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Why A Mutant Kejriwal Is Important For AAP And Indian Politics

16/06/2016 12:31 PM IST | Updated 18/07/2016 9:07 PM IST
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Anindito Mukherjee / Reuters
A boy looks on as he holds a portrait of Arvind Kejriwal, chief of Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP) and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, outside their party headquarters in New Delhi February 10, 2015. The upstart anti-establishment party crushed India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in an election for the Delhi assembly on Tuesday, smashing an aura of invincibility built around Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he swept to power last year. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee (INDIA - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

When Arvin Kejriwal took Delhi by storm in 2015 by successfully hopping from a civil society movement to a protest party to a government, he was a unique specimen because nobody in India had risen from a mass movement to power in less than three years. A little more than a year since then, Kejriwal seems to be maturing fast into a conventional politician that befits a bourgeois democracy.

His appointment of 21 parliamentary secretaries, ostensibly to keep his party members with parliamentary aspirations happy, and the grounds of justification by citing precedents by the Congress and the BJP shows that he is inescapable from the compulsion of working the system to survive Indian parliamentary democracy. Kejriwal does not seem to have compromised on his integrity and his party is still an exceptional example of the breakthrough-possibilities of democracy.

Kejriwal does not seem to have compromised on his integrity and his party is still an exceptional example of the breakthrough-possibilities of democracy. But, somewhere he seems to have lost his adolescent innocence, because he is maturing.

But, somewhere he seems to have lost his adolescent innocence, because he is maturing.

And this process has been unavoidable because of two reasons: one, the restrictions of a politically motivated central government; and two, the pitfalls of an Indian style parliamentary democracy. To survive this twin-pressure, he needed solutions; but unfortunately he couldn't innovate as he had done in his civil society days and the tools available before him were what his predecessors had used. That Delhi was not a full-fledged state and was only a Union Territory with special status added to his difficult ecology.

kejriwal

There's no doubt that the pressure both the BJP and its government at the Centre exerted on him has been annoying. By restraining him with controls on administration and even legislation, and letting loose a Lieutenant Governor who can stall almost everything he does - thanks to Article 239AA - the Centre has successfully haltered him. And by continuing to retain the most crucial portfolios of law and order and land, it practically caged him.

Therefore, for Kejriwal, it has been an everyday fight for existence. And that's precisely why every time he feels unfairly cornered, he takes on Modi. On Wednesday, he appealed to Modi for the nth time to leave him alone. "I want to request Modiji with folded hands not to trouble the people of Delhi. Your fight is with me. Beat me or take as much revenge as you want against me. But do not try to stop good work in Delhi which is being praised world-wide including by the UN."

In the last one year, nobody in India, not even Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi, has been so frontal with Modi.

Although it's a high maintenance-game, managing the alleged machinations of the Centre is not overtly difficult because it's political. Politics is not for the thin-skinned. However, managing the demands of the aspirants in the party is not easy because the template before them is that of a bourgeois democracy that even the (once radical) Left parties couldn't ignore.

For Kejriwal, it has been an everyday fight for existence. And that's precisely why every time he feels unfairly cornered, he takes on Modi.

Appointing 21 parliamentary secretaries has been an overkill, even by the worst standard, and most probably Kejriwal had to do it to keep his MLAs happy. Most of the erosion and conflict within the AAP so far has been on account of unmet aspirations for power. He has lost more than half of his party's original leadership because they couldn't be accommodated with positions of influence. He can't risk it any more. This is a trap of bourgeois democracy.

Therefore, although his latest move has dented his credibility, Kejriwal has no other option but to vehemently defend it using precedents and comparisons with other political parties. This may appear to be a tragic fall of the most promising leader of contemporary India; but in politics it's inevitable. The earlier Kejriwal learned the vicissitudes of realpolitik, the better.

arvind kejriwal punjab

As the AAP prepares to go for the kill in Punjab and Goa, this practical transformation or maturing of sorts is inevitable. In fact, how well Kejriwal manages to strike a balance between the demands of Indian democracy and his party's core principles (which look centre-left) will decide his party's electoral future.

As the AAP prepares to go for the kill in Punjab and Goa, this practical transformation or maturing of sorts is inevitable.

As I had noted earlier, American sociologist Herbert Blumer, a pioneer in the study of social movements, had identified four stages in the lifecycle of AAP-type uprisings: social ferment, popular excitement, formalisation, and institutionalisation. AAP has followed this trajectory and has done well for itself.

Scholars who worked on Blumer's postulates have redefined his classification further. According to them, the four stages of mass movements are these: emergence, coalescence, bureaucratisation, and decline. Bureaucratisation, which is a more practical description of institutionalisation, has been a challenge that Kejriwal has been trying to manage against all odds, most of which are posed by the Centre. Will he go into decline?

Hope he doesn't. The only insurance against it is to consciously mutate, to mature. AAP is a co-creation of the people of Delhi and they will be with him if he does it for them. Punjab, and probably Goa, will follow suit.

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