Kejriwal Must Focus on Governance to Survive – India Needs an AAP
Kejriwal must not allow the AAP experiment to fail, because India desperately needs a third political alternative.
The recent MCD election results could well be the proverbial tipping point for the AAP experiment. Coming on the heels of resounding defeats in the Assembly elections in Punjab and Goa, the humiliation of the rout on its home turf is telling in terms of the feeling of betrayal amongst its core constituency in Delhi.
Alienation from Delhiites
It is precisely this which I had warned against in a hard-hitting and exhaustive article termed, The AAP Betrayal, about eight months ago which had predicted the looming alienation among the people of Delhi, and indeed the nation, with Arvind Kejriwal and the potential unravelling of the AAP experiment.
If only Kejriwal had taken even some of the messages, including the specific 10-point restoration agenda, with some degree of seriousness, the situation may not have been as injurious to its reputation as it has been today.
Since the article was very detailed, I am not repeating the salient points here but would like to add two additional dimensions based on the developments over the last few months.
One, what could AAP do beyond the 10 points mentioned in the article to restore its credibility and two, why an "upstart" called Kejriwal should even engage our collective consciousness going forward.
It is pretty obvious to most that AAP's core strength is in activism, and it has remained in this mode from its inception, despite getting the providential and onerous responsibility of governing the state twice.
It has been three years and despite its public pronouncements to the contrary, it is a matter of public record that it has just not demonstrated the capability of creating a governance ethos within the party.
Additionally, the arrogance which accompanies a sudden elevation to supreme power from very ordinary backgrounds – without having the benefit of the counter-balancing qualities of humility and modesty which come from pedigree, education and the wisdom of experience – has had a debilitating impact in the functioning of AAP.
Most members with substance, character and impeccable public reputations have been summarily ousted, or disassociated themselves, from the party including the venerable Justice Santosh Hegde, Admiral Ramdas, Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav and Madhu Bhaduri.
AAP needs to crack this governance deficit syndrome and soon. And, despite Kejriwal's acceptance recently that “things have gone wrong and it is time for action”, this will not happen if he continues to rely on the same group of legislators and advisors to run the government.
In my humble opinion, governance, like management, is a different ball game which needs years of nurturing, quite unlike the skills required for a high-decibel hit-and-run campaign by a motley, hastily assembled ragtag coalition of diverse people with questionable interests.
It requires thoughtfulness, composure, knowledge and administrative experience. Kejriwal will do well to attract such people and create an administrative set-up isolated from his political organisation.
This administrative set-up must have complete independence to function without any interference, design policies and implement them fearlessly.
Of course, legislative control and oversight must exist through a body, created with certain transparent guidelines, headed by Kejriwal.
This, to my mind, will be the most effective way to quickly address the core challenge of restoring governance as one of the priorities of AAP.
AAP Experiment Shouldn’t Fail
The second dimension is about wisdom and indeed necessity for our collective obsession with Kejriwal. He is nationally irrelevant today, humiliated politically in the small state of Delhi and has disappointed the entire middle class across the country. A failed leader by any definition!
The impassioned article by Mayank Gandhi in The Quint is straight from the heart of an honest, sincere activist who is thoroughly disillusioned with his one-time mentor. This is symptomatic of the large-scale feeling of betrayal, I had alluded to in my earlier article.
Despite this, I am still of the opinion that the AAP experiment should not be allowed to fail. In a nation which is bereft of honest leaders across the political spectrum, it becomes incumbent for the thinking citizen to continue backing the few that exist, like Nitish Kumar, Naveen Patnaik, Kejriwal and, of course, PM Modi.
Though PM Modi is the tallest leader the nation has had for a long time, it is imperative for a democracy to have an effective opposition. And we do not have even a semblance of that at this moment.
The inherent contradictions of a politically convenient mahagathbandhan will make sure that this type of arrangement is doomed for failure, with misgovernance being a given in such a situation, as is evident in Bihar.
And BJP without PM Modi at the helm will quickly dissipate as far as appeal among the masses is concerned. This will be due to the absence of a second-rung leadership strong enough to live up to the charisma and appeal of the PM.
This places our polity in a very precarious position in my view. And that is why the emergence of a third alternative in the political landscape in the next decade is crucial for us.
Kejriwal has age on his side and the original intent with which AAP was created was genuine. It is thus critical that the experiment is allowed to succeed in the interest of the nation.
For that, Kejriwal must get back to his original agenda, let go of his arrogance arising from the trappings of power and focus on extricating AAP from its present quagmire for which he is singularly responsible.
As Mayank Gandhi wrote in his open letter, it is a battle between his ego and his love for the nation. Let us hope wise counsel prevails and the nation wins.
(Prabal Basu Roy is a Sloan Fellow from the London Business School and a Chartered Accountant. He can be reached @PrabalBasuRoy. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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