At the time of writing, the party had come a distant second with victory in just 44 wards of the municipality as against 174 wards by the BJP.
From a people’s movement, Arvind Kejriwal achieved the transformation into a political party swiftly. Not just this - he lead that party to a verdict in Delhi registering a political earthquake which saw just three BJP survivors in the state assembly.
When the going was good the AAP emphasised the power of the people and creativity of Indian democracy. It rightly also claimed the moral high ground. However as many leaders across the political spectrum have discovered in the past the world over, moral high ground is a very slippery slope.
It is amazing how fast Arvind Kejriwal blew away a historic idea and a thundering mandate – the sequence of events has been simply astonishing.
The Personality problem
A combination of factors contributed to the dismal state that the AAP finds itself in. The foremost was the insecurity of Kejriwal as a leader. The AAP revolution quickly became a creature that devoured its own - from the activist Anna Hazare the inspiration of the movement, to the academic turned politician Yogendra Yadav.
It became very quickly apparent that if you did not like the Arvind Kejriwal way, he showed you the highway. In public affairs, this is a critical weakness. Inability to work as a team and foster a party structure proved to be the biggest drawback of AAP.
The second problem was the deep set belief that Arvind Kejriwal apparently has a manifest destiny of leading India. No one has such a destiny. It takes years of struggle to build a pan-national presence in a diverse polity like India.
Hubris simply got the better of the man. He misunderstood both his appeal and that of his adversary – Narendra Modi. The voter just did not take kindly to AAP national ambitions and was downright hostile to his almost daily abrasive personal affronts aimed at the prime minister.
Course correction – mission impossible
So can the Aam Admi party revive its fortunes, can Arvind Kejriwal rediscover the spark and make a comeback? Unlikely. While he has two years still to go as the CM of Delhi, course correction just does not seem to fit into his scheme of things. It requires critical introspection - a capability apparently missing from the wide range of the great leader’s personality traits.
What the AAP has done instead is to question the very basis of Indian democracy - the sanctity of the electronic voting machine. This is both ridiculous and dangerous. It is ridiculous because the Party made no mention of this when it won the 67 seats in Delhi through the very same machines. It is also laughable because they have not resigned the few seats that they won in protest.
It is dangerous because the party’s argument extends to not accepting the parameters of Indian politics and fundamentals of the adult franchise. It is an insult of the Indian voter.
The Indian voter awaits its turn to avenge this insult. At this pace - and with this attitude, the Aam Admi party may become a footnote in Indian democratic history. Its founder, Arvind Kejriwal, may be remembered as a maverick who failed his people. For plural democracy, the party’s self-destruction is a loss.
(The author is a Delhi-based security analyst for defence, foreign policy stories. He was also a visiting fellow at the Institute of Chinese studies, Delhi)
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 7:03 PM