AAP crisis decoded: It's time Kejriwal sacrificed himself to save the party

Topics AAP

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Photo: PTI
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is busy imploding.

A large number of party legislators in Delhi are angry at Arvind Kejriwal. AAP legislators and common workers believe Kejriwal has betrayed the spirit of the AAP movement. They accuse Kejriwal, along with his coterie of men, of having centralised decision making, cutting himself off from workers and generally having acted in a high-handed manner.

Aside from the situation in Delhi, most of AAP’s 20 legislators in Punjab have little love for the Delhi chief minister. Kejriwal’s two appointees for Punjab, Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak, quit after the loss in the Punjab Assembly polls. There were several ignominious allegations against the duo.

In the latest crisis, many of the legislators have backed Kumar Vishwas. With the rift in the party widening, on Tuesday, Kejriwal held a midnight meeting with Vishwas. The AAP political affairs committee meets in Delhi on Wednesday afternoon.

But indications are that Vishwas read Kejriwal the riot act. Some other leaders in the party are also of the view that Kejriwal should step down from at least one, if not both, of the two posts he currently occupies – he is both the Delhi chief minister as well as the party chief.

This is the compromise formula that senior leaders have suggested to Kejriwal. As part of the formula, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia could take Kejriwal’s place while the latter focuses on rebuilding the party and his image.

Among other things, Sisodia said on Tuesday that the party didn’t belong to Kejriwal or any other single leader, but to workers. He stressed the need for the party to be saved for the sake of thousands of its workers.

From being its star, Kejriwal has suddenly become a liability for AAP. His story has been of hubris. Kejriwal surrounded himself with his cronies, all of whom are in a race with each other to get into the Rajya Sabha when three seats of Delhi are to fall vacant in the Upper House in 2018.

Interestingly, despite being the Delhi chief minister, Kejriwal holds absolutely no portfolios. Not a single one. Instead of governing Delhi, Kejriwal has spent the better part of the past two years trying to tighten his grip on the party organisation by engineering to throw out founders like Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, and touring Punjab, Goa and Gujarat.

Such has been his focus on other states that the AAP-led Delhi government couldn’t sell to the people its seminal work to improve the schools and hospitals of Delhi, and that the mess in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi was because of the 10-year rule of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) there.

However, voting percentages in the recent civic polls seem to bear out that the vote was more anti-Kejriwal and less pro-Narendra Modi.

The AAP vote share saw a precipitous decline. The party received 26.23 per cent of the votes cast. This is half of the 54.30 per cent that AAP bagged in the 2015 Assembly polls in Delhi, when it won 67 of the 70 Assembly seats.

Interestingly, it wasn’t as much the BJP benefiting from AAP’s decline but Congress and smaller parties that have gained at AAP’s expense. The Congress increased its vote share to 21.09 per cent in the recent civic polls. This is up from the 9.8 per cent it got in the 2015 Assembly polls.

Smaller parties – the Janata Dal (United), Bahujan Samaj Party, Swaraj Abhiyan, and others – and independents together bagged as much as 16.6 per cent of votes. Of this, independents got 8.44 per cent.

The BJP’s vote share in the civic polls was 36.08 per cent. This is fractionally lower than what BJP got in the 2012 civic polls. However, it has improved over its vote share in the 2013 and 2015 Assembly polls, where it got 33.07 per cent and 32.02 per cent, respectively. But the party couldn’t match up to its vote share of 46.4 per cent in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Primarily, the BJP benefited from the split in opposition votes. It was this opposition vote that AAP and Kejriwal had consolidated for themselves in 2015 because AAP was a movement that brought together myriad castes, religions and classes on the universal plank of anti-corruption.

There is little doubt in the minds of some of the party leaders that the AAP could split in the months to come and Kejriwal could lose the chief ministerial post. It is, therefore, time that Kejriwal quits if he has to remain relevant in the Indian political scene in the months and years to come.

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