AAP: A Political Project gone awry

In 2013, during my first stint in Delhi, I was surprised and delighted to observe a new urban politics in the AAP emerging from the India Against Corruption platform. Then, after a period of hibernation, they came back with a bang. AAP as an intellectual project floundered when Prof YY and Prashant Bhushan left. In the past few days, AAP as a political project is floundering in Punjab and Delhi. In politics as in life you cannot please all. I hope for the sake of left of centre politics in India, that it is not back to business as usual. Trinamool Congress took almost two decades to have its National Party Status yesterday. Even now, it’s grassroots are former left workers. It takes time to build institutions and processes. Do not be in a hurry.

Urban self-organised movements: what does the AAP case portray?

The Aam Admi Party is a text book case-study in self-organized urban movements that have utilized the power of web 2.0 to the hilt. Aam Aadmi Party metamorphosed from a civil society movement against corruption lead by the political sage Anna Hazare to a political phenomena that stormed Delhi State Politics in the December 2013 polls. It had fresh faces, intellectuals, the real common dweller in Delhi behind it fueled by crowd sourced rupees and dollars with NRI social media and on the ground volunteers coming together as a never before alternative to Indian Political Scene. The 49 day Kejriwal Administration was an extended version of a Bollywood Potboiler aka Nayak starring Anil Kapoor in 2001.

But Real Politik is not the same as reel life. Then , the story unraveled. Against a well oiled PR (Development powered) machinery of Narendra Modi Inc; The AAP activist narrative came a cropper. All its candidates in Delhi and Haryana lost, but it surprised everyone with four parliamentary seats won in Punjab. It is slowly occupying an alternative space between the Akalis and the Congress. It was the silver lining in a sky of gloom. 

Kejriwal’s theatrical antics help in mobilizing media focus. Kejriwal’s Tihar Arrest boosted online donations 35X in one day.  Street Politics is a good thing but the urban voter wishes to have mini Singapore’s in his/her neighborhood and not dharna disrupting his traffic flow back home from office.  

I do agree that the entire point of AAP was about making a point. But in order to scale up a political start up like AAP it needs a product that closes the deal with the voter. A Strong Leader with a sharp oriented focus like Modi is the need of the hour that India needs vis-a-vis a rhetoric based AAP. 

AAP needs to re-calibrate its business plan. Otherwise it shall be relegated to the infamous annals of contemporary Indian Political History as a one hit wonder. I am sure Kejriwal and YY has more bright ideas.