Democracy is the axis between balance and betrayal. By some arcane algorithm, it often throws up an alternative to a brute majority. The tragedy of massive mandates is they are squandered too often. Poll fever is climbing and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal does not even look as if he is ready to seek a return ticket. As his party and government unspool steadily, the assault on Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash last week and the ongoing commotion revealed how deep is the rot within AAP.
Who would have thought the man who made history by bucking the trend could become history soon? When the implacable Modi Wave was sweeping through most of India in 2014, Kejriwal’s stunning victory in Delhi and Punjab was seen as a check to the BJP’s unstoppable velocity. Ironically, Kejriwal owes his hero status to the Congress party and the rampant corruption of the UPA years; but it was Modi’s charisma which he defeated in Delhi. Optimists even titled Kejriwal the only alternative to Modi.
The picture was rosy for AAP. It was convinced that it would sweep the Goa and Punjab Assembly polls a few years later. The middle class believed AK was the new secular herald of political Utopia. The poor saw in him a champion and for the rich he was a hobby. Even the media loved him.
So where did it all go so horribly wrong?
Kejriwal is the most successful victim in Indian politics. He positioned himself as a commoner, victimised by the corrupt and the powerful. The middle class saw in him the non-politician they desired—a Solomon of the slums, a King Arthur of urban Camelot—a Prester John of New India. He even became the darling of the debilitated Opposition. The men around him were apolitical with spotless reputations, and AAP became a neo-Socialist Archimedean displacer of the shape of water of the Congress and the Left. It lassoed in their former vote banks that comprised minorities, the middle class, farmers and blue collar workers to join the Kejriwal movement; for that was what it was then—a movement that stoked the dreams of millions of Indians.
Then came the betrayal.
The clean faces left or were driven out. Old friends became enemies. Loyalists were disillusioned. Ministers were shamed by sex scandals and graft allegations. Bureaucrats refused to work. Many AAP heavies were arrested or jailed. Rajya Sabha seats smelt of donations. An MP was caught drunk in Parliament. India’s first 21st century agitationist Kejriwal soon retreated into a shell. Gone was the euphoria and mass connect—the folk leader who sang Hindi film songs, much like a period actor in a black and white movie was no more the assimilator; instead he led a morally diminished outfit where the dregs called the shots, and threaten officials with beatings.
The fact Kejriwal missed was that Mandate 2014 was not anti-Congress or anti-BJP. It was a pro-AAP vote. The confrontationist failed to make the transition to a leader with credible solutions. He whined, cribbed and blamed. People did not vote for a victim. They voted for a saviour. When the saviour was unmasked as a rhetoric obsessed, paranoid politicopath, the let-down they felt was overwhelming.
Yet another politician had fooled them—a Judas to their hope and optimism. History has shown that the people leave no room for misunderstanding in polling booths. The saviour thus becomes his own victim.