The birth of the Aam Aadmi Party and its eventual success must first and foremost be attributed to the mammoth negative perception of the wrongdoings of the UPA regime.
The anti-corruption movement, India Against Corruption, was a response constructed upon the rightful anger of the tax-paying citizens and some brilliant perception management strategists, who later on donned the (now) infamous cap of the Aam Aadmi.
The re-election of the AAP in 2015 despite their great fiasco in 2013 and the powerful rise of Narendra Modi-led BJP in the centre, was largely due to the desire of the people to see their ‘experiment’ to its logical conclusion.
But today, despite not facing any major charges of corruption or even bad governance per se, Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP finds itself one of the least popular political voices of the nation. The results of the MCD elections are but a mere confirmation of the very evident disenchantment of the common man with the Aam Aadmi Party.
In the Name of the People
Historically, men and women of the world have precipitated to behead tyrants, monarchs, and other facets of centralised powers, only to find themselves in utter chaos and helplessly under the power of unstable anarchic forces.
When the Rump Parliament of seventeenth century Britain decided to execute King Charles (I) in the name of the people, those very people suddenly found themselves agonising under the regicidal dictator Cromwell, and an important number of them openly regretted the state of the nation and fell into a deep nostalgia for its monarchic past.
A century later, the French people decided to chop their king’s head off, but at the end of it all, found themselves sulking at the convenient swap of power and wealth by the nobility and bourgeoisie. Not only did the peasant and lower income strata of the French population remained underprivileged and poor, but in addition, found themselves living in a country that was more unstable, dangerous and gory than it was under the monarchy.
AAP Seems to Have Lost the Plot
But we need not go back to the dusty volumes of history books to understand this phenomenon, we only need to look at the events that followed the downfall of Mrs Indira Gandhi.
The Janata coalition, led by the extremely popular Jayprakash Narayan, could dismantle the Congress regime but failed miserably to hold onto power as the various factions constituting the coalition were only united by their hatred of Mrs Gandhi. Thus, the very people who risked their lives on the streets protesting against Indira, voted her back to power with a gigantic majority only a few years later.
The AAP seems to have run into a similar conundrum. The anti-establishment party seems bewildered at its paradoxical status of being the new establishment. The Indian voter, as has been proved on a countless number of occasions, votes principally on perception – and not just the perception created by the corporate media – but also on his/her own political understanding of party ideologies and discourses.
This is where the AAP has failed most spectacularly; accustomed to hurling accusations and branding political adversaries as corrupt, communal and the other usual C-words of Indian politics, the party seems moronically perplexed when at the receiving end of questions by the media and the people.
AAP Needs a New Political Identity
To his credit, Mr Kejriwal did try his very best to maintain his anti-establishment credentials by protesting even when in power, dishing out certificates of corruption and sleeping on streets during his short-lived first tenure as the chief minister of Delhi.
However, the second time around, his almost Donald Trump-esque abuse of social media to hurl accusations and insults at the immensely popular Prime Minister backfired completely, and the only weapon in the AAP’s arsenal became its kryptonite.
In the current public perception, the AAP has been reduced to a perpetual whiner (who can forget the barrage of tweets about the ‘faulty’ voting machines and the Election Commission being the stooge of Mr Modi?).
If the AAP wishes to survive the battle of its extinction, it needs to stop talking about what it is ‘not’, and/or what it is against, but rather to invent a political identity of its own.
That would inherently mean dropping the appearance of the Aam Aadmi as there can be no such thing in Indian politics. The Indian neta has always been a khaas aadmi and that is precisely why he has managed to survive the wrath of the people and win their love over and over again.
One needs to accept the fact (however radical it may seem in today’s world of Che Guevara t-shirts and Azaadi slogans) that inside the underlying subconscious of the masses, resides a natural desire for stability and some form of not-so-overtly oppressive authority. One must then (as the AAP has learnt the hard way) be extremely wary of speaking in the name of the people.
(The writer is a novelist and is pursuing research in French literature at the University of Sheffield. He can be reached @harsh_france. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)