Often, when the trusted guardians of any trade disappoint over long periods of time, common folk, in their despair, turn to the underdogs. Untried and untested, underdogs have a lot of "promise" if not much else. When they get their chance, they either shine or shrivel in the spotlight. In glory, an underdog writes its own legend. In defeat, it seldom gets a second chance.But the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is one political underdog that has been handed a rare second chance. An extremely generous second chance, despite its underwhelming first attempt at governing the capital of the world's largest democracy.
With a record-breaking majority the people of New Delhi entrusted the AAP in February 2015 to govern them. They clearly forgot and forgave the 49-day drama staged by the AAP in 2013. AAP was a juvenile party back then, brimming with untamed enthusiasm within their ranks, ham-strung by the lack of clear majority in the Assembly - these were some of the logical and valid reasons to disregard the AAP's unimpressive first round of governance.
Post that 2013 AAP fiasco, a showman dawned upon the Indian political horizons and India moved on to embrace Modi and his BJP army. The promise was to deliver 'Acche Din'. A year passed, and Modi and his team were still more about oration than action. "Acche Din" seemed as improbable as finding Atlantis. So when Delhi's turn came to choose a government in February this year, it again zeroed in on the 'underdog'. The Aam Aadmi Party -- a straight-talking political alternative that promised more attainable "better days" than the elusive "Acche Din".
The people of Delhi did not hedge their bets and sprung the AAP into the assembly. Clean slate. Clear majority. And five long years for the AAP to undo its previous 49 days. Delhi rejoiced. India rejoiced. The face of Indian politics was to be renovated, it seemed. People hoped yet again to see a stable, clean and transparent government.
"The AAP has wasted its honeymoon period by indulging itself in a cannibalistic denouncing of its own leaders and their political motives."
The AAP rejoiced as well. Amidst a lot of singing and dancing, the leaders of the AAP expressed gratitude at the trust placed in them by the people of Delhi. They vowed to deliver on their promises of efficient, effective and tangible governance. To stay in power for the full five years this time. To free Delhi from political practices drenched in unabashed corruption, dynasties and religious segregation. Delhi rejoiced again, at these promises.
A measured, adequately humble and thoughtful AAP fronted up for work. No extravagant statements, no dharnas, and none of the vigilante streak from its past on display. During the elections, and afterwards, the AAP focused on key policies for New Delhi. For all intents and purposes, AAP Version 2 seemed to have rectified the shortfalls from its 49-day-long first episode.
But as the citizens of Delhi breathed easy and settled back into their lives post the elections, there were ripples in the water. It started with some rumblings of internal discomfort within the AAP's ranks. It didn't take too long all to see that the AAP was imploding amidst allegations of chronic infighting, power struggles and ego tussles.
It has been ugly. It was imperative for Arvind Kejriwal and his AAP to launch themselves into government with an unflinching focus on delivering promised outcomes for the people of Delhi. Build their political momentum and quash any remaining threads of doubt that people may have held about their capability to govern. Demonstrate political agility by tackling the matters relevant to the people of Delhi. It was the perfect opportunity for AAP to further dismantle the relevance of BJP and Congress in modern India. Instead, the AAP has wasted its honeymoon period by indulging itself in a cannibalistic denouncing of its own leaders and their political motives.
The AAP sought mandate in Delhi under a pledge to provide a new format for governance. But its score-card from the first few months of rule remains glaringly deficient of any major governance-related achievements. As the party tries to recover from its self-inflicted injuries, it runs the risk of running out of voter confidence. For the second time. AAP has always projected itself as the cleaner alternative to a political reform within India. Its actions to date, however, do not support such claims.
The BJP and Congress are faced with the arduous task of re-inventing themselves to remain relevant in years to come. In such a transient political climate, the AAP had a rare opportunity to cement its place as a fresh and accountable brand of politics. The wounds from the recent internal events within the AAP may heal in good time. However, if Arvind Kejriwal and his party fail to introspect and make amends after this saga, they run the real risk of turning into "just another political party".
And sadly, there may not be a third chapter.