By M.R. Narayan Swamy
Title: Capital Conquest; Author: Saba Naqvi; Publisher: Hachette India; Pages: 202; Price: Rs.499
The book could not have come at a better time. This is a well-written story of the rise, fall (crash?) and most dramatic rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). It is not a saga of Arvind Kejriwal per se. Saba Naqvi, a respected political writer, followed closely both the AAP and Kejriwal for Outlook and uses her understanding to explain what helped the country’s youngest party to arise from the ashes for a spectacular comeback in February — and what the future holds for the AAP.
Saba gives full marks to the spirit of volunteerism that proved the key to the AAP’s success. After all, it ran a campaign and won the Delhi election “with the kind of money that can only buy one bungalow in the heart of the city”. Its biggest asset was former income tax officer-turned-activist Kejriwal. He spoke largely to the poor, the bulk of Delhi’s votes, and spoke from the heart, with the narrative of haves and have-nots, never taking recourse to sectional appeals based on caste and community. In the process, he created a political pyramid the Congress had mastered over the years but yet differently, a model “which is unbeatable when it works”.
But even as the AAP was fighting its biggest battle, the convulsions within that later came out so openly were already beginning to be felt. Saba says that for the Delhi Mahabharat, Kejriwal formed a new core team minus Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, both of whom had voiced misgivings on the party’s inner workings. Rather than deal with an internal feud at a critical time, Kejriwal created another core group and plunged into the task at hand.
While being sympathetic to Kejriwal’s point of view on the convulsions, Saba admits that a certain section of intellectuals who saw the AAP as a vehicle for their ideas are disappointed with the ouster of Bhushan and Yadav. The aftershocks from the main quake, she feels, will continue for some time. But Saba is equally emphatic that the dissidents stood on the margins while the Delhi campaign unfolded and would have felt left out as the smashing win was recorded (67 out of 70 seats). These convulsions would prove to be “a blip in the history of the AAP although the stories they produce appear to be sensational at present”.
So, what does the AAP’s astounding win – which incidentally was Narendra Modi’s first electoral defeat – mean to India? The real challenge to the AAP will come from the system it has taken on, Saba says, describing Kejriwal as “the most dangerous man in India today” to those with vested interests. A party of doers, the AAP is a potential danger for both the Left and the Right. Saba is sure the AAP will fight the next assembly election in Punjab, which elected all its four Lok Sabha members in 2014 and where the AAP stunned everyone by cornering a quarter of all votes.
But the AAP’s political heart will remain Delhi. “The key to becoming a real national alternative, Kejriwal believes, will be to create an entirely new model for governance in Delhi.” Delhi’s chief minister-without-portfolios is determined to evolve into an innovative administrator from his previous avatars as activist and campaigner. “They have the imagination and the will. Now we have to see if they can apply it.”