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The Return of the Commoners, The return of AAP


Today, exactly 1 year after he resigned because he could not get the Delhi Janlokpal Bill tabled in the Delhi assembly, Arvind Kejriwal would take oath as the Chief Minister of Delhi.  When he resigned, I knew that few would accept the reasons he said, and AAP would be facing tough times ahead. It turned out that I was right and the next one-year was torturous and testing for both Arvind Kejriwals and AAPians.

Very few could have seen the turn around after the 16th May Lok Sabha results. I remember discussing with a senior that with all the power at disposal, the BJP can finish off AAP pretty quickly, using one method or the other. And BJP did try that, engineering the internal sabotages and the media.

Shazia Ilmi left AAP when Arvind Kejriwal was in jail, because he was too adamant to not give a bail bond. Media kept on highlighting every minor crack within the AAP as #AAPImplodes, #AAPBreakUp etc, making a lot of AAPians nervous, and making the general public in India think that the AAP story is over and it is just a matter of time that it dissolves away in the thin air.

Many AAP leaders, if not Arvind Kejriwal, were so low on morale that they thought of forming a coalition with Congress. For me, it would have been a bigger disaster – the coalition might have saved AAP in a short term, but that would have been the death of the idea of AAP. For most of the AAPians, AAP has stood for value politics, not survival politics. I remember a tweet by @bharat_builder – “Honour is important, Survival is not“. And I totally agreed with that. AAP, even if it had won 15 seats in the reelection, even if it would have died during the struggle, but with all the core values intact, it would have continued to seed a lot of bright minds to take up the battle against the corruption.

Thankfully, for the AAP, the moment of weakness quickly went away, AAP took back the letter sent to the LG, and prepared for the reelection.

Delhi BJP has been since years been a much divided team, and that was the reason why it couldn’t defeat Congress in Delhi for 15 years. AAP knew this very well, and exploited this weakness to the fullest. The most credible face of Delhi BJP – Dr Harshvardhan had been elevated to the LS and had served the Health Ministry, so him coming back looked a distant possibility. Reliance man Satish Upadhyay was made the Delhi BJP chief. I could never understand his appointment. He never had a good grip on Delhi BJP cadre, he didn’t have much experience in the state politics, worse, and there were more credible leaders in Delhi BJP.

It was obvious that the Delhi BJP leaders weren’t happy with him, and AAP fueled this fire by propagating that Jagdish Mukhi would be CM of Delhi if BJP wins the election. Satish Upadhyay had to force Jagdish Mukhi to send a legal notice to AAP for using his photo without his permission, perhaps the first in Indian politics!

Dr. Harshvardhan, after being shunted out from the Health Ministry, perhaps wanted to be the CM candidate again. In the last assembly election, perhaps he was the reason why AAP couldn’t get the complete majority, being a credible clean face. However on one hand was Satish Upadhyay, the Reliance man, who wanted to be the CM, and on the other hand was Jagdish Mukhi, the AAP choice for BJP CM candidate. It is rumored that Dr. Harsh was the person who gave the documents against Upadhyay so that BJP is forced to make Harshvardhan the CM candidate again.

The AAP expose of Mr Upadhyay did hurt him (plus the flop rally of Modi on 10th January), however BJP still didn’t pick Dr. Harsh, and went on to import Kiran Bedi. This was going to be the turning point to the run up to the elections. The internal squabbles in Delhi BJP would now become full on revolt!

Meanwhile, as AAP kept on fueling the internal war in Delhi BJP, it went on quietly with the Delhi Dialogue initiative, in a process created an awesome 70 points manifesto. Although AAP was cutting off the roots of Delhi BJP, for the public it went on with the very positive election campaign. The choice of colour of the AAP hoardings was impressive – a large of it was in White. The Apple Ex-sales head Adarsh Shastri effect was very visible.

The lower income group was always with AAP, perhaps angry, but always had a soft corner for AAP, given that in 49 days the corruption in Delhi had stopped. Repeated apologies got them back. The affluent class, highly influenced by the media, was still wary of the AAP. The black out of the Delhi Dialgoue didn’t help either.

But AAP kept going. The Delhi Dialogue covered everything under the sun that affects the Delhi people. AAP knew that being positive was the only way to go forward.

Meanwhile, Kiran Bedi kept on destroying the chances of BJP with her interviews. Even with the friendliest interviewers, she kept on making bloopers. The interview with Ravish perhaps destroyed any chances that BJP had to come to power. And NDTV kept on showing it again and again; perhaps Ravish wasn’t too pleased with her behaviour.  The Delhi BJP cadre meanwhile had done a full-fledged revolt, not only refusing to campaign for Kiran Bedi, but a large group was in fact involved in negative campaigning against her.

Amit Shah imported the cadre from other states, imported the leaders, but the Delhi cadre refused to coordinate, give logistical support and arrange the public. Shah arranged (hired) the Panna Pramukhs, however they could not match the passionate AAP volunteers, who were fearlessly, sincerely, tirelessly working their asses off.

After the May 2014 win, Amit Shah had dissolved a large section of BJP’s IT cell, however the volunteers drove AAP’s social media cell kept on hitting back. #Mufflerman became the most popular Indian political brand from an abuse. Also, on twitter #Mufflerman trended for 16 straight days. AAP got into the WhatsApp as well. On Quora, BJP could not match AAP at all, with profiles of many BJP trolls getting suspended.

The final nail in the coffin of Delhi BJP was its own negative campaign against Arvind Kejriwal, who had remained the most popular leader in Delhi. It was plain stupid to run such a campaign against a leader who always had 50%+ ratings. I think such campaign works against a leader who has less than 20% ratings, and on Arvind, the campaign had a reverse effect.

The final vote share tells an important story a lot of analysts overlooked – There were easily 13-14% voters who likes both Modi and Arvind. The vote share of BJP during LS was 46%, which fell to 33% in assembly election. This was the vote bank which AAP tried to tap initially with the “Modi 4 PM, Arvind for CM” campaign, which was shelved as it got leaked from the official website.

The negative campaign against Arvind ensured that this vote bank comes back to AAP. The collapse of Congress and the others ensured their votes get transferred to AAP as well. The affluent class that was wary of AAP, went to AAP during this phase.

The win of AAP with full majority starts the new phase of Indian democracy. The most important development is that now no Indian politician can take the protesters lightly. Had AAP collapsed, tomorrow the protesters would have become a butt of jokes, dissent would have been laughed upon, and the civil society would not have been ever taken seriously by the political class.

Also, an example has been set that a crowd funded political party can not only fight an election, but also get a thumping win. Every political party, except AAP, gets funding from the secret sources. This not only leads to criminals influencing the policy making of the country, but also allows anti-nationals to control the country politics. A crowd funded political party, which keeps the donations transparent would be accountable only to the Indian public, who funds it.

Also, AAP has now survived the initial struggle of survival, and is here to stay now. No matter how much other political parties try, it is not going away. I am certain that AAP would finish off corruption in Delhi, would create it a world class city and expand impressively in Punjab, may be forming a government there. After winning over Punjab, AAP would expand to other states and municipalities. This should be Code Red for Congress and several regional parties, as AAP is bound to hurt them the most.

5 years down the line, AAP would be most effective opposition party in India, and 10 years down the line, Arvind Kejriwal might be PM of India.

My best wishes to AAP and AAPians!
Congratulations to India for entering the next phase of Democracy!!

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