Did the Delhi Assembly elections reflect any new trends or deviations from earlier elections? Were they distinctive in a new way? What are the lessons they yielded – though with the results just in this week it may be too early to assess that. Certainly, throughout the campaign, all the parties in the fray looked aggressive. Nobody was behind anybody. All parties threw away money like water. But it was regrettable that the Delhi Assembly elections became issue-less. The Bharatiya Janata Party, the Aam Aadmi party and the Congress Party did not fight the election on issues related to the people of Delhi. Amongst them, there was more of competition in showing each other down. A race went on to win debates by levelling allegations against each other. Nobody tried to win the hearts of the people. All three parties ignored issues and made the elections a clash of personalities. In the process, problems increased for the Aam Aadmi Party. The Party was damaged more by the statements of its own leaders than those of its opponents.
Talk of the Delhi Assembly elections had been in the air for almost six months before they were finally announced. There is no doubt that the agenda of this election was set by the Aam Aadmi Party. It was the first to field its candidates. The most campaigning too was done by the Aam Aadmi Party through all possible means — posters, pamphlets, hoardings, rallies, meetings and radio. It seemed that Kejriwal had become the first choice of the people of Delhi. In other words, at the time of announcement of elections, the Aam Aadmi Party was in front. The Bharatiya Janata Party was way behind. But a big earthquake struck the politics of Delhi when the Bharatiya Janata Party fielded the first woman IPS officer
ofthe country and an associate of Anna Hazare in the Jan-Lokpal movement – Kiran Bedi, as the Chief Ministerial candidate.
Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party couldn’t assess this challenge rightly. Kejriwal and his associates were holding rallies, and at the ground level were busy doing the rounds personally. On the other hand, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s top leaders assessed the situation and reached the conclusion that due to lack of time it would be difficult to counter the Aam Aadmi Party at the ground level. Instead of a ground level fight the Bharatiya Janata Party started a psychological war against the Aam Aadmi Party. Disgruntled leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party were contacted in an attempt to include them in BJP one by one. First, over three to four days, ‘small’ leaders and workers were given membership of the party. Then, three Muslim candidates of the Aam Aadmi Party were won over and included in the party, followed by Kiran Bedi’s induction into the party, with much celebration. A day after that, Shazia Ilmi, once a prominent face of the Aam Aadmi Party, was made a party member. Next day, the party gave membership to former Cabinet Minister in the Congress party and Dalit leader Krishna Tirath. Soon after, the Aam Aadmi Party’s former MLA Vinod Kumar Binny was also included in the party.
This process of people and ‘faces’ joining the BJP got continual media coverage. Everyday such news made the headlines, became a topic of debate on TV. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s thrust was proving to be successful and it shattered the confidence of the Opposition. Surprisingly, in the BJP’s success, the political immaturity of the Aam Aadmi Party too played a large contributory role. The reality is this that all the leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party who went to the Bharatiya Janata Party had been angry for a long time as they were not made a part of the Aam Aadmi Party’s activities. The Aam Aadmi Party’s political immaturity allowed it to get got caught in the BJP’s psychological trap. To make matters worse, the Aam Aadmi Party opened a ‘front’ against leaders who had joined the BJP. They started calling them opportunists and brokers. The biggest mistake of the leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party was that in trying to win TV debates it lost the confidence of its own workers. This resulted in the Aam Aadmi Party’s ideological and organisational contradictions being exposed.
Kejriwal was so eager to become the Chief Minister of Delhi again that he forgot that the Delhi elections were a question of survival for the Aam Aadmi Party, that was why it was important to keep the party united. Circumstances became such that Kejriwal was unsuccessful even in keeping the founders of his party satisfied. And the problem arose that right before the polling dates, the Aam Aadmi Party was seen getting fragmented at the level of ideology and organisation. The very people who till yesterday were the face of the party either left the party or else sat in their homes. The workers were angry. In most of the Delhi constituency areas, there was sloganeering against the party. Workers shouted slogans and gave statements against Kejriwal. The Aam Aadmi party’s condition had become such that while leaders conducted rallies and meetings, below the stage former youth workers of the Aam Aadmi Party were seen distributing pamphlets against the party and Kejriwal. Out of the many leaders of the party who joined the BJP, it was surprising that out of them there were 4 Muslim leaders who in the 2013 Assembly Elections had been candidates of the Aam Aadmi Party. The Aam Aadmi Party had not yet recovered from these shocks when its patron and most important founder member, Shanti Bhushan, gave a statement that left the party red faced.
It was unthinkable, but the patron of the Aam Aadmi Party, Shanti Bhushan, praised the BJP’s Chief Ministerial Candidate Kiran Bedi. This news was published in newspapers. Actually, the news only highlighted that Shanti Bhushan had said that Kiran Bedi would be an honest Chief Minister like Kejriwal. But the Aam Aadmi Party’s immature spokespersons made a mountain of a molehill. If, like Kejriwal, all leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party had ignored it, then maybe it would not created such a storm. But party spokespersons started firing questions at Shanti Bhushan. They forgot the party they were in, forget they were products of a certain movement, and raised questions about the founder of that very party and movement. In answer to the immature spokespersons of the Aam Aadmi Party, Shanti Bhushan gave a mature political reaction. He came forward openly on TV channels. He said that making Kiran Bedi the CM candidate was a masterstroke by the BJP. Not only this, on the basis of qualifications, he ranked Kejriwal at number three. He said that even Ajay Maken of the Congress would be a better Chief Minister than Kejriwal. It is notable that when the Aam Aadmi Party was formed, it was Shanti Bhushan who had, by giving 1 crore rupees, given his blessings to the party to start its work. Shanti Bhushan’s attack on Kejriwal was
not a mere coincidence – it was a result of the factionalism rampant in the party.
Before the Lok Sabha elections, there were only two factions in the party. One faction wanted the party to give priority to those values on the basis of which the party was started. The party was formed taking into account values like internal democracy, decentralisation of power and system change, through which the Aam Aadmi’s politics and participation in Government could become a certainty. This faction had problems with the attitude of Arvind Kejriwal. The members of this faction said that at the time of formation of party the belief was that there would be no chief, no party supremo. There will be a committee with a national character, which will voice its opinion on issues, and a party convener would be there, who would coordinate between the opinions of the members of the committee. The allegation of this faction was and is that Kejriwal has become power hungry. He doesn’t keep contact with anyone, doesn’t listen to anyone’s opinion. He takes decisions himself and forces them on the party. This group alleges that the party has been changed into a personality cult. This faction believes that the party should work on a one man-one post policy.
An additional complaint of this faction was that everywhere it was only Kejriwal who was seen and all values of the party had been side lined. Shanti Bhushan gave voice to the feelings of this group that Kejriwal had become power hungry and Kejriwal works like a dictator inside the party. Shanti Bhushan also has said that complaints had come from workers that in the Delhi elections the Aam Aadmi Party took money and sold tickets. The most significant thing that Shanti Bhushan said was that Arvind Kejriwal should resign from the post of convener, a meeting of the national executive of the party should be called and a new convener should be appointed. It was said that the anti-Kejriwal faction wants Yogendra Yadav to be appointed the new convener of the party.
Actually, it is important to note that if in the party people like Shanti Bhushan will remain as patrons, then there isn’t a need for enemies. In the elections not even 15 days remained when Shanti Bhushan fired his Brahmastra (mythologically, the Brahmastra was a weapon created by Lord Brahma, the creator in the Hindu Trinity). Shanti Bhushan’s attack disappointed the Aam Aadmi Party’s workers, but responsible for it were the immature leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party. The game of politics is not for those who are mentally immature. Politics requires serious work and through it the future of crores of people is decided. In this context, the eagerness and personal ambitions of the Aam Aadmi Party leaders became its biggest enemies. In the last Lok Sabha elections, the Aam Aadmi Party had received thirty three per cent of the votes. The strategies of the party leaders should have focused on keeping the organisation together and by pacifying the angry leaders, increasing its vote share by two to three per cent. It is difficult to understand how, with political analysts like Yogendra Yadav being in the party, Kejriwal could not understand that in Delhi whichever party would get more that thirty five per cent votes, would easily get a majority. The kind of mistakes the Aam Aadmi Party made during the last Assembly elections in Delhi and the Lok Sabha elections were repeated in the Delhi election this time too. Mature leaders understand when, where and how any issue should be hyped and on which issues they should remain silent. It was obvious during the Delhi elections that Kejriwal and the leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party have not been able to learn the art of keeping quiet.
In addition to immaturity, there was over enthusiasm in the spokespersons of the Aam Aadmi Party and leaders. As a result, they erased the difference between truth and lies. The Aam Aadmi Party worked on the theory that the memory of the public is weak, so say anything – truth or lie in the media — people will not get to know. This is the reason that after Shanti Bhushan’s attack, party spokespersons got so worried that they went on telling lies one after another. The biggest lie was by poet turned politician Kumar Vishwas, on the Times Now channel. He claimed that former Army Chief and present Union Minister General V. K Singh had, in front of him, told Anna Hazare not to give a statement against or open a front against the Bharatiya Janata Party. Actually, crossing all limits of lying, Vishwas forgot that when Anna’s movement was on at New Delhi’s Ram Lila Maidan, General V.K. Singh was not a part of the movement. At that time, he was the Chief of Army of the country. The statements that Kumar Vishwas gave, they were not only false, they were also damaging for his party. The funny thing is that Kumar Vishwas has met General V.K. Singh only once, that too for half an hour in a Circuit House at Kurukshetra, at a time when Arvind Kejriwal was on a hunger strike on the issue of electricity bills.
The hunger strike was not getting the support of the public. At that time Anna Hazare and General V.K. Singh were on a Jantantra Yatra in Haryana. Kejriwal, to save the credibility of his hunger strike, wanted Anna to come to Delhi to end his hunger strike by giving him water. It was during that time that Kumar Vishwas and Manish Sisodia met General V.K. Singh for the first and last time. Leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party should understand that speaking blatant lies on TV channels is not a good augury for the future. False statements like the ones made happen only because of two reasons. One, when leaders make the mistake of thinking the public to be fools, and two, if they are given to telling lies habitually.
The Aam Aadmi Party’s election campaign and language were not in accordance with its avowed values. Party’s spokespersons and leaders didn’t give its own upset workers any chance of openly airing their grievances. This had a deep impact on workers working for the party. Many workers were troubled by the working style of the party. This is the reason why, as in 2013, this time party workers were not seen on the streets. The complaint of most of the workers was that in the party those people had been sidelined who, by the sweat of their brows had made the Jan-Lokpal movement successful and then after that had fleshed out the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi. Another complaint was that outsiders had formed a gang and established themselves at the top of the party. They didn’t and don’t even talk to the workers. It was the same people who, in the name of the party, popularised their faces everywhere. The same people were also seen on TV. People coming from outside were given a lot of importance in the party, due to which the workers were angry and disappointed, especially those workers who putting their job, their future and their career at stake had joined the movement and the party. The Delhi election campaign has now passed into history, but will the parties, especially the Aam Aadmi Party, learn any useful lessons from it? Will they evaluate what clicked and what backfired? The coming weeks and months will provide the answer.