Posts Tagged With: AK

8 steps which AAP needs to take immediately

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.

Endnote

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.

 

 

Categories: Random Thoughts, Renegade Politics | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Why AAP Lost?

AAP’s journey till winning 28 seats in the state elections in Delhi was incredible. While there were several AAP supporters who criticized AAP’s decision to take support from Congress, it was the best decision AAP could have taken at that time. Arvind Kejriwal had a dream start, except for excessive media attention. The kind of attention literally no other political greenhorn has ever managed. Except for some minor flaws, the first 3 weeks of the AAP Delhi government was pitch perfect. But then the party started to make mistakes one after another and this has cost us a potential 50 seats.

1)The first mistake was to support the law minister Somnath Bharti. Whether Bharti was innocent or not was never the matter, good politics would have been zero tolerance once a serious allegation is levied, and AK should have asked law minister to quit and stay away till he is proven not guilty, instead of blindly supporting him. I am not even talking about his mid-night adventures in Kalkaji Extension. There was a serious allegation against Bharti being a spammer, and also one involving his role where he was warned by the court for trying to influence a witness a few days before the Kalkaji episode.
Such a move would have received respect from public and media, and would have put AAP on a higher moral pedestal.
Also party leadership or internal committees should never be used to pass judgements when party members have taken the role of public servants such as ministers of MLAs.

2) The dharna in Delhi just turned out to be a damp squib, and was finally perceived to be mere theatricals by public. It sent several wrong signals to the middle class and upper middle class voters who were banking on AAP as an alternative to BJP and Congress. Personally it reminded me of the good old communist party which used to call a Bandh or Hartal on the drop of a hat. For a CM in power sitting on a Dharna was never good Dharma. The Dharna alienated intellectuals, middle class voters and vast sections of media which painted AAP as a party which is not ready for governance. Moreover with no real action against the police officers. It ended up being an exercise to cover up for Bharti’s alleged misdeeds.

3) Quitting Delhi for not being able to pass a trivial bill (at least for the average person) was the biggest mistake. Lokpal Bill is perhaps central to AAP’s existence, and the leadership’s biggest dream. It’s probably the reason for AAP’s genesis. But the public gives a damn for the bill. For the voting public what mattered was a political party willing to resolve their issues, and AAP was doing just that even if the results were far from satisfactory. No one outside the BJP and Congress supporters questioned the party’s earnestness and willingness. AAP lost that goodwill overnight in Delhi.
AAP could have chosen 100 better routes to an honourable exit. The best would have been to force Congress to withdraw support by going after all the corruption cases of the previous governments. Public would have seen AAP as a real crusader against corruption, and the martyr status of being pulled down would have helped, instead of stepping down. Instead today the perception is that AAP has let Sheila Dikshit get away.
In addition, quitting gave an impression that Kejriwal was too eager to become the PM, and was greedy for power. People love ambitious politicians, but not greedy ones.

4) Filing of FIR against Ambani might have been a master-stroke if AAP handled it correctly. AAP could have initiated a larger debate, and several actions in a more matured fashion. However it is today seen more as a political gimmick. Tomorrow if and when Modi government agrees to hike Gas prices, Kejriwal can claim a moral victory. But it would have come too late. Also despite all his riches people  envied Ambani. They did not hate him. You cannot simply start a new war front, and draw others into it, and that too without ample proof.  People hated Congress and it’s leadership. In politics, if you do not tap into existing negativity to draw out the positives, you are a fool.

5) Immediately after quitting Kejriwal went after Modi. Modi had virtually disappeared from media during the 49 days of Delhi Government. The public anger was never against Modi, and was always channelized against Congress. Instead of being the strong ship in that channel, Kejriwal took on Modi, and in that process made Modi the only champion against the corrupt UPA-II. Worse, instead of tapping into the anti-incumbency vote bank, AAP became a part of the so-called pseudo-secular parties which had lost its charm in front of a Modi, who simply stuck to his development agenda.

Unlike in past elections, when communalism was a major issue, this year it was never a concern for most of India including a cross section of Indian minorities. Kejriwal’s fixation on Modi backfired completely.

6)By putting up candidates in 446 seats, the party spread itself too thin. With the lack of resources, staff, leadership and capital, most of the candidates have ended up losing their deposits.
You need at least Rs 2 crore (or Rs 15 per voter) and about 12,000 volunteers to reach every voter directly or indirectly at least once in the six weeks run up to an election in a Lok Sabha constituency. For 446 constituencies, AAP would have needed a fund of minimum Rs 892 crore. AAP finally raised about 4 percent of that figure. It was just not enough.
I remember Yogendra Yadav saying that this was an attempt to get a feel of what are AAP’s strengths across the country and not to disappoint supporters outside Delhi. That explanation is fine, and I agree if AAP had limited themselves to say 50 seats, at least couple of the Punjab seats might have missed out.

7) Candidate selection and ticket distribution were totally flawed. AAP called in for nominations from just about anyone from anywhere. Problem was that political aspirants were huge in number, and many managed to get 100 to 1000 supporters from their constituency and filed in their applications for a party ticket. Obviously only one can get through and there was no transparency in the rules around the final choice of a candidate. A friend of mine who was aspiring for a ticket from a UP constituency said that there were 30 candidates each with nearly 1,000 supporters who were vying for a party ticket for his constituency. Then leadership chose someone unknown to most party supporters. This alienated everyone else who were rooting for the party and their supporters. And AAP polled less than 4000 votes, when there were 30 candidates with 1000 supporters each in the first place. So essentially AAP alienated 29 of them and their supporters.
All bright ideas around having primaries just disappeared into thin air, perhaps due to lack of time.
Para-dropping of candidates work, if there are candidates who are really popular and you have a volunteer base which can work for them. AAP has just one star which is AK, and AK might have pulled off from any place if the opponent was not someone as popular as Modi.

8) AAP took on media, while Modi ignored every media entity for most of the elections until he was sure that the tide was clearly in his favour. Except AK, Yogendra Yadav and Ashish Khetan, very few of the AAP spokespersons knew how to engage with an aggressive media anchor baying for their blood, were always on the defensive.
And there were motor mouths who spoke their mind, and not the party’s, or at least what the party needs to especially during the election time. Prashant Bhushan is an example of someone who embarrassed the party and the leadership, with several politically incorrect statements, and then retracting them.
Your crusade against corruption gets diluted, when you include everyone in your list of corrupt. Media did not take it very kindly.

9) There were no clarity on the AAP’s larger agenda other than fight against corruption. Nothing concrete on foreign policy, or economic agenda except some specific plans on reviving SME and manufacturing, and a few other broad goals. Even BJP did not have any path breaking agenda, except broad plans and statements. However, BJP was harping about development from day one, and was showcasing the Gujarat model, which was marketed brilliantly. Narendra Modi had the clear backing of industrialists, pro-capitalists and the larger business community which controls the media. Modi except in select places like Varanasi stayed away from Hindutva and other touchy subjects, which could have potentially alienated thinking classes from the BJP.
The biggest challenge was AAP being perceived left of center(which it really is), and the image of being the New age Communist party. India can digest socialism, but communism is taboo everywhere except the three states of Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura. And these states would rather prefer original communists to a left of center non cadre based party without a specific ideology.

10) There were several blatant lies and half-truths spread by BJP and it’s large social media army which AAP could not counter. Funding details around the various NGOs run by AAP leaders, AAP’s soft corner for separatists, Naxalites, Maoists and terrorists, and alleged connections with every anti-national group. AAP leadership either ignored such propaganda or were ignorant about such propaganda.
AAP’s failure to answer allegations by former party men and the likes further painted a wrong picture. In politics when you set high moral grounds, people expect you to follow that.
I guess millions switched over and started believing the BJP propaganda as AAP leadership could not successfully tackle them, however absurd the allegations were.
A few examples….
a) AAP is the Congress B Team and is a tool to stop Narendra Modi becoming PM.
b) AAP stayed in power so that Sheila Dikshit gets enough time to cover up and then disappear from the scene to be governor of Kerala.
c) AAP is a party full of Naxalites and anti-national elements, and their agenda is to destabilize India and hand over Kashmir to Pakistan.
The list is endless. But the BJP have been relentless, and I saw several AAP followers and supporters quitting under the attack. Clear written explanations and communications could have helped AAP.

11) Arvind Kejriwal. AK was AAP’s biggest strength and weakness. He was the face of the party. In him people saw a bright, honest, educated and progressive leader in December 2013. However AK kept taking U-turns, and several decisions by him turned millions of voters away from AAP. This lead to an image of him being indecisive, a trait which Indians also identifies with Dr Manmohan Singh, the outgoing PM.
Modi on the other hand was seen as a decisive leader. Throughout the campaign, Modi made very few mistakes, and never really changed his agenda. Every action and inaction of AK was scrutinized by public with media providing their own interpretations. From a corruption crusader, he was made to look like a bumbling, incompetent, and almost unstable person. This cost the party badly. In fact his actions have caused irreparable damage to his credibility as a leader among fence sitters who voted for BJP and not for AAP in these elections.

And AK must own complete responsibility of the election debacle.

PS

At this hour despite the debacle, I am fully convinced that we need alternative politics to what is dished by Congress, BJP and regional parties. And only AAP can provide that.

Categories: Random Thoughts | Tags: , | 4 Comments

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