Ritesh K Srivastava
Having stumped the political bigwigs through his unconventional style of politics in the recently concluded assembly polls in Delhi, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal now faces yet another credibility test - whether or not to go with Congress to form the government.
There remains no doubt that AAP`s phenomenal rise, which has become a classic case for analysis in management institutions, has shaken the roots of Congress and BJP, giving indications that there is ample political scope for a third player in the country – a spot it aims to occupy in the 2014 polls.
However, the party at the moment is treading cautiously. With the BJP - the single largest party in Delhi - flatly refusing to form the government and the Congress, which AAP has strongly opposed, smarting to give unconditional support to it, the ball has once again come to Kejriwal`s court. But in spite of grabbing the opportunity, the party has instead decided to seek people`s opinion on how to end the political stalemate in Delhi.
And this is where the problem for Kejriwal lies - the AAP now faces a double dilemma over taking or not taking its arch-rival Congress` support and the fear of being branded as `escapists` if they refuse to form government at all in Delhi.
For the BJP, it is a win-win situation, as it has nothing to lose after having ousted the 15-year-old Congress government from power in Delhi. Buoyed by the outcome of assembly polls in major states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and Delhi, the main opposition party has its eyes set on the bigger game of 2014.
For Congress, which has already faced enough humiliation at the hands of AAP and has nothing much to gain in the near future, is left with only one option - tying up the loose ends. So the onus for ending the political stalemate actually lies on the Kejriwal camp, which appears divided on the issue.
While many see the AAP`s exercise to hold a referendum in all 70 assembly constituencies as “farcical”, the party has sought to defend itself by claiming that the concept of "taking people`s feedback is very important and democracy in the real sense.”
Interestingly, both BJP and Congress know very well that the idea of seeking public opinion is just public posturing by AAP and Kejriwal will eventually form a minority government in Delhi.
By holding a referendum, the AAP is just preparing grounds to shield itself from embarrassment in future if the Kejriwal government collapses and the party fails to deliver what it promised in case Congress withdraws support at a later stage.
The AAP`s decision to conduct a referendum on the issue also raises doubts over the efficacy and credibility of the whole exercise. In the name of transparency, the party appears to have gone overboard. One is bound to ask whether AAP leaders would hold a referendum for every single issue.
For AAP, the victory in Delhi is just the first step in its political journey and if it aims to win a good number of seats in Lok Sabha polls next year, it will have to demonstrate political maturity in its decisions and the courage to face public in adverse situations. It appears that AAP wants to maintain the current momentum and is afraid of losing and that’s why it has been dilly-dallying on the issue.
AAP leaders need to examine why Congress has been so "generous" in offering unconditional support to it, which also indicates that Team Kejriwal is threat to them. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi`s advice to party leaders during the introspection meet to learn from AAP`s success further proves this point.
That`s why Congress has swung into action after offering support to Kejriwal.The haste and eagerness, which the party has shown in pushing the Lokpal Bill after assembly polls is a clear attempt by Congress to gain some brownie points over AAP, which has already suffered a loss of face by opposing it and due to its growing rift with Team Anna.
Interestingly, the Congress has also opened a channel of communication with Kejriwal`s mentor Anna Hazare, who originally spearheaded the anti-corruption movement. Anna`s praise for Rahul Gandhi is an indicator to Congress` changed strategy.
The Grand Old Party is clearly trying to build some ground for Rahul Gandhi, who is most likely to be declared the party`s PM nominee in the days to come. Having faced severe drubbings in major states, the Congress wants to minimize its losses by reconnecting the party with the middle classes, which form the bigger chunk of voters across the country.
With the Anna Hazare and Congress taking the limelight for the Lokpal Bill, AAP has lost a major poll plank. It should overcome its political immaturity and open itself to dealing with other political parties on genuine grounds rather than blaming them for being corrupt, inept and inefficient.
By setting 18 pre-conditions for its rivals, the AAP has already diluted its earlier stance of having no truck with either BJP or Congress, and by seeking public opinion on the issue of Congress support the party has further compromised on their principals and erstwhile moral high ground. With General Elections just a few months away, AAP leadership needs to demonstrate that it can take big decisions, fix the loop-holes in bureaucracy and improve the political environment vitiated by corruption, no matter how long they rule Delhi.
They have already won a big political battle by capitalizing on people`s angst against a corruption-tainted government so Team Kejriwal must avoid doing anything that brands them as ``escapists`` and nullifies their recent achievements.