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OPINION | AAP's Dharna Politics its Final Ploy to Stay Relevant, Says Mayank Gandhi

This protest was different than the earlier ones. Unlike other dharnas in the past, this one was pre-selected to take care of comforts like Air Conditioning and soft sofas.

Mayank Gandhi |

Updated:June 20, 2018, 7:15 PM IST
OPINION | AAP's Dharna Politics its Final Ploy to Stay Relevant, Says Mayank Gandhi
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal with ministers Satyendar Jain, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai (File Image via Twitter)
So, one more dharna ends. This one had outlived its term and the High Court admonishment had left the protest with no more dividends.

This protest was different than the earlier ones. Unlike other dharnas in the past, this one was pre-selected to take care of comforts like Air Conditioning and soft sofas. And for the probably, the first time, Kejriwal did not volunteer to take the hardest task but mandated Satyendar Jain and Manish Sisodia to fast.

Let’s look at the reasons for the dharna and how much did it achieve?

In the backdrop of losing relevance and deposits across the nation, including Punjab; being ignored by media and the rest of the country; being relegated to the back in the emerging Mahagathbandhan – something needed to be done. Something that would bring the desired eminence in national politics and revitalise its electoral presence in Delhi – AAP’s final frontier.

After the manhandling of the chief secretary, the bureaucracy had almost stopped working. On record, there was no strike but everyone knew that the work being done by the bureaucracy was just a charade, a tokenism. No government can function without the active support of the officers and Delhi governance is almost at a standstill, all hype notwithstanding. In a democracy, it is the role of the executive to perform functions similar to the hands in a human body. To attack and maim it was completely counter-productive.

The L-G has no real interest in pushing the IAS officers to work for the Delhi government, probably due to the prodding of the central government, but definitely due to his anger at being insulted and humiliated repeatedly by the elected government.

Therefore, governance was close to zero and elections are approaching. The social media hype and exaggerations could only so much. Desperate measures were called for.

The dharna was planned to kill multiple birds:

Get People Support in Delhi

This was partially successful, with volunteers, party workers, workers from friendly parties and sympathisers coming out in support on the streets of Delhi on a Sunday. Also, the party gained some sympathy by creating a martyr complex.

Get Attention of Other Political Parties and Anti-establishment Journalists

This was a success. Anyone who was an adversary of BJP or PM Modi jumped with glee. The date of the dharna was planned in a way that it would have built enough momentum by the time all CMs were in Delhi to attend the NITI Aayog meeting.

Did it bring in enough attention and support to make AAP an integral part of the emerging Mahagathbandhan? Maybe not. If you read the calibrated response of Mamata Banerjee and others, all that it does is Modi-bashing. They are not committing to accept the AAP, yet. They were waiting for the Congress’ stand.

Get Congress to Nod

If AAP loses Delhi, its last bastion, they will become irrelevant in the national scene. A sure-shot way for AAP to win Delhi was to tie-up with the Congress for the seven Lok Sabha seats as both AAP and Congress have a similar voter base. Kejriwal and his team have tried multiple times to woo the Congress, including praising Manmohan Singh, but to no avail. The thought was that, in the BJP-bashing and Modi-bashing mood created by the dharna, the Congress party would also jump in. Ajay Maken and the Congress party, though, kept its distance. They had enough of Kejriwal’s foul mouth, negative politics and stayed equidistant in the entire episode.

In hindsight, the dharna was definitely successful but in a limited way. It would be interesting to see if they are actually able to convince the bureaucrats to work, not just pretend.

How many more dharnas will the AAP have to create till the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 to stay in contention?

The 54% votes that it got in the last 2015 elections reduced to just 26% in the MCD. Congress has gained back substantial support in the Bastis and Jhuggis. Some of the voters are yearning for the development model of the sober and wise Sheila Dixit, over the din and daily drama of AAP. The ruling party has lost its middle-class voters to BJP and Congress. But the bijli, paani, school and health work has retained a fair amount of AAP voters.

This time, the Delhi votes will be divided into almost equal division between AAP, Congress and BJP. If the situation stays the same, each of the parties may get around 2 to 3 seats in Delhi. This will make AAP completely irrelevant in the national scene. Therefore, there is desperation to tie-up with the Congress in Delhi and the others in the forthcoming Mahagathbandhan. Politics can make some strange bedfellows – Congress, Lalu, Mayawati, Akhilesh, Kumaraswamy etc.

For AAP, it is an existential crisis. Therefore, dharnas will follow.

(Mayank Gandhi is the former National Executive member of AAP and author of 'AAP & Down'. Views are personal)
| Edited by: Aditya Nair
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