The Kejriwal effect, a lesson for all
When Arvind Kejriwal formed Aam Adami Party (AAP) on 26 November 2012 as a political party to take on the might of two giant national political parties, the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), there were mixed reactions and even his mentor Anna Hazare was skeptical. Kejriwal was one of the core members of the Hazare’s India Against Corruption (IAC) movement demanding a Jan Lokpal Bill since 2011, and this very movement had shaken up the conscience of the Indian masses. Kejriwal consolidated everything from this unique movement and utilized it as a launching pad for his future political destiny.The country was woken up by the Hazare movement and its inimitable and classic movement had even attracted world communities including Pakistanis. The movement was one responsible for having shaken up the deep rooted foundations of many corrupt political empires in the country and a worse sufferer among them was the Indian National Congress (INC). During the movement, the Center was at the helms of Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the NRC, Delhi was also at the powerful hands of Congress Chief Minister (CM) Sheila Dikshit. She was completing 15 years stint as CM of Delhi, while Dr Manmohan Singh completing 10 years stint as Prime Minister (PM) of the Congress-led UPA government at the Center.
Nobody including political pundits and commentators across the country had even the least dreaming that this nascent and completely novice AAP would later become major political nuisances for both the INC and the BJP. The general belief was the BJP would heavily dent the 15-year ruled Congress regime in Delhi under the iron hands of Dikskit, never realizing that it would be the AAP to become a dark horse.
It didn’t take long for the political masters of the two giant national political parties to realize that it was not they who were fighting each other in the field but the nondescript political novice that was eating into the vitals of their political organs. The AAP’s first electoral test was in the 2013 Delhi legislative assembly elections where it emerged as the second largest party, winning 28 of the 70 seats. The INC’s Rahul Gandhi congratulated AAP chief Kejriwal for his party’s unexpectedly spectacular political performance in Delhi legislative assembly elections in 2013. NCR Assembly was thrown into a hung assembly as no party was able to form government on its own in 2013. The BJP won 32 seats, AAP won 28 seats, the INC reduced to dismal single digit of 8 and others with 2 seats. The BJP, which was single largest party, was short of 4 MLAs to form the government and not ready to take supports from either of the Congress or the AAP, preferring to play opposition. For the INC’s lending support to the BJP was out of question, and instead ready to give support to the AAP if they were ready to form the government. The AAP under the leadership of Kejriwal grabbed the unprecedented political events knowing fully that he would not be able to run the affairs of the NCR. Yet he formed the government with the support of the Congress and started his political dramas one after another capturing the imaginations of the masses in the country. He even started running his government from the streets of Delhi making worldwide attractions, while India failed to find solutions to this political theatrics. Sushilkumar Shinde, then Union Minister for Home, once called Kejriwal as “Mad Chief Minister.”
But the reality is such that Kejriwal knew his game and used thoroughly his 48-day regime in Delhi to expand his political theatre. Who can imagine that his AAP would contest 16th Lok Sabha elections countrywide? He himself threw his weight around Narendra Modi by setting up himself as main challenger to his candidature in the Varanasi parliamentary constituency. The Congress was not even seen as the main political rival to Modi after Kejriwal put up his candidature against him. The mammoth road show in the Varanasi city by Kejriwal only showed that people liked him, though he lost to Modi with a huge margin of 3.37 lakh votes. His direct challenge to Modi and setting up 434 AAP candidates across the country in last 16th Lok Sabha elections in spite of facing massive criticisms was only well thought out plan to stage a massive comeback in Delhi which was placed under suspended animation then.
Initially, the people had speculated that the BJP would do better in the upcoming Delhi assembly elections and form the government in Delhi as the party (BJP) had a landslide with 282 seats in the 16th Lok Sabha elections including all the seven seats from Delhi. In the meantime, the BJP people in Delhi and elsewhere took things light and not keeping the electorates in their loop, whereas AAP workers kept busy themselves with the electorates. The BJP people remained complacent while the AAP people burnt the midnight oil.
The open rites of “Ghar Wapsi (Home Coming)” through “re-conversions,” spur of attacks on Christians by way of destroying churches even in the national capital and calling northeast people as “immigrants” on the eve of the last Delhi assembly elections have been some of the burning issues making the people of Delhi to rethink whether their votes should go to a party which remained silent on these socially and religiously sensitive misadventures. The minorities have gradually started feeling insecure under the Modi regime. Even American President Barak Obama before leaving India and just few days before the crucial Delhi assembly polls gave a parting shot saying, “acts of intolerance” experienced by religious faiths of all types in India in the past few years would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi. All these undesirable events happening one after another without even slightest compunction from the Center has made the people of Delhi swinging their votes towards the AAP in the recently amazing assembly elections in Delhi. The BJP’s rout in recent Delhi polls is neither because of Kiran Bedi, the Chief Ministerial candidate of the BJP nor Modi, the PM. It was the sheer choice of the people of Delhi casting their valuable votes for the AAP as they wanted to see that the secular credential of this country does not suffer.
The uniqueness of this “common man – Kejriwal,” does not end here. After swearing-in as the eighth CM of Delhi on February 14, he surprised the country by officially and publicly declaring that he would not hold any portfolios except the CM post. He gave almost all the responsibilities to his deputy, Manish Sisodia. The very central premise of not keeping any portfolios with him is his sole aim to oversee works of all his ministers, meeting people and move around even beyond Delhi and work for his party. The stunning winning of Delhi assembly elections by the AAP under Kejriwal’s unique leadership has created political frenzy across the country.
The powerful BJP with their dynamic, bold and able PM Modi starts feeling squirmy not because of the oldest national political party, the INC, but the two-year old party, the AAP. If the BJP under Modi does not change the political course immediately, the AAP will become a main political rival in the next Lok Sabha elections across the country. It is like throwing stone at the wall.
It’s a shame on the parts of many Chief Ministers in the country including northeast ones of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, etc. where they normally want to keep dozens of portfolios with themselves. They have to learn lessons from Kejriwal, and if the country produces another 10 Kejriwals in the next 10 years, it is sure that India will someday be a corruption-free nation.