Out of my mind: Swept Away

The party began to believe the media hype of itself as a national third alternative and decided to contest over 400 seats.

Written by Meghnad Desai | Published:June 1, 2014 12:14 am
Once Arvind Kejriwal resigned from office, it was clear that the party had problems. Once Arvind Kejriwal resigned from office, it was clear that the party had problems.

Forget about the Congress. It does not take advice from anyone outside the family and wants to decline, chanting,“It was not Rahul’s fault”. Yet, the central event of the 2014 election is not the triumph of the BJP but the absence of a large party in the Opposition. It is unlikely that Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalithaa will combine their forces for any length of time, nor will there be any third front in the Opposition. Those fronts are for grabbing power, not for serious politics.

Many had hoped, including myself, that the Aam Aadmi Party may form the nucleus of an alternative. Last December and January, there was no other topic of conversation except AAP. Up until polling day, many who could not bring themselves to vote for the BJP or Congress were pinning their hopes on AAP. Once Arvind Kejriwal resigned from office, it was clear that the party had problems. It could not convert itself from a protest movement to a party willing to use power for the welfare of the people. Even so, it kept attracting the loyalty of many voters, who donated their money and time to help the party. As spring came, matters went from bad to worse. The party began to believe the media hype of itself as a national third alternative and decided to contest over 400 seats. For a party built on grassroots foundations, proud of its practice of consulting voters for the smallest of decisions, candidates were chosen across the country where the party had no roots. Famous, indeed worthy, names such as Rajmohan Gandhi and Medha Patkar were chosen as candidates. As were those who had popular Twitter handles like Gul Panag. To top it all, Kejriwal decided to run not from Delhi, where he had some chance of winning, but from Varanasi. This was a publicity stunt; a false hope that he could repeat his giant killing act of defeating Sheila Dikshit by trouncing another leader.

At its founding, I had hoped that the party may surprise us by winning 10 seats. When it won 28 seats in the Delhi Assembly polls, hopes rose that it could do better. It had the energy and the modern structure to replace the Congress as the second party by 2019. But the failure of AAP has been even more spectacular than that of the Congress. The jhaadu has swept itself away. It got a disappointing vote share and only four seats, all in Punjab.

I recall that after Delhi, it was Haryana which was the target. For a Delhi-based small party with meagre resources, it would have made sense to build up strong roots in Haryana and perhaps western Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. AAP could have put up 50 candidates and won 10 seats. Yet it wasted resources, and people’s goodwill, in spreading itself too thin.

After the election, AAP has behaved worse than the Congress in learning from its mistakes. It remains a party dominated by its leader and he, in turn, has juvenile dreams of being in the headlines, for the sake of which he is willing to waste the time of courts in a childish quarrel. The recent recruitment of names to its central body has been by invitation, not election. It wants to be a party of worthy names, who parachute themselves to the top of the party while chanting their commitment to the grassroots.

It is a sad story. A colossal waste of a great opportunity. A young party full of idealism has been poisoned by publicity-seeking leadership. The grassroots have been cynically used for the greater glory of the leader. It is almost as if there is something in the political DNA of the country that parties with internal democracy and genuine respect for membership are impossible to sustain. They all deteriorate into leadership affairs — personal or dynasty-based.

Even so, AAP has shown that if you start small, a modern membership-based party can be built. If it works hard to connect with its local public and seeks out its grievances, it may even win local elections. Then, if it stays modest and sincere, it can deliver on its promises, it could be re-elected. Such a party needs a clear ideology, not just sloganeering or a single plank as AAP had.

Maybe there will be a new party. In a country crowded with identikit left populist parties, there may be a genuinely modern liberal party, not pro-business but pro-competition. A party of young people willing to dismantle the old structures of tired Fabianism with which the Anglophile sentimentality of our founding fathers saddled India. The rest of the world has jettisoned that philosophy. Time for India to catch up.

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    Anthony
    Jun 1, 2014 at 5:47 am
    If the writer had written this prior to elections, I could have understood but writing something in hindsight makes me question the motive.
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      Abhi
      Jun 1, 2014 at 7:30 pm
      If ak was really after corruption he shud have contested against Madam G n not NaMo
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        manohar sharma
        Jun 2, 2014 at 4:49 am
        The day Kezriwal resigned ,their downfall commenced.They broke the hope of people and proved that all they are capable of is DHARNAS and NOT ADMINISTRATION.With four members I am not sure whether they will keep protesting or have wisdom in doing something constructive.I am all for a corruption free and honest government,that they espoused,but like Chanakya had told Chandragupt Morya "RAJYASYA MOOLAM INDRIYAJAY" which means that ones has to overcome oneself to be a good king and then become the basis of a great kingdom.AAP needs to overcome their lust for being only visible and do nothing
        Reply
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          Vijay
          Jun 1, 2014 at 12:02 pm
          With the atude & ability displa by aap leadership, hope the slow change u r talking about doesn't turn into reality. It won't. Some of the candidates aap leadership picked for Loksabha election shows this party is no different.
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            Mavala
            Jun 1, 2014 at 4:48 pm
            Nobody is addressing the elephant in the room..Although points mentioned by the author are valid,The biggest mistake of AAP has been,their decision yo go from anti-corruption to anti-modi, with minority appeat overtones
            Reply
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              Abhishek Dwivedi
              Jun 2, 2014 at 4:12 am
              Mr Desai, while concluding says that small parties can be started. I doubt that. After AAP debacle, the faith and trust of people in small parties will go down immensly. Sadly, sincere leaders like R K Mishra who was successfully running a small party and hoping for Sitapur LS seat from UP acknowledge that after the AAP betrayal at the Delhi, even they faced questions on their credibility. The politics of small parties is over.
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                amitbhargav
                Jun 1, 2014 at 12:26 pm
                There is the story of BHASMASUR in hindu mythology who killed himself by the power granted by the lords. Unfortunately AAP's story reminds me of him only...sad but true..
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                  Guest
                  Jun 2, 2014 at 2:48 am
                  Zero-tolerancefor corruption is always welcomed but this is an ideal condition which can't beachieved ,endeavors are always there to go towards perfection. The wworking system of any state can't be halted for the sake of this hypothetical"idealism" .AAAP which was the by-product of Anna's movement against corruption got goodresponse initially but due to lack of vision ,lack of experience (working incoordination) and their thorough rejection of existing system ,this party isgradually losing its credibility .It's never too late ,just keep working ongenuine issues but in practical and realistic way.
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                    BAPTY.s Seshasayee
                    Jun 1, 2014 at 2:57 pm
                    GOOD ONCE & FOR ALL THIS STUPID aap, kejri & gang ARE into the oblivion. sad to see even LORD DESAI thought something of this AAP. But its shocking AAP FOOLED DELHITES, GOOD THEY WOKE UP FAST IN LOK SABHA ELECTIONS.BETTER TO TERMINATE THESE GUYS ONCE & FOR ALL.
                    Reply
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                      Subhash Bennur
                      Jun 1, 2014 at 3:15 am
                      It is about time AAP rascals retire from politics and play the role of Activists. They are only suited for that.
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                        Arun Kumar
                        Jun 1, 2014 at 7:09 am
                        It proves the old adage that revolutions get hijacked by the ambitions of the very same leaders whom bring them about. Not that in this case there was one but it is the unbridled and impractical ambition of Kejriwal egged on by a biased media that brought this situation to p.
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                        1. S
                          Siv
                          Jun 1, 2014 at 6:48 pm
                          AAP threw out Baba Ramdev after appropriating the anti corruption plank (which he has successfully run for a full two years before Anna Hazare). Then AAP threw out Anna Hazare. Then AAP started appropriating BJP's pet themes and slogans - "Govt. has no business to be in Business..." etc. Then AAP tried to outdo both Congress and BJP at Varanasi by trying to be both at the same time. Finally they out did themselves - by their too clever by half thoughts. The Indian voter has decided decisively that they had no further right to plagiarize and appropriate what is genuinely a Nationalist (BJP ) party's meme.
                          Reply
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                            Siv
                            Jun 1, 2014 at 6:43 pm
                            Agree with your statement but why term it "Mythology" - which is a denigrating term? Hasn't (by your own standard) Kejri proved that he IS the Bhasmasur and hence it becomes a fact and not a myth?
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                              Kolsat
                              Jun 1, 2014 at 11:05 pm
                              Like you I also am not shedding tears for the demise of AAP. AK was full of himself. He had a great opportunity of proving himself in Delhi. When he decided to form the government there with the help of Congress, a party he criticised for being corrupt, I told my friends that AK is a sham act. Then AK went on a dharana, his law minister hared Uan women and then AAP government self destructed. Now AK is trying to resurrect his government by going to the same Lt. Gov. whom he had criticised and ask him to call on AAP to form government. What a change and all within 6 months.
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                                jay
                                Jun 1, 2014 at 4:28 pm
                                Zero-tolerance for corruption is always welcomed but this is an ideal condition which can't be achieved ,endeavors are always there to go towards perfection.The w working system of any state can't be halted for the sake of this hypothetical "idealism" .AAAP which was the by-product of Anna's movement against corruption got good response initially but due to lack of vision ,lack of experience (working in coordination) and their thorough rejection of existing system ,this party is gradually losing its credibility .It's never too late ,just keep working on genuine issues but in practical and realistic way.
                                Reply
                                1. J
                                  jay
                                  Jun 1, 2014 at 4:38 pm
                                  Zero-tolerance for corruption is always welcomed but this is an ideal condition which can't be achieved ,endeavors are always there to go towards perfection.The w working system of any state can't be halted for the sake of this hypothetical "idealism" .AAAP which was the by-product of Anna's movement against corruption got good response initially but due to lack of vision ,lack of experience (working in coordination) and their thorough rejection of existing system ,this party is gradually losing its credibility .It's never too late ,just keep working on genuine issues but in practical and realistic way.
                                  Reply
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                                    Girish
                                    Jun 1, 2014 at 8:40 am
                                    AA Party lost that initiative, and more importantly credibility.It neither has an ideology(which was supposed to be good taking everybody along), a clear strategy(apart from headline-grabbing antics) but significantly, it lacks a vision.Any other grroots political party to rise up and deliver, has to practice transparency and pragmatism- in its organisation and actions.
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                                      Gargi Garg
                                      Jun 1, 2014 at 12:26 pm
                                      Mr. Desai, your analysis of AAP's failed strategy is quite right.I was an AAP supporter but only for embly polls.I would not have voted for them in LS, because they had to prove themselves.But they went for the big kill without realizing that their greed was evident to the common voter.But there is a part of your article that I cannot agree with.The main reason behind BJP'S success is not Rahul, Congress or AAP.It is Narendra Modi.It is Shivraj Singh ChauhanIt is Manohar Parrika many more like them who have proved in their states what they can do for us.What this country wants is governance and not over analysis just to shy away from accepting the facts on the ground.
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                                        anonymouskar
                                        Jun 1, 2014 at 3:38 pm
                                        It's people like you, Mr.Meghnad who were responsible for this. If you really had hopes on AAP, you should have made them realize their mistakes, instead you guys defended them just like the AAP is doing internally now. If only they got real feedback, when Kejriwal resigned, they could have corrected themselves. It was people like you who glossed over their mistake, responsible for their plight now and among the first to throw the rock on a dead dog
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                                          Harish Kumar
                                          Jun 1, 2014 at 11:45 pm
                                          India needs a party of young people including who only think as Indians not as Punjabis, Gujratis etc. Regional feelings must die for Economic and Democratic health of India.
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                                            Raveendra Reddy
                                            Jun 1, 2014 at 9:48 am
                                            Best example "empty vessel makes more noise" and "barking dog don;t bite"
                                            Reply
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