the government. Its forty-nine days tenure was known more for the controversy it generated than the works it did. One day Kejriwal declared that since his government was not able to get the Jan Lokpal Bill passed (that he claimed was the very ‘soul’ of the party’s existence) he was resigning.
AAP probably got carried away by the type of mandate it had received in Delhi. Kejriwal’s strategy to position himself as the main rival of Modi sent him to Varanasi to contest election against Modi. However looking Delhi election result as the microcosm of national politics did not pay off. The absolute majority the BJP and total rout of the Congress Party left no scope for any post-poll maneuverings in the Lok Sabha. Now AAP strategy was to anyhow remain relevant in Delhi. Before Delhi election the AAP was acting, whereas it was in control of its vision, agenda and mode of action. However after 2013 Delhi assembly election, the AAP was not acting but reacting to the emerging situation. As the end (to capture power) acquired precedence over the means, it led to manifold complications for the party. It even could not fight Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections, since with limited resources it was necessary for the party to ‘reclaim’ Delhi. Of course the party has got unprecedented mandate in Delhi, but it has also fielded 23 candidates with criminal background and an equal number of crorepatis. The idealism with which it had started is the thing of the past. Today, like other political parties, the winability of candidate has acquired priority, and the sole aim of the party is to capture power. A party formed to inject transparency in political system today remains highly non-transparent in its working. It criticized the high command culture of other political parties, but today the party revolves around whims and fancies of one person. Just to come to power it has promised all sorts of things to different segments of the society. Aam aadmi is just a voter and not a participant in the way the party is conducting itself. The classical Marxist doctrine that people are not capable of deciding about their destiny and must be guided by the enlightened agents has become the hallmark of the AAP. One more party has been added into the Indian political system. The party of ‘aam aadmi’ is dead.
‘Long live that Idea.’