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Posted at: Feb 15, 2018, 1:04 AM; last updated: Feb 15, 2018, 1:04 AM (IST)

Three years of Kejriwal

The challenge to reinvent himself
Three years of Kejriwal
THE three years of the Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi could be described as survival by fire. Kejriwal has not been forgiven for the comprehensive and total defeat the AAP could inflict on the BJP within a year of the 2014 Modi revolution. The Centre lost no opportunity to make life miserable for Kejriwal. Since the AAP’s dream majority ruled out an undercover operation, the BJP settled for the next best option of exploiting a chink in the Centre-Delhi allocation of business and responsibilities. As a result, the Lt Governor stretched the rulebook to its limits by declaring each and every AAP policy initiative as null and void. The Centre let loose investigation agencies, a pattern of harassment that is now a familiar calling card of the current dispensation. On a parallel track, the AAP’s legislative ranks were being scrutinised for the weak-willed and the bent. 

During these three years, while no opposition party stood by the AAP, it also managed several self-inflicted wounds. Some will haunt Kejriwal and the party as it tries to reinvent itself in a post-UPA era where corruption and dynasty cannot be the Opposition’s chief selling points. The high watermark of the AAP’s internally illiberal democratic reflexes was the expulsion of Yogendra Yadav-Prashant Bhushan duo and its Punjab convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur. That lost the AAP the faith of a large chunk of the thinking middle class. 

After that 2015 Delhi high, the AAP talked itself up as a contender in Punjab and Goa but failed to grasp that unlike Delhi, their politics was undergirded by traditional, patronage-nurtured societal networks. While there is ample political space for opponents of systemic inequalities generated by the institutional frameworks, the AAP also failed to create an ecosystem that encouraged both opinion forming and decision making by the party rank and file. In the end, the AAP’s choice for the Rajya Sabha — two Guptas, neither core AAP activists — was not the outcome of strong public ownership of the AAP that Kejriwal had once promised. After three years, the party’s limited agenda for renewal and transformation may have brought it to an ideological cul-de-sac. 

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