By Saif Ahmad Khan
The apolitical anti-corruption movement launched by India Against Corruption under the leadership of Gandhian Anna Hazare in April 2011 brought about a substantial shift in the discourse surrounding Indian politics. Though the movement failed at achieving its principle objective, i.e. passage of its own version of the anti-graft legislation as articulated in the Jan Lokpal Bill, it managed to propel the theme of anti-corruption to the numero uno spot in the list of issues concerning politicians. The manner in which Kejriwal and his aides dampened the credibility of the erstwhile UPA Government by means of this movement played a crucial role in helping the BJP achieve its highest ever tally of 282 seats in the 16th Lok Sabha.
However, the principle reasons behind the failures of Aam Aadmi Party are the inherent contradictions associated with them resulting primarily because of their politically immature rhetoric. Prior to his political plunge, Kejriwal kept ranting about politics being a dirty business, later on when he decided to turn into an active politician himself, politics became the noblest thing to do but the only problem was that it was being done by those whom Kejriwal held to be “bhrashth”. This realization about the need for cleaning politics, though encouraging and rightful, was not kick-started by Kejriwal’s conscience but rather by his ambition and opportunism.
When Kejriwal started building his party as a political alternative to the Congress and BJP, he and his aides expounded upon the concept of politics of “tyaag”. Politics of sacrifice would mean to completely devote the party to nation building and public service without being held hostage to electoral and power politics. However, one is forced to wonder where the politics of sacrifice disappeared when AAP formed the Government in Delhi in collusion with the Congress. Despite their stellar debut, AAP wasn’t in a position to claim that the public mandate was in their favour as they were the second largest party in the Delhi Assembly Elections behind the BJP. Yet, AAP dumped “politics of sacrifice” with a swift turn towards coalition dharma as it stormed to power in Lutyens Delhi.
After AAP assumed power in Delhi, the political observers felt that at the appropriate time, Congress would take back the support it had lent to Arvind’s government and hence, the government would fall. But something bewildering took place as the government itself resigned on account of not being able to fulfil its promise of a strong Jan Lokpal Bill. This action of AAP, if seen in isolation, was reflective of politics of sacrifice, of not being in love with the idea of remaining in government forever. But if you analyze the entire episode by taking into account its context, AAP’s moves do not appear to be instantaneous but rather a well thought political strategy. If Arvind and his aides had held their allegiance to the politics of sacrifice all along, they would have not formed the government in the first place because they did not have a clear mandate. The resignation drama which ensued after their ascent to power was political in nature.
If AAP was oblivious to power politics, it would have constricted itself to competing in just two or three seats in the General Elections. But instead of strengthening themselves in Delhi and enlarging their political footprint in the states of Punjab and Haryana, AAP went overboard and fought for over 400 seats, ending up with a dismal tally of 4, all acquired in Punjab and registering an absolute drubbing in Delhi. The fact that AAP has now begun to disintegrate with senior party leaders like Shazia Ilmi resigning on account of deficit in inner party democracy despite the talk of Swaraj is least surprising. Politics of contradiction can be a one hit wonder but it can’t help sustain a party in the long run, especially when that outfit aspires to an alternative to the BJP and Congress. The lust for power cannot co-exist with the politics of sacrifice. If a party chooses to rake in real issues concerning the public then it has to give up on made-for-television protests.