Many may be waiting to write off the Aam Aadmi Party experiment, but surely it’s too early to pen the obituary of a movement that had so caught the popular imagination. A few seasons awash with scams, and public-spirited individuals all over India responded to the idea of a new politics—clean, transparent, oriented to the general weal. There was a wave of enthusiasm among NRIs, even a flicker of interest in Kashmir, where ‘main land’ politics scarcely gets a word in. Well qualified youths quit their jobs to enlist. For a bit, you could be forgiven for thinking the world was changing.
Barely two years after Arvind Kejriwal became the Delhi CM with a mammoth majority behind him, perceptions have undergone a change. If not an obituary, it’s time for a proper performance audit. The quintessential urban white-collared hero with a common touch, Kejriwal rose to power on his pledge to cleanse public life of corruption, and to make governance responsive to actual needs via the participation of local or mohalla sabhas. Free water to the poor, uninterrupted and cheap power, and better health and education facilities—such are the promises that won him 56 per cent votes in 2015.
The first clear evidence that something has soured came in the just concluded MCD elections where AAP bagged just 26 per cent of the votes cast. What explains its rise and decline? The whole ensemble of factors—internal as well as m