After the glorious victory in the Delhi Assembly elections in 2015, AAP contested in assembly elections in Goa and Punjab this year. They lost badly. And now the Delhi municipal corporation. The fact that AAP has been on a losing streak must be giving Kejriwal and its supporters the jitters.
In 2012, when Kejriwal broke ranks with his mentor Anna Hazare, and joined politics to fight the system from within, he gained a lot of appreciation. That was most evident in the manner in which AAP emerged on top in the Delhi Assembly elections just one year later.
It was the single largest party with 28 seats in the House of 70. Kejriwal formed a minority government with Congress support. Then over the issue of passing the Jan Lok Pal Bill, for which he didn't get support from any major political party, he resigned after being in power for just 49 days.
Elections were held again in 2015; and this time, the people gave him a very clear mandate. AAP won 67 seats, the BJP the rest and Congress was wiped out.
Blinding glare of victory
In retrospect, the massive victory, ironically, proved to be the Achilles heel. Kejriwal misunderstood the verdict to be a green signal to carry on his fight against the system. But actually, what people wanted him to do was to start fixing the broken system.
Unfortunately, Kejriwal, probably, blinded by the glare of victory, just got carried away, as if by inertia, and couldn't simply give up his confrontational approach. He didn't realise that the ease of campaigning had turned into hard grind of governance. He took on the system from within. The system proved to be too gigantic and the problems too hard for him to handle or fix.
One major issue for him was the constitutional structure of the Delhi's administration, which gives a role to the Union government as well, since the city is also the capital of the country. In fact, Delhi isn't a full fledged state and is officially called National Capital Territory of Delhi.
Kejriwal kept fighting with the Lt Governor and attacked the Prime Minister relentlessly. Though he had said he won't contest Lok Sabha elections in 2014, he changed mind, and fought against Modi in Varanasi and lost by over 3 lakh votes. AAP, effectively a regional party in Delhi, contested 432 seats nationwide for the Lok Sabha and won just four. But, the resounding victory he still managed a year later in Delhi assembly elections was a clear message from the people for him to stick to Delhi first.
But, Kejriwal forgot that he was the chief minister of a Union territory. He should have focused on fixing what is wrong in Delhi with the powers he and his party have. Instead he wanted greater powers; and worse, he didn't abandon his confrontational approach. An administrator or a manager can't make much headway if he or she is constantly whining and taking on everyone with whom he or she has work with.
What can he do
The mark of an administrator with the finesse of getting things done, is his ability to move forward through available channels rather get bogged down before obstacles. One rule of thumb often quoted is, when you have ten issues to solve, and you get stuck with three, move ahead with the seven and come back to the three later. But Kejriwal chose to get stuck with the three. And probably he is still paying the price for that.
Kejriwal is meeting his team to discuss what went wrong and how the party can connect back with the people. My few suggestions for him would be:
- Stop complaining and finding fault with everyone and everything around you
- Realise that as a chief minister, you are also an enabler and not an obstructor
- Focus on Delhi and turn it into a model union territory
- Use the powers you have effectively before craving for more
- Good to aim high, but not if nothing much gets done
- Better to lower the aim, get things done; and then raise the level
- Show you can work effectively even with people whom you don't like and still deliver results
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