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The Kejriwal Phenomenon – Part 2

As Arvind kejriwal has started his innings as Delhi’s 7th Chief Minister amidst lot of expectations and cynicism, many political pundits have started wondering where the AAP would now lead to and whether it would emerge as the third alternative across the country. While, the ground swell for AAP has already started spreading beyond Delhi, it is big question of sustainability because it suffers from lack of resources and geographical reach which are both important for growth.

Even before taking oath, AAP leaders were targeted by the dirty tricks department of either Congress or BJP in various ways- the most patent being the sting. of the AAP candidates attempting to show they were as vulnerable to venality as the two traditional parties have been. A few private TV news channels went to town with that. Fingers were also pointed towards BJP which perhaps is the first party to have mastered the technique of using and manipulating the social media.

The use of television to amply their partisan campaign of driving the AAP into the cleft end of a stick has worked and those who had shown utter disregard for the emerging swell of support for AAP suddenly found that it needed to form a government regardless of its viability. The logic behind this thought was that APP would crumble under its own weight of sky-rocketing expectations and that is how the Congress decided to lend outside support to ‘test AAP’s performance’. For BJP on the other hand, it would be a great opportunity to recoup and recover from the shock and put its effort and energy into LS poll preparations since it has high stakes being in power in cash cow civic bodies of Delhi.

The Congress party still seems to be in dithering mode and barring a few brain storming sessions chaired by its Vice president Rahul Gandhi whose outburst over the ordinance on convicted politicians was a bit late. His
strategic mistake of opposing Anna Hazare during his much anticipated speech in parliament in 2011 positioned him as a traditional Congressman. Moreover, his recent quip on the need to revisit the Adarsh Housing scam findings by the Maharashtra government has not elevated him as a crusader against corruption.

In fact, the Congress is more vulnerable at the moment than ever because it has failed to take proactive steps consistent with the aspirations of the new middle class which has swung in favor of AAP. The Congress party does not seem to have learned any lesson even from the debacle of the recently held state elections and understood the need to create systems free of nepotism for cultivating fresh leaders who resonate with the changing electorate and get space to develop their identities at state level. Secondly, the Congress party has not been able to strengthen its student organizations and allowed common students to participate, grow and move up the hierarchy in the party. A few noises have been made but by and large, they continue to remain absent in practice. In addition, there is little effort made to bring in successful people from diverse fields into politics and also create and adopt
a framework used in corporate leadership programmes.

The Congress party tried this stunt through Nandan Nilekani that backfired. Members of team Rahul Gandhi vouch that all these exercises
have been done by Rahul Gandhi
but in ad hoc manner and the success of the entrant depends on factors beyond talent. A sustained supply of untainted talented new leaders and fresh thinking can be a vehicle for positive change within the Congress party at various levels by internal pulls and pressure are so much that they defeat the very purpose of such exercises.

On the other hand, the AAP blitzkrieg appears to have goaded team Modi to undertake a course correction as
its has started realizing that Kejriwal’s party can emerge as an alternative to the Congress.

Till recently , a substantial number of voters had no choice but to vote for the BJP to defeat the Congress. APP has already made it clear that it has complete a recce of a handful of States in central and northern India and it going to focus on the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The task may not as easy as written or said because AAP
has just three months to register its presence in the other states. But it isn’t impossible either. If the AAP can do it in Delhi, replicating the story in other parts of India would not be impossible. If his government and its populist agenda succeed in Delhi, if Kejriwal implements some of his promises, if he retains his position on the podium of morality, ethics and honesty and if his party manages to mount a challenge outside Delhi, Kejriwal would become difficult to stop for many reasons.

AAP is seriously looking towards BIMARU States( Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and a few more). It is also looking towards Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. And a few AAP office bearers have already declared that it was working on getting the organizational set up in key districts in these States. Moreover, a few offices of AAP have already opened up in Bangalore, Hyderabad and a other Southern cities. AAP has also released forms on its web site which interested ticket seekers can fill and send to the party office at Ghaziabad.

The AAP think-tank feels that
penetrating into BIMARU states would be easier because they are reeling under poverty, caste violence, corruption and administrative failure. AAP would come as a fresh breath of air to those people who have BJP, RJD, SP or BSP as their options. The economically and socially deprived sections of people in these States are
already flocking towards AAP for their own empowerment.

The worrying point about the stunning performance of AAP is not only confined to Congress and BJP only. In fact, AAP is going to make a huge dent in the vote shares of other parties also and that was clearly visible from the pattern of Delhi Assembly elections.

According to one estimate, AAP dented both Congress and BJP, and according to some estimates, for every one voter the BJP lost to AAP, the Congress lost six. In terms of vote share, the Congress vote fell from 40.31 percent in 2008 to 24.55 percent in 2013 – it lost two-fifths of its previous vote share. The BJP lost less, from 36.84 percent in 2008 to 33.07 percent this year, a drop by a tenth from its share five years ago.

AAP’s vote share this time was 29.49 percent, according to preliminary computations. From all accounts, Muslims voted in significant numbers for AAP, which again shows that identity politics is fraying at the edges in cities. Parties cannot win the Muslim vote purely by peddling scare stories about Narendra Modi. This is one reason why the Congress was mauled more by the AAP, and the BJP far less than that.

AAP also rocked BSP boat in Delhi in a big way as the BSP vote share, reckoned to be built of strong Dalit support, dwindled from 14.05 percent in 2008 to just 5.35 percent. That’s a steep three-fifths fall – more than 60 percent less than five years ago. This is a clear message to Mayawati that her Uttar Pradesh Dalit vote may not be about to evaporate, for caste consciousness is probably stronger outside the metros, but the warning signals are clear.

It is a warning to for Mulayam Singh also who is similarly banking on the Yadav and Muslim vote to give him many MPs .

It is in the back drop of this that BJP leader Dr  Subramanian Swamy on Thursday launched a scathing attack on Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal, alleging that donations to his party from abroad were questionable. Dr Swamy threw clear hints  towards China as one of the sources of AAP funding saying that it was just next to impossible to win Delhi assembly polls with paltry donations from autorikshaw walas and other contributors from Jhuggi- hopdi residents in Delhi. This was followed by a scathing attack from former BJP President Nitn  Gadkari who called AAm Admi party as “Right wing Maoism’ alleging that the AAP’s agenda was to destroy the democratic system in the name of grassroots democracy.“The drama that is going on to take public opinion in the name of formation of government in Delhi is like right-wing Maoism. Like Left-wing Maoists, AAP also wants all this system to be dismantled,” said Mr Gadkari. He claimed that the people will soon be disillusioned with the AAP and the process has already started.

In addition, a few commentators have also termed AAp as the “ civic and political face of Naxalism” on the basis of socialist and Naxalist leanings of some of AAP leaders including Gopal rai(AISA) Yogendra yadav(socialist), Abhay Kumar Dubey and others. According to them, the Anna hazare movement initially got support from the RSS carde but it was taken over by the Naxal volunteers later and many young volunteers from Dantewada and Gadchiroli were also seen at Ramleela maidan two years ago.

In the opinion of these commentators,
AAP leaders plan to contest Lok Sabha elections from many States may have the facade of people’s spontaneous support. Underneath however, is well-calculated agenda to draw in those disgruntled elements in Naxal affected States who have been fighting against the system and they would prove to be handy in enduring support to AAP candidates.

In this context, the left parties silence and quiet appreciation of AAP could be a clear indicator that they are not opposed to it. The term “JAN”( people) is usually used for Naxals and Marxists who oppose the state run administration and the fact remains that at the moment, one third of India is in the grip of Naxals.

According to MHA data, at least 200 districts out of the total of 640 districts in the country have been affected by left wing Naxal movement. By its own admission,
Substantial part of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattishgarh,
Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh are in the grip and control of the Naxals. AAP offers them an opportunity to come under its umbrella as it has already opened doors for various elements to apply for party ticket. Given the modus operandi of these outfits, candidates of traditional political parties would not like to risk themselves contesting against these neo- Maoists and many AAP candidates would win in Naxal- affected areas without much effort and legitimize their place in parliament..

This is what has worried established parties as they fear that ‘ AAP is going to field candidates in these states and even if AAp wins 4o to 50 seats, it would emerge as a big game player in the coming days’. In their opinion,
a time would come when the Congress party which formed the UPAI government in 2004 with the help of left parties would be forced to give them support because by then,
white collar Naxalists would have entrenched themselves in a position of more strength and power and would have come closer to the leftist dream of “ Red Flag over Red fort”..

Interestingly however, Arvind Kejriwal has not reacted to any of these allegations so far. Does that mean, there is a lot of truth in what BJP leaders have already said? Does that prove that Arvind Kejriwal is a white- collar anarchist and  the civic face of neo-Maoism and Naxalism in India? Only time would tell that…

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