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Touch-me-not politics will stunt AAP’s growth

Kejriwal cannot practise the politics of untouchability without insulting the voters who prefered AAP over BJP and Congress.

Aam Aadmi Party convenor Arvind Kejriwal with party leaders addresses the media after a meeting with Lt Governor Najeeb Jung in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI

HARD TO REPLICATE DELHI SUCCESS AT NATIONAL LEVEL

The logjam in the nation's capital will take some doing before it can be broken. The sterling performance of the Aam Aadmi Party may have only further enforced the BJP's resolve not to scramble for power when it is four seats short of a majority in the Delhi Assembly. Fidelity to principled politics is the latest mantra to succeed in politics. For proof, ask Arvind Kejriwal.

But the question that cannot remain unanswered any longer is: How long can the quintessential aam aadmi, as personified by Kejriwal keep the AAP unsullied now that it is competing in the political bazaar with veteran players known to employ every trick in the trade to stay relevant? In our view, not for very long. Let us explain why.

Had the voter given the AAP a clear majority and thus denied Kejriwal the excuse to stay out of power, his bluff would have been called — sooner than you realise. Translating extravagant promises to the aam aadmi into reality would have resulted in two very different outcomes. One, it would have soon dawned on Kejriwal and Co. that politics without compromise is impossible — and that sort of politics would have soon claimed him as its own. Two, it may well have made him shun politics altogether, leaving the party he floated in disarray, while he repaired to the Anna ashram or busied himself in espousing esoteric causes through his NGO.

Now, we take a dim view of the prospects of the AAP not because we lack in idealism. No. We can probably compete with Kejriwal on that score. Having seen politicians and politics at close quarters for over four decades, we know that even the best of them get tainted with unscrupulous and unacceptable behaviour. Politics per se is dirty everywhere. More so in a young and poverty-ridden nation like India.

The greatest of idealists that this country has ever known was Mahatma Gandhi. And he made an umpteen number of compromises, not all of them savoury. Therefore, Kejriwal should abandon the pretence that he and his colleagues in the AAP will remain lily-white while they seek to rise further up the greasy poll of politics. Politics will consume them sooner than they realise. How does he know that some of the AAP MLAs are not already thinking of graduating from the modest jhuggis to pukka houses, now that some of them are displaying on their shirts Main Vidhayak Hoon?

In a society where spiritual leaders behave despicably, where priests and maulvis have their eyes only on their own material advancement, hoping that the practitioners of everyday politics will stay pure as the driven snow is to display a lack of common sense. It is good to dream, but better still to be a realist.

There is a far more compelling reason why Kejriwal should come down from his high horse to either accept the outside support to form the AAP government or to extend outside support to the largest party to make one possible. A failure to do so would deplete the large reservoir of goodwill that the AAP had built by making outlandish promises about clean politics, a corruption-free system, free water, electricity at half the current rates, etc.

The countless voters in the jhuggi-jhopris and slum clusters, in the illegal and upscale colonies alike would not forgive Kejriwal for shunning opportunity to prove himself in government when that opportunity knocks at his door. Why should he reject unconditional support whichever party might be willing to offer it? After all, the poor are waiting for their new messiah to deliver, to free them from the stranglehold of the slumlord, the thuggish beat constable, the usurious money-lender, the greedy babu in the MCD office, etc., etc.

The task of cleansing the system is so arduous that without enlisting the cooperation of all the stakeholders the system cannot be reformed. Playing the outsider while seeking to work the same system can only wreck it further. Kejriwal cannot practise the politics of untouchability without insulting the voters who plumped for the AAP in preference to the Congress and the BJP. His challenge is to work within the system, reform it as far as possible by bringing to bear on it his own sense of honesty and purpose, but he cannot shy away from his responsibility by blaming the voters that they did not give him majority. If he has belief in his own capabilities he would accept outside support and prove to the people in Delhi what difference the AAP can make to their lives. Otherwise, the AAP is bound to fade away as a one-election wonder.

Meanwhile, notwithstanding the AAP talk of conquering the rest of the country in the coming general election, what should be borne in mind is the demographic profile of the nation's capital. The melting-pot nature of Delhi's population with no particular caste, ethnic, religious or regional group dominating the electorate, and the concentration of the media, gave Kejriwal the leg-up from the moment he mentored Anna Hazare's 2011 fast for the Lokpal. It will be hard for the AAP to replicate the Delhi success in the rest of the country. Unless, of course, the AAP in power can deliver on those tall promises. Of which there is a scant chance.

BENDING THE MEDIA

There is this senior minister in the UPA government, who is so sensitive to what the media says and writes about him that he invariably gets on the phone to the media owner to complain against even a passing mention which may not be too complimentary about him. Like the other day, he SMSed a popular television anchor, asking him to immediately replace a panellist debating the Assembly election results because what the panellist said about the fallout of the outcome on the minister's own re-election chances was highly pessimistic. Of course, the anchor retained the said panellist for the entire duration of the programme.

 
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