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Thursday, March 05, 2015

AAP - perception and content...

The events during the National Executive Meeting on the 4th March at Delhi in which the two founding members of the party and tall leaders in their own accord, Yogendra Yadav and Prashanth Bhushan have been removed has caused quite a bit of disappointment among the AAP followers and supporters world over and particularly in several parts of India.

I am not aware of the nature and exact reasons behind the 'point of no-return' reached by Arvind Kejriwal in his unilateral decision to 'sack' these two founding members and co-travellers in this amazing journey of AAP. It was an unilateral decision and implemented through careful maneuvering seems obvious if one were to read the events surrounding the National Executive meeting. I am sure if I knew all the realities, I may agree with the decision, just like if I knew the views from Yogendra and Prashanth, I may agree with them also. This is the situation of most AAP supporters today across the country. We all want to support and be with all the three and we can't be forced to choose between them. We feel that it is unfair for some people in AAP to subject an entire nation full of supporters to this trauma to satisfy whatever goals they have achieved through this initiative. 

But, for most people from across the country, who could only connect to Delhi and AAP often through what was said in the media and the clean image presented by the top leaders, Yogendra has been the teacher. His every single word explaining issues with clarity in the visual media has been picked up as though in cue and used by the volunteers everywhere. Several time AAP volunteers with not much communication coming from Delhi have entirely relied on Yogendra's press interviews and media discussions to even understand issues on which they don't have much ideas themselves either due to inability to relate or due to the distance in which issues are being played out in a vast country like India. 

Yogendra as a politician may have several limitations and some of them were obvious when he pushed for certain decisions at the national level that perhaps back fired on the party. But with due respect I think he is as new to the culture of party politics as anyone else and is perhaps a much better learner as he comes with remarkable understanding of the history of Indian politics that others may lack. His intense emphasis on looking at issues from completely different point of view during several analysis discussions have as much strengthened the party as being 'out of the box' one as much as Arvind's actions in Delhi. We should also not forget that it was also Yogendra who confidently predicted that AAP will win over 50 seats in Delhi while others were twiddling their thumbs and even Arvind Kejriwal acknowledged later that he was stumped and surprised by the mandate that Delhi granted him. 


Prashant Bhushan stands tall and will do so forever to come among the legal luminaries in India despite whatever happens to AAP. He is one of the politicians with the cleanest of images anywhere in this country and would have been valued as  a professional and a clean politician. He has always been a 'supporter - player' rather than a leader. Clearly bringing in his legal understanding, he has been behind every single major expose the party has done in the past either directly or encouraging and mentoring younger ones who were involved.

Most importantly, Prashanth Bhushan is the one who activists from all over the country who came to AAP would relate to as he has practically rendered them service / help in their own struggles in different parts of the country - Koodankulam in Tamilnadu is an example.All over India there are several struggles that are represented by local activists who are fighting local battles though they are aware of the larger war, the war that they feel AAP is taking forward and therefore they have supported / combined forces / moved into its fold. This process has been facilitated by the trust they have placed in Prashanth and his judgement as much as the leadership and charisma they would have seen in Arvind. Prashanth Bhushan had said at different times things that were perhaps not exactly a representative of the collective party, but, that is the role of all independent thinkers and fostering independent thinkers with high integrity is a critical part of the political change that AAP is supposedly bringing in

There are several ways of interpreting Delhi, but, my own interpretation was that the ordinary people of India wanted to punish Amit Shah and his excesses and cheap tricks. While Modi was the front for BJP, it was Amit Shah who lost the elections despite all supposedly great strength in strategising and maneuvering.  In over emphsising his capacity to win elections, the BJP was reducing the people of Delhi to some kind of a pawn in a bigger game that the Boss enjoyed playing, everyone was a naught till they were touched by the Boss and the Big Boss was just a front that was held up and all other minions were merely parts of the grand strategy that Boss played out. Now if there is one thing that people in this vast land have time and again established through their voting, it is the fact that they don't like anyone to think they are a walk over. And they have shown Amit Shah's ego the door through the Delhi elections. While Modi's subsequent decisions and moves shows that he is trying to make up for the loss through several 'assertive' decisions, the dent caused in the persona of Amit Shah will cast a shadow in his performance from now on for the rest of his life, that is the impact of the lesson of Delhi election.

This is also the lesson for Arvind, he had been bestowed with volunteers from various parts of the country, people who were drawn from different movements and overcame linguistic and other barriers to come and campaign in Delhi for the party second time in as many years, some of who had also campaigned for him in Varanasi apart from campaigning in their own states and constituencies. Someone once placed the possible collective loss to the hard earned individual money through AAP's adventure of across the country contentions (a decision I think far worse than the quitting of 49 days, which I for one don't think was a mistake) at about 200 crores even as a conservative estimate. Many of these people had sustained their hopes not because of the idea of 'single leader strong leader' Arvind. Indeed most of the supporters have been proud of the fact that the 'collective leadership' of AAP is such a counter in its diversity and distinct persona from the mono-cultured Modi-BJP, where everyone is almost forced to be Modi-clone and it is obvious that all decisions are made by the single persona with its limitations and disabilities to suit!

Delhi elections could also be interpreted to the leadership of Arvind Kejriwal by those who cannot see beyond Delhi. And I suspect the current NE decision is an outcome of the collective wisdom of such people. Their knowledge of Delhi and what runs there cannot be extrapolated into the rest of the country. That which was 'seen' in Delhi had content that was a collective contribution of several people, Yogendra and Prashanth inculded, across the country. Now, I suspect the 'look' is being taken more seriously than what went into the look and feel generated during the Delhi elections.

It may be easy for such a group in the current mode of being powerful to seek more powers for itself within the party and thereby try and see if it can establish 'Delhi' everywhere or the spirit of it. But, in doing so, even the first step they have chosen in doing so, they have manifested in my opinion a deep fracture in the collective idea that has become AAP. Perhaps this is an attempt to 'unify' the diverse ideas of AAP with Arvind becoming the face of it. Then he will need his Amit Shah sure. Then it will become another BJP - one man show with another 'man' to hold the forces of the party together. This is not the collective imagination any longer.

Another critical mistake that i feel is being made, particularly at this juncture - is the fact the party which espouses transparency and accountability at all levels and has come up with some of the best methods to establish the same in the party - politics space of India, is seen as not being transparent in its inner party affairs. Arvind could have easily held a 'jan sabha' to discuss the quandary he personally is going through and seek the help of the ordinary people of delhi (or for that matter anywhere else) to resolve the conflicts of the party, thereby yet again establish the faith in the wisdom of the aam aadmi that this party ultimately banks again and again. In choosing to not communicate in this critical issue with clarity and instead resorting to back room maneuvering, he (or the forces that are doing the strategising with him as the front in Delhi just now) has established that they are capable of being Amit Shah like if they choose to. The stage by stage marginalization of Advani, Joshi, etc., by the Modi-Shah model of dominance did exactly what Arvind's people are seen to be doing now. 

I use the word 'seen', because i still hold a doubt that perhaps they are not thinking beyond the boundaries of Delhi and their collective frustration of the perceived lack of cooperation by the two 'seniors' in Delhi. I am in no doubt that during the built up to the Delhi elections, there would have been several events / pronouncements / happenings in which Yogendra Yadav and Prashanth Bhushan are involved that perhaps was perceived to be detrimental to the party's interest and this is in a sense of seeking 'revenge' by some of those who were deeply hurt! (the same words that Arvind used which didn't show him in good  light or strength actually). To his credit, Arvind Kejriwal represents an indomitable spirit that is rare among people who govern this country, he is emotional, he has passion, he is approachable, he can win and retain people support and he has the charisma to win resourceful supporters who have crowded in thousands to support AAP - perhaps the largest crowd funded political party in the world today!

This current situation could have been avoided if all the top people - including YY, PB and AK had taken the suggestion of several friends in the immediate aftermath of the Lok Sabha debacle and sorted out their differences in closed door. In that moment of defeat and desperation, egos could have been humble enough to establish collective goals and aspirations, ensure that dis-agreements are articulated and clear boundaries of functional presence are demarcated. Instead, they chose to not address the serious crisis in the leadership. It is a known fact among all who know about the inside workings of AAP that the top leadership has not met in months now, more precisely, they have not been 'seen' together since the built-up for the LS elections. The last time Arvind and Yogendra may have been seen together would have been the Varanasi campaign if my memory is correct. They had stopped to communicate, except through party functionaries and public medium, since quite some time is my guess. Atleast, they were not discussing issues of importance for leadership even if they were discussion issues of immediate field strategies.

AAP is an imagination that has its boundaries beyond Delhi. If it chooses to now limit itself to be a regional party in Delhi, it should atleast state it clearly and Arvind should state it clearly now and forget what people in other parts of the country think or aspire the party to be. Alternately, Arvind can step out of the national scene and lend support to the national level emergence with an understanding that such a thing can happen in its own speed.

The war across the country is not going to end in a day. Corporate India is at war with the people of India. That is the reality today that is being fought through several platforms. Political parties that are large funding dependent have decided to side with the corporate world, while crowd funded party like AAP represents the possibility that ordinary people's aspiration may have a political voice as well (ironically it is these same words with which Yogendra invited several civil society people to join the party in December 2013). 

In giving way to how the party 'looks' and feels in Delhi,if the Nation is sent a message that the 'content' which governs the party is being given a pass.Then it is a sad day for the collective imagination of this party and all those who support this party across the country. Not because they think this party is going to win elections tomorrow or become any threat to BJP in the near future, but, because, to seek a better, higher, more humane society is a collective aspiration of every Indian since centuries and the platforms that represent this aspirations are always held aloft by the people of this country as their very own. 

Any weakening of the AAP both in perception and content is a letting down of the aam aadmi in this country. perceptions can be transient, but, content is more permanent, the transient forces seem to be guiding the collective leadership just now. in choosing to reflect and resolve, they can show they have the content to claim a collective position in history that they have been placed to achieve, however, this is time for men of great character to grow up and show what they are made of or be reduced to post script in history as a 'could have been', I pray that these men who so far have grown with their roles will continue to do so...I many aam aadmis in this country.

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