AAP has publicly accepted Congress’s offer of marriage.
Delhi citizens and indeed Indians all over the world following the going-ons in India have mixed feelings. Most do not know what to make of it, what would have been the right approach, both AAP supporters and BJP supporters are groping in the darkness of political morality and strategy. So let’s try to make head and tail of this marriage from various perspectives.
A. Hazrat Kejriwal faithfools
According to this group Arvind Kejriwal cannot do any wrong, either ethically nor strategically. If he has entered into an alliance with Congress, it still hasn’t changed his convictions. He is out to change the face of Indian politics and root out all corruption. This is the Jholawala, the city Marxist, the NGO activist view. Then there is the idealist first time student activist who finds the energy of student activism addictive, allows him to expand his social network even as it makes him feel as making a contribution to the betterment of India and society, especially as the student activist movement is led by a coalition of yuppies and jholawallahs, willing to inject the spice of cool modern (read West-inspired) cultural ambiance. Most importantly this view is shared by the “Aam Aadmi” (read middle-class) who has grown up in Delhi on a cultural diet of secularism and an ubiquitous and perennially dysfunctional and corrupt system, who has been taken in by the images broadcast by the mainstream media, and is thus more than willing to project all his hopes onto this simple looking former IT inspector.
They are willing to believe that Kejriwal did not long for power but was forced to accept CMship due to the pressure from others and their supporters who wanted to see him in power and fighting corruption.
This coalition is taking Kejriwal at his word that despite this alliance with the corruption devil, he would continue to expose corruption in high places even if it is of the devil.
B. Cautious AAP Supporters
Many Delhi citizens supported Aam Aadmi Party believing that it was the political heir to the Indians Against Corruption Movement led by Anna Hazare.
They too share the concerns of the most of the faithfools, but their support is not to the individual Arvind Kejriwal but more to the movement in general.
This group is shocked to see Arvind Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi Party agreeing to forming a government in Delhi together. If not shocked, at least this group is quite worried whether he may have made a mistake in trusting the party and its leadership. The support this group provided was qualified support and the question is whether the group was betrayed.
C. AAP is Congress’s B Team
Most of the BJP leadership as well as the BJP voters feel this way. They can see how the Indian mainstream media doted on Arvind Kejriwal. For them Arvind Kejriwal is a crook not to be trusted. He is part of Congress’s strategy to wean away urban youth away from Modi’s magnetism, and thus to stop Modi’s march to power.
According to this view, Congress and its support system in the media helped to project Arvind Kejriwal as the anti-corruption messiah. Arvind Kejriwal and indeed Aam Aadmi Party was built up to cut into BJP votes, and to channelize all the anti-corruption and thus anti-Congress votes to AAP, rather than allow these to fall into BJP’s basket.
During the elections, BJP was focused on taking down Congress, and almost completely ignored Aam Aadmi Party not expecting them to put up such an impressive showing.
This marriage of AAP and Congress only confirms their strong suspicions that AAP is Congress’s B Team, and helped Congress to steal an election which should have brought BJP to power. According to this view, Kejriwal fooled the people and basically did a Chiranjeevi on Delhi citizens.
Many were however expecting that Kejriwal would not take the bait and refuse to join Congress, as that would destroy his credibility, especially as he wishes to fight Lok Sabha elections too, and may have dreamed of winning the re-election, especially in the aftermath of such a very good electoral performance. In the re-election more of Congress vote-banks may have gone over to AAP thus enabling AAP to get a majority. BJP supporters were feeling that Arvind Kejriwal may feel over-confident, also thinking on similar lines and opt for new elections.
However now that the marriage has been solemnized, BJP supporters feel that Kejriwal has bowed to the wishes of his MLAs to taste power. BJP feels that he has taken the bait and gone into the trap set by them. Now it makes Kejriwal vulnerable to the charge of duplicity.
BJP had opted to not stake their claim on government formation and acted honorably. BJP feels that they are on a strong wicket and sooner than later either Arvind Kejriwal would make a fool of himself in power or the Congress would withdraw support to AAP sooner or later, especially if Arvind Kejriwal tries to live up to his stated agenda of anti-corruption. If he doesn’t follow up on his promises, then Kejriwal becomes a dead duck, and stops being a serious ideological challenger to BJP.
The interests of Congress seem apparent to these BJP supporters. Congress wants to avoid a re-election right away, as well as stop BJP from coming to power and thus is willing to extend support to AAP.
To some extent the fact that AAP received more votes and seats than Congress, and in fact AAP hurt Congress more than they hurt BJP, does cause some cognitive dissonance as to why would Congress allow itself to be decimated by AAP. It weakens the theory that AAP is Congress’s B Team. This weakness makes it difficult for those holding this view to convince others of AAP’s duplicity. With this marriage BJP feels that it would be easier to make this case.
I believe this view is restricted and does not think everything through.
D. Kejriwal can have his cake and eat it too
This is the view I hold.
The main danger to the Dynasty comes from Narendra Modi. Stopping Narendra Modi is all his detractors think of. Kejriwal and his image as a corruption fighter is in fact the only ace the dynasty has up its sleeve to stop Modi. Mainstream media does not tire from projecting Arvind Kejriwal as if he was himself a PM candidate running against Narendra Modi.
If Arvind Kejriwal can entice the urban youth away from Modi, there is a chance that Modi would then not get a good majority and thus would have to either have to make way for a more amenable BJP leader or accept the poisoned chalice of support of “secular party” agents thus hindering him in translating his agenda.
So Arvind Kejriwal has to be bolstered at all costs.
So the question was how best to bolster Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party? The Congress could have chosen to not extend outside support to AAP.
- This would have kept Arvind Kejriwal squeaky clean, but it would also shown to the voter that a vote for AAP is a wasted vote, as the citizens do not get a government in the end. So all those looking for stability would have chosen to vote BJP next time.
- In fact people would have cast aspersions on Arvind Kejriwal that he is afraid of embracing responsibility and AAP is nothing more than a protest party unsuited for doing the hard work of governing.
- Thirdly if Arvind Kejriwal had opted not to form a government, his own MLAs would have left him and joined up with BJP. This would have given a jolt to the idealist charm of AAP.
- If Arvind Kejriwal has to stand up to Narendra Modi someday, he has to be able to show some executive experience.
- The most important consideration was however that a hung assembly would have led to President’s rule and re-elections which would probably have coincided with the general elections. That would have put Congress and AAP at a serious disadvantage. For one thing AAP would have been chained to Delhi elections, as they would have had to pledge all their meager resources to Delhi, and Kejriwal would have been thus unavailable for campaigning across the country in Lok Sabha elections supporting AAP candidates. Also with assembly elections coinciding with Lok Sabha elections, Modimania would have been at its highest and BJP would have swept away both AAP and Congress from the field, even in Delhi.
So due to all these considerations it was felt by both Congress and AAP that Arvind Kejriwal’s loss of political virginity and idealistic appeal to Congress can be otherwise offset and in fact be bolstered even more.
Most detractors of Arvind Kejriwal, especially those in BJP, take it for granted that Arvind Kejriwal would not go after Congress corruption once in office, as otherwise Congress would withdraw support. Actually they revel in this certainty.
There is no such certainty. By taking over power in Delhi, Kejriwal has eaten his cake, his reputation.
But the understanding with Congress is that he is still going to have his reputation in the end, in fact it would be multiplied even more.
What we assume is that Sonia’s and Congress’s interests are identical. They are not. In order to let Arvind Kejriwal win, Sonia started shifting her vote-banks through the local Congress controllers towards AAP, even as it decimated Congress MLA candidates. Sonia Gandhi got the mainstream media to do carpet bombing of Delhi citizens with news and interviews of Arvind Kejriwal and his movement and tried to project the animosity between AAP and Congress as real.
So the AAP-Congress plan is to have Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal discover some big corruption scandal against some prominent Congress leader, possibly against Sheila Dixit herself. Even a scam pointing culpability directly at the dynasty itself is not unthinkable. Such a scam and the following attack by CM Arvind Kejriwal would give him even more credibility. The thing is all these scams are going to be discovered anyway if Modi comes to power, so better let one’s own man uncover one or two of them and use these to bolster his image.
So to keep the pretense of genuine opposition by Arvind Kejriwal to Congress corruption, most probably Congress would pull the rug sometime in March or early April, a few weeks before the Lok Sabha elections. This would allow Arvind Kejriwal to hog the limelight with his attack on Congress corruption or even Dynasty-based corruption. Impressed by his selfless pursuit of anti-corruption struggle where Arvind Kejriwal even endangers his CMship, many voters in cities around the country would vote for AAP candidates. Instead of NaMo being at the spearhead of anti-corruption drive against Congress and Dynasty, Arvind Kejriwal would be able to don this mantle, or at least the mainstream media would try their level best to put it on his head. Arvind Kejriwal would be projected as somewhat who sacrificed his position as CM for his principles.
This approach would then confirm the faith of the faithfools of Hazrat Kejriwal. It would also allay the fears of those who thought Arvind Kejriwal was compromised by Congress. And in fact this theater may even attract more votes who did not believe in Arvind Kejriwal or AAP earlier, as they would see themselves proven wrong about him. In this case it would be difficult to not see the rakshasa as a devta.
So what happens then? Does Arvind Kejriwal have to pay anything? Of course not! Congress would withdraw support and Lt. Governor of Delhi would declare President’s Rule in Delhi. The fun part of it would be that if done in March, it would be too late to hold elections for Delhi assembly together with Lok Sabha elections. So Kejriwal would be free, even from CMship, to campaign across the country on his “anti-corruption” agenda. Also there would be no danger of AAP MLAs rebelling against Kejriwal as he would again be upheld as a new prophet of anti-corruption, unlike now where Kejriwal is being seen with suspicion holding hands with Congress.
Once the Lok Sabha elections are over, and before the Lt. Governor is changed by the next government at the Center, the Congress legislators would again pledge their support to AAP. If that looks too suspicious, in the aftermath of the Congress rout in 2014, the Delhi Congress could simply rename itself and superficially cut its ties to parent Congress, and thus give Arvind Kejriwal their support, under a new name!
So before the new government takes over at the Center, Delhi would again have a stable Arvind Kejriwal led government, perhaps this time including the “erstwhile” Delhi Congress MLAs formally into the government.
So Kejriwal gets to stay as Delhi CM for a full 5 year term, i.e. unless he is made PM by some third front, AND at the same time Kejriwal receives both a boost from exposing some scam just before elections and can keep his image as anti-corruption crusader intact.
Arvind Kejriwal can have his cake and eat it too!
BJP’s only chance is to break away MLAs of Congress or of AAP right now. Make them resign on principle and force a reelection. Congress MLAs can resign by exposing Sonia’s hand in the defeat of many Congress MLAs through her support to AAP. AAP MLAs can resign citing Arvind Kejriwal’s duplicitous move to form a government with the support of Congress.
If the Delhi BJP does not do this now, then there is a real possibility of them sitting in opposition benches for at least the next 5 years even though they came so close to power. Much worse would be that Arvind Kejriwal would be ballooned by Sonia Gandhi to a size of NaMo just before elections through the media and thus stop the Modi juggernaut just enough to deny him a free hand at Center even if he does become the PM.