Saturday, May 17, 2014

The road ahead for AAP

They came, they saw and they have failed. It happens.

'Welcome to Indian democracy', said 50.5 crore voters on 16th May 2014 in the most emphatic way possible. The Aam Admi party was expected to win between 4 to 10 seats before the elections started and they have won 4, all in Punjab. The more telling fact is that they didn't win even a single seat in Delhi, the place they had their only presence in govt. Winning 4 seats in Punjab is a cause for jubilation as they can easily build on this to consolidate in the state but losing Delhi has left many a supporter and AAP member confused and disappointed.

A lot would be said about how Kejriwal caused his own down fall by resigning from Delhi in 49 days and the leadership contesting from suicidal varanasi and amethi instead of established bases. I would in fact add the 49 days of govt to the debacle list but that's up for debate. Putting the blame on these things actually just ignores some deep systemic flaws present within the organization. To me, the former list of debacles are mainly the result of these systemic flaws and unless rectified, will prove to be severely detrimental to the organization and the cause it stands for.

The most important day for any organization is its day of inception. And AK made the biggest mistake on the day he formed AAP.Till that day, he was running a highly successful anti corruption movement, India Against Corruption(IAC). Something went wrong when IAC transformed to the AAP. For any organization to be successful, there are 4 aspects that need to be in sync with each other. 1. the party agenda, 2. the leadership's vision 3. the expectations of the party workers/members 4. the actual work being done.

IAC was highly successful only because all these 4 aspects were in sync. The movement's agenda was to eradicate corruption, the leadership's vision was to end corruption by finding facts, the public joined the movement for the very same cause and to support them and the implementation was very good in the org exposing the list of people behind corruption with records and facts. The members knew what they wanted of the movement and the movement was doing it successfully. When AAP was formed, it was no more a movement.

These 4 aspects of the organization of AAP were never in sync.

1. Party agenda
A political party fights elections not just to eliminate the bad leaders in the democracy but also to run the country. Nobody knows the agenda of AAP except that it is anti corruption and anti FDI. And the problem is, one doesn't even know if every senior leader of AAP endorses this agenda leave alone the other members. As it turned out, after 49 days of Delhi govt and from its speeches, the party is leftist. Nothing wrong but did the members or the people know about it?

 2. Leadership's vision
AK, until then was perceived as an honest man who just wanted to eradicate corruption. As soon as he formed a political party he had created such huge expectations, that people started perceiving the leader in him from their own ideas of honest leader. People knew AK the anti corruption crusader but nobody knew AK the administrator or leader. Nobody knows the leadership's vision even today. What is Kumar Vishwas's idea on increasing power generation? What is Manish Sisodia's opinion on controlling inflation? Prashant Bushans... ok better let's not ask for his opinions. What is the vision of the party leadership on agriculture, farm loans, expanding manufacturing, increasing jobs? The leadership seems to point out the flaws in the system but doesn't have concrete solutions to any of these.

3. The expectations of the party members

Since 1 and 2 were virtually absent, there was a policy vacuum. A lot of people questioned it and some still blindly follow it but none of them have got answers. The members wanted to know what is the plan of the party for the next 2 years, the elections and the next 5 years. AAP had not spelt it out. As long as 1&2 were vague, the organization at grassroots level did not have a direction and nobody was going to vote AAP to power.

4. The implementation of ideas 
Aah this is the favorite topic of every AAP basher out there. When AAP decided to fight LS elections, what did it have against Narendra Modi's BJP?  BJP had Modi's 12 years of Guj. governance and Vajpayee's legacy embracing almost every aspect of national governance. AAP had only 49 days of dramatic governance to show. Those 49 days could only be described as 'tughlaqish'. I can take a complete blog post on the list of mistakes on those 60 days but to summarize it, 'you don't win 27 seats, then again ask for people's opinion for forming coalition with congress and then ditch them in 49 days'. The word 'decisiveness' was absent in AAP's dictionary. Well,when there is no vision, where can there be decisiveness to achieve it?

Also for this elections, AAP missed the people's mood completely. Here was AAP talking about CPI being not left enough, increasing subsidies, nationalizing some industries and anti FDI while over 15 crore of the electorate was born after the license raj was abolished and India embraced globalization. The CPI itself was out of fashion on the national scene by 2009 LS elections. And AAP's agenda for this elections was to break the system and start from scratch?!! That's the biggest joke of this election. Well AK, you can't repair a flight in air by stopping it. If you don't like the pilot, you just can't keep shouting that he's bad. You need to know how to fly it and also the passengers' destination and safely reach there.

The way forward

Setting these systemic deficiencies right is the way ahead. The party leadership needs to sit down with the rest of the organizational setup and decide upon  aspects 1 and 2 of the organization. What is the agenda of the party in the 21st century where the common man wants deliverable governance. What is the vision of the party leadership apart from a corruption free govt? Discuss these things. The organization from the top leadership to the grassroot level member needs to be clear on message and be on the same page at all times. It needs to come up with an action plan for the next 5 years and a long term vision for the country and individual states. It needs to participate in public debates and allow people to know of its agenda and plans. It needs to understand people's pulse and the needs of the people and try to come up with solutions. More importantly, can it please bring in some experts in different fields with widespread experience? Moral high ground is not going to solve problems, only intellectuals with great ideas can.

Policy making is not a one way traffic but a two way traffic between the leadership and the people. AAP needs to show it's mettle in fighting corruption at grassroots level. The aam aadmi cares more about corruption affecting him directly like at police stations, ration shops, registrar offices and tehsildar's office than that happening at ministerial level. AAP still has public goodwill and imagination. It might not win elections initially, but it stands for something that the people can ill afford to lose.

Right now, AAP is like Penicillin. It is necessary to have in stock and use it in times of need but can't be had as staple diet unless it change completely. All the best.