After all it has not been such a bad result. 4 MPs in your début at national level and 1 crore plus votes polled for your candidates are not bad at all. But can we improve. We are perhaps better off than BSP. Despite polling 4.2 percent votes, BSP has zero MPs in the Lok Sabha.
1) Be gracious in defeat.
Let’s not react like Mayawati, we are lucky that we won four seats against all odds. BSP scored a null. Let’s accept that the common man did not find any appeal in us across 95 percent of the seats we contested. Let’s give all credit to Modi and BJP. They fought hard, fought well. They had money and muscle power, and we never had that. We made mistakes,several. Accept that our leaders are also gullible common men, and they can make mistakes. Question them, so that they are not complacent anymore.
When we set out to fight this battle, we knew the odds were heavily loaded against us. So why worry? But it’s important to do a post-mortem, and probe the reasons for defeat.
2) Accounting and Accountability
We have collected Rs 37 crore or so through donations to fund the Lok Sabha elections. We need to publish to the last detail where the money was spent, and what was the outcome. We need a provisional balance sheet of election spending immediately. Transparency is what AAP lacked in the run up to the elections, but transparency is what we need to have if we need to have a future. Remember this is public money, and need to be accountable down to the last Rupee. And that too on a war footing level without wasting any time.
The day we do that, we can hold our heads high and demand every other party to come clean on how they spent the money and how they raised it in first place.
3) Ownership of this defeat
The party leadership should take ownership of the election debacle. We need to first humbly accept that it is a debacle, since in January 2014 opinion polls gave us up to 40 percent support from urban areas outside Delhi, and that reduced to just 3 percent in the real elections.Precedence in the corporate world when an enterprise has a bad year, the CEO and key people in management step down.
When Nitish Kumar of JD(U) and Tarun Gogoi of Congress can offer to resign from the CM post of Bihar and Assam, it’s time Arvind Kejriwal stepped down as the convenor, and accepted the blame on himself, and tender a resignation and called for internal elections to gain back respect.
4) Have Internal Elections
In independent India’s history there have been three political streams which has succeeded beyond 2 states. The Congress, Janata Parties(including BJP) and it’s predecessors and the Left. Why?
That is because they have built collective leadership, and had leaders beyond a family or a core group. Even for Congress, till Sonia and her son took over helms of the party, it had a national leaders who could win from anywhere. Now it’s a one way ticket to further destruction for the Congress, if they continue on their reliance on the Gandhi-Nehru parivar.
AAP cannot be caught in the same trap, and become a Arvind Kejriwal party. You cannot have your party’s fortunes(and the country’s) tied up with that of an individual. This is dangerous.
Let’s admit it. Outside core AAP supporters, Kejriwal has lost respect, and he needs to change his politics to regain his image. And it will not be easy in the run-up to the Delhi polls. But AAP having an internal election and the leadership reaffirming the faith back on AK may be even seen symbolic. But it’s important that such a step is taken by AK and team, and confidence need to be restored.
I believe every key office bearer should step down, and through some form a democratic process we need a new team elected. I would like to see AK back as the national convener, but not nominated, but elected.
5) Drop the NGO obsession
We simply cannot have a leadership of activists with no proven record of governance, beyond leading dharnas or running NGOs. We need entrepreneurs, professionals, businessmen, media men and senior bureaucrats to take up politics full time and led the party.While a number of activists who were not aligned to a political identity joined AAP, AAP also scouted for activists across the country. In fact getting activists and NGO crowd to join became an obsession for AAP.
99 percent of NGOs depend on three kind of funding. 1) Government 2) Corporate 3) Foreign.
Any serious Government funding to NGOs have always been associated with corruption or nepotism and funding from corporates with vested interests only beneficial to a few parties.
In the past few years, foreign funding to NGOs have been under scanner. There have been several stories spread about the origins of the funds, and about roles of CIA and other international agencies in these funding. There are some half-truths there and some blatant lies. We will never know the real truths behind some bizarre decisions, till the leadership comes clean.
Look at the results, none of these leaders managed to win anything. Some polled less than 1000 votes, almost in 40 percent of seats you had independents polling votes than an AAP candidate. Activism and governance are two poles apart.
6) Usher in new leadership
I know it would hurt a lot of AAP supporters if I say that the leadership needs a complete overhaul if we need to be relevant for tomorrow. The core AAP leadership are a bunch of activists who stood with Arvind Kejriwal from the India Against Corruption days. They have done their job, and some of them need to go in the interests of the nation and the party.
Do we have the leaders to lead and win elections? We need leaders who will appeal beyond the current AAP support, which is anyway very small outside Delhi and Punjab.
The current national executive need to resign, and a new executive need to be entrusted in leading the party forward. And the representation should give equal coverage to include people from all walks of society, state, gender, profession and ideologies.
In the next few days and months there would be deserters across every party including AAP. If someone is quitting AAP for another party, we must not stop them. But if someone is quitting AAP to leave politics, we need them badly. Because the former is an opportunist, and the latter is just a quitter.
I expect several good leaders to leave Congress, BJP, BSP and other parties. We must invite them, if they are good and have good intentions. Experience is what AAP lacked the most in these elections, and there is no substitute for experience. For example invite Jaswant Singh. He may be far from perfect, but so are we. Singh may say no, but he may still be gracious at least. We would want people from all ideologies to join us, as AAP does not have any specific ideology, and we will need to evolve one based on what is best for the country.
7) Build organization
The biggest positive we have is we have some presence everywhere. We even have party offices in many states even at district and taluk levels.Once the new national executive in place, you need to build organizational structure in every state. By now we know where we stand, and the current state leadership should plan a road-map, with clear goals, and targets need to be set to grow absolute paid membership numbers.
Develop local leaders who can connect with the local masses and the local media, who can take up local issues and fight for it.There are local body elections across many states. AAP’s chances are the best in local bodies elections, and new leaders and volunteers will emerge. It’s the in-the-face corruption that troubles the citizens most.
Every new political party have succeeded that way. Remember Shiv Sena did not win many assembly seats, but kept winning local body elections for more than a decade. A neutral voter would not trust a new party in a national election, but may take a chance in a local body election. But to win local body elections, we need to have local leaders who are willing to fight for local issues.
8) Woo back Middle Class
We need to accept that we have lost temporarily a large cross-section of middle class to Modi. And a few permanently. The middle class is the most finicky of all voting classes. They are growing in large numbers. Across the country the poor which formed Congress and the Left parties’ core vote bank has middle-class aspirations. So the middle class will emerge as the largest vote bank in the country.
And AAP just needs to stick to the original plans to woo back this vote bank. I believe our fundamentals are still intact. It’s the implementation and focus what is missing. You cannot appeal to them taking up extreme left of the centre stance. An ordinary housewife in Delhi cannot be bothered with the issues which tribal group in Chhattisgarh face. There is absolutely no reason, the middle classes will not return to AAP and return even more strongly in Delhi. Their issues are simple, and their needs even simpler. We just have to stick to the original goals with no U-turns.
The biggest appeal of AAP is that it was sans any specific ideology. Yogendra Yadav described it as a solutions oriented party and an ideology driven.Let that be our strength. No specific ideology, only a few principles. We want people from every stream to join us– left, center and right. There is nothing wrong with either left or right thinking as long as they are not extreme.
And remember India’s problems are like a machine room with a large numbers of nails, screws, and bolts. Every political party have used a single tool depending on their locus standi. NJP with right wing agenda is trying to fix everything with a large hammer, andCongress is screwing around with a screw driver.
AAP need to evolve like a veritable tool box, using multiple tools depending on the job.