On October 12, 2012, the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, Arvind Kejriwal announced the formation of his political party in Delhi, and on November 24, 2012, he named it the Aam Aadmi Party. A little over a year later, the new party on the block surprised everyone with their stunning performance in the Delhi Assembly elections by bagging 28 seats in the 70 member House, just three seats behind the BJP, which won 31 seats when the results were announced on December 08. Things were falling in place for the rookie party - they had managed to rout the Congress and scare the BJP and had the people believe that they were a clean party, which would change the game of politics. They were so overwhelmed by the poll results that they announced that they were ready to take the plunge and fight the next Lok Sabha polls.
All was well, till the Congress offered an ‘unconditional’ support to the AAP to form the government in Delhi. It’s another matter that the ‘unconditional’ has become ‘conditional’ now. And not just that - the Congress is also having second thoughts about extending support to the AAP, with party spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi admitting that there were divisions in the party over the contentious issue. On the other hand, Kejriwal’s party has been saying that they would not hesitate to investigate Congress leaders embroiled in various scams once they assume office. No wonder, given the present situation, questions are already being asked as to how long the alliance between the two will last.
After the results were announced, AAP leaders, including Kejriwal, had said with disdain that they would rather sit in the Opposition than take the support of either the Congress or the BJP to form government. They had termed both the parties as being almost the same, corrupt, power hungry and so on, and had reiterated that their goals were different from the two national parties. Many felt then that the stand taken by the AAP was right and in the event of a re-election, they may come back with full majority. However, all that changed after the Congress took the initiative and offered support to the AAP to form the government in Delhi.
The Congress probably thought that once AAP assumes power, the party would fail to achieve its poll promises, get exposed, and as a result, earn the ire of the people. Also, the Grand Old Party may have also felt that if there was a re-election, there might be a possibility of the BJP getting a clear majority. So they decided to prop up the AAP. But now that they have made the offer, if they withdraw the same in a jiffy, it is sure to earn ridicule for them along with the risk of being labeled as “confused” or “villainous”.
Anyway, the offer by the Congress created a division of sorts within the AAP, with one faction wanting to rule Delhi, while the other opposing the move to take Congress’ support. To get out of the imbroglio, the AAP went for a referendum of sorts and sought people’s opinion via SMS, e-mail, public meetings etc. as to whether they should go ahead with government formation in Delhi. And on December 23, they made the all-important decision to take outside support from the Congress, the very party that they had dubbed as corrupt and inefficient, saying that the people wanted them to form the government.
By this one decision, even if it was bowing down to the wishes of the people, the AAP has taken a risk and opened themselves to criticism and scrutiny like never before. Whether the decision to take Congress’ support will prove to be a game-changer for them or show that they have committed a political blunder, may be matter of conjecture for now, but the situation as it exists at present is akin to a tamasha being enacted in full public glare, with allegations and counter-allegations flying about between the unlikeliest of partners in good measure.
Though the AAP has said that if the Congress pulls the rug from under their feet, they will go to the people and expose the grand old party, the point is that they would themselves also be questioned about why they needed to take their support in the first place. Even if they say that they did not want to chicken out and prove to everyone that they could deliver, the AAP perhaps would have been better off by respecting the mandate of the people, sitting in the Opposition and going for re-polls.
Also, apart from tackling the Congress, Kejriwal’s immediate challenge would be to accomplish the big promises which he has made in his election manifesto - cutting power tariff by 50 percent, supplying 700 litres of free water to each household across the city, devolution of power to the people by setting up Mohalla Sabhas, opening of 500 new schools, regularising around 1,639 unauthorised colonies, being some of them. And he is likely to have around two months or so to deliver on his promises as the model code of conduct for 2014 General Elections may come into force in March. Needless to say, the 45-year old former RTI activist and soon to be Delhi`s Chief Minister will be closely watched by the two national parties, both hoping that the new political party on the block is just another flash in the pan.