After creating sensation in Delhi election with tremendous victory, the onus was on Kejrival to keep the party on news with its people friendly works. But rather than the delivery of its poll promises, what has ensured that the party dominates headlines is one-sided mutiny against two of AAP's founder leaders; and the twin blows of a former party MLA accusing Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of trying to poach six Congress MLAs and the exit of the party's prominent Mumbai face Anjali Damania.
On Wednesday, the chorus of dissent within the party reached its crescendo when Anjali Damania, AAP’s Maharashtra convener announced on Twitter that she was leaving the party.
She had tweeted “I quit. I have not come into AAP for this nonsense. I believed him. I backed Arvind for principles not horse-trading,” after posting a link to an India TV news report in which Kejriwal was allegedly seeking the support of Congress MLAs to form a government in Delhi. While AAP has dismissed the the audio, saying it was an attempt to defame the party, the tape released by former MLA Rajesh Garg does allegedly show Kejriwal in conversation with him and planning the horse-trading of six Congress MLAs into AAP.
This was followed by sidelined senior leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan writing an open letter to party volunteers accusing Kejriwal of trying to align with the Congress for government formation. The duo also denied any move by them to evict Kejriwal as the national convener of the party.
Damania's exit comes at a time when the signature campaign against Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav by all the AAP MLAs - reportedly a lot of them forced to sign on blank papers by party leaders — could culminate in the expulsion of the two leaders. It won’t lead to a split because the two are almost isolated and the tyranny that has taken over the party is not essentially that of Arvind Kejriwal, but that of its powerful Delhi lobby.
So what one is witnessing in the capital is more of a shakeout than a shakeup. The Delhi leaders want to consolidate and take control of the party because what they are part of now is the dirty game of politics and consolidation of power. The days of lofty ideals, however discursive there were, and suave appearances are over, now is the time to establish authority and perpetuate power.
Not that Yadav and Bhushan are outsiders to Delhi, but certainly they don’t fit the profile of most of the Delhi leaders, or their supporters. The duo are strong votaries of participative democracy, civil and human rights, and equality. Ideology precedes their civil and political activism and AAP, they perhaps thought, would be a vehicle to pursue their political purpose because Kejriwal too appeared to be on the same page. The trio — two ideologues and one disruptive activist — seemed tailor-made to create a new politics in the country.
But the politics of bourgeoisie democracy intervened and now they have to pay the essential price. For the Delhi leaders, the result in Delhi, whether it has gone to their heads or not, is the fruit of their hard work. AAP is a Delhi-grown phenomenon and they don’t want to part the glory with anybody else. The issues that the party raised, the demographics of its support and the way it was born and nurtured were unique to Delhi. They don’t see it as a pilot of alliterate politics in India. In fact none of them, not even Ashish Khaitan or Ashutosh speak on national politics these days.
The vision of Bhushan and Yadav contrasts with their possessive Delhi comrades. They always thought pan-Indian and the contest in Delhi as an experiment for scale up across India. They were the only AAP leaders who travelled across India, other than Kejriwal making public speeches, to oversee the organisational arrangements of the party during the Lok Sabha elections and strongly believed in a rapid scale up. However, their trial failed and attracted rebuke from all quarters. It failed to impress in Delhi and some even wrote the AAP off as a flash in the pan.
But, it was the indomitable local spirit that brought the party back. And this time, they want to consolidate and take control of the party. Whether Kejriwal is a wilfull participant or not, he wouldn’t have a choice. He will be their captive. They want him as the mascot and he cannot survive without him.
Politically this is fine. Its’ a working model and its sponsors seem to be happy about it. But the flip-side of this parochial possessiveness is that AAP will get limited to Delhi. The signs of such a localisation is all too visible. Local leaders such as Mayank Gandhi (Maharashtra) have spoken out against the leadership and in other states the organisational machinery that volunteers had set up for the Lok Sabha elections are in tatters. The AAP is virtually non-existent outside Delhi, except in Haryana and Punjab. With the exit of Bhushan and Yadav, the chances of AAP becoming a Delhi party are very high. Kejriwal will not have a choice. As he gets burdened by his own poll-promises, he won’t have time for anything else. And there is not a single leader in the Delhi caucus who can take the campaign to other parts of India.
This was sure to happen because from their days of civil society disobedience and resistance and a dream of clean politics, what these leaders, including Arvind Kejriwal, had walked into was India’s bourgeoisie democracy — it’s difficult to escape its traps. If the most idealistic Congress and the Communists could fail its test, the AAP will be no exception.
Now the less important question. Will their exit weaken the party? In terms of practical politics, it won’t because that’s what history has taught us. Big guns had left or had been made redundant by the Congress from time to time. Similarly, the CPM always expelled veteran leaders and has moved on.
The AAP too will do the same. But what it will do in the process will be reducing its grand vision of alternative politics in the country to being in power in Delhi. The AAP has failed its first test; it will fail in the other tests too.