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Monday, May 19, 2014

Lok Sabha Elections 2014 - the biggest question post-election: why did AAP fail so bad?

No one is as surprised by the ascend of Modi as the perceived descend of AAP after the election results were announced. It is as though the biggest disappointment of the elections was not the Gandhis being shown the door as much as the AAP biting the dust. 

How did this happen?

1. Civil Society Organization to Elections fighting Party at 800 kmph - Well as I said, it is a perceived fall rather than a real one. It has to be realized that AAP was at best a regional party in Delhi before the Delhi elections, it had a token presence - predominantly those who were part of the earlier IAC and agreed with the AAP idea. However, these were largely ambitious civil society people who saw a future for themselves in politics. None of these people were prepared to face elections, particularly of Parliamentary magnitude as they had to learn how to fight the elections while in the middle of it, not many can match the speed of Arvind Kejeriwal. 

2. The sudden descend of elections and decision to fight the election in such a large manner - though it has marked a presence for the party in insignificant ways, it wouldn't be missed in any place where the voting has been below 1% - has meant that the elections were fought by most of the candidates with neither money nor the volunteer base that made the phenomenal show in Delhi possible. In retrospect the fighting in 400+ locations looks excessively ambitious.

3.  No structural stability or process in place - A corollary to the 1. above is that the party did not have uniform structural stability across the country or have all the processes that were so well ingrained in AAP Delhi. The concentrated efforts of 6 months between nov 2012 till mid 2013 to build the organisation structure and strengthen it in Delhi was not available to other states and yet they were expected to fight large number of seats. Many state units would have obviously crashed with this burden as they neither had time to internalize the overall processes and practiced a process that they considered to be 'correct' (and there are SO MANY people who KNOW what is CORRECT in a high moralist party such as AAP). Only Punjab seemed to have been able to muster adequate strength in such large numbers to pull off the 4 seats that they have managed.

4. Good Candidates, but, how do we project so many of them? - The amazing plus point was that a party in India could find 400 plus candidates who were clean uniformly. Just this one fact is gagging in the milieu in which party politics is fought. Except perhaps the Left parties, no other party had such simple candidates either. In Tamilnadu not many had assets more than 1 Crore, not many had budgets for the election that was anywhere near the 70 lakh ceiling that Election Commission permitted. But, they are all amazing individuals and definitely would have done a sincere work representing the people of their constituency in the Parliament as well as taking extra efforts to ensure that they learnt and meaningfully contributed to the national issues as Parliamentarians. How can any public relation suddenly build the image of a new party, a symbol and a personality from scratch in a span of 5 weeks (which is maximum in many cases it was just 2 weeks) with about 12 lakh voters in every constituency.

5. Lack of Imagination or enough Imaginative people in the Party in Powerful positions - Let's face it, AAP Delhi or AAP at the National level has some of the most talented and creative people in the country. Arvind Kejeriwal, Yogendra Yadav, Prashanth Bushan...each one of these people are not just 'good' civil society representatives alone, these are highly creative people who have DARED to extend their imagination into a new form of politics. While AK has done so with a pace that has not been set in politics anywhere in the world, YY has provided the intellectual sheath and explained day after grueling day to the hungry nation detailed explanations of a clean politics, most of them still in the collective brains of the few. While those who go by populism follow AK, those who are more skeptical have acknowledged deep admiration for the professoral YY.  Having said that, this alternate POLITICAL IMAGINATION IS NOT UNIFORM or across board among all the AAP leaders across the country. Many of them have really no great creative capacity or courage to back up the creativity with direct action, nor the capacity to carry a team of people with high expectations with such action as well. While action was easier, articulating the actions and relating it to the core ideas of the party takes deep conviction and capacity to imagine and integrate. Unfortunately in a country with so many University educated which has populated the AAP heavily, creativity is rather a premium. Shiv Vishwanath once said that the 'actions of AAP is far better than the explanations that are made by its spokespersons about the actions' or words to that effect. 

6. Leadership of convenience not leadership of conviction - The sudden decision to expand the party across the country and fight such large number of seats has meant that the national team had to choose in each district some team that was convenient over a choice of people who have any deep convictions. In a resource crunch situation, people with convictions and work to show case often can carry volunteers through the inspiration of their experience, clarity and insights. However, this was given a pass in favour of convenient leadership, this hasn't really helped the party at all. 

7. Getting the agenda set by the media and the opposition - sometime in the first week after the government in Delhi was formed, there was a shift in the way the media and Opposition approach AAP, there was heavy hostility from both Congress and BJP while, the questions from the media shifted from an awestruck, "why are you doing what you are doing" to a more prescriptive, "how could you do this?" or "can't you even do this?". Somewhere, this line of questioning entered under the skin of AAP and managed to provoke the party and AK to act exactly as he felt he was not expected to act by the media. This shifted the control from AAP to the Opposition and Media. They lead the party through suggestions, opinions and comments. And the party seemed to have followed.

8. The Varanasi decision - it was a mistake, it deprived other constituencies of AK's campaigning. It reduced him to just that one constituency, even worse, it demanded all the volunteers, money and the attention that the entire nation full of AAP candidates could have got. The local Tamil media would often report the latest in the varanasi campaign by AK leaving out a yatra, campaign or unique appeal of the local AAP candidates. AAP could only command a limited space in the media and that space was completely taken over by AK and Varanasi campaigning. 

,,,will keep adding  

p.s.: these are my personal opinions like all other posts in this blog, though these are based on my close association and continued presence in the party, it neither has any official sanction nor indicate any authorized position, as always they are just my opinion recorded before they disappear from my memory.

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