AAP must go back to its roots and be the voice of the voiceless: Rajdeep Sardesai

While efforts like mohalla clinics and school education reforms were welcome steps, the good work done was overshadowed by the noise created over Arvind Kejriwal’s run-ins with the L-G, Centre, and former colleagues Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan

On the day the exit polls for the Delhi municipal elections were predicting a BJP landslide, AAP spokespersons were in a defiant mood, blaming the EVMs for a looming defeat. But how can you blame an exit poll for potential tampering of an EVM since the pollster is sampling voters, not the machine, I asked? The AAP representative paused and then blurted out: “Sab mile hue hai’. Conspiracy theories abound in India but by blaming EVMs for their debacle, AAP runs the risk of deepening its credibility crisis.

Truth is, rather than throw up unproven EVM conspiracy theories, the AAP leadership needs a reality check: Why is the middle class in particular feeling let down by a party it supported so overwhelmingly just two years ago? If even the extravagant promise of waiving house tax didn’t cut ice with the voter in middle-income colonies, then it clearly suggests a widening trust deficit. It was the middle class, after all, that had embraced AAP in its original avatar as an offshoot of the Lokpal movement, as an idealistic force driven by moral power.

When Arvind Kejriwal was given a second chance by the Delhi electorate in 2015 it was premised on the hope that he would genuinely provide an alternative political culture to the ‘corrupted’ mainstream national parties and their powerful backers. ‘Hope’ is an idea that stitches together dreams: For the salaried middle class, ‘hope’ makes life worth living. When hope is killed, it translates, first into disappointment, and then anger.

Instead of providing wholesome governance, AAP saw its USP in confronting the Narendra Modi government and Modi in particular, a kind of David versus Goliath battle, which AAP as the quintessential ‘outsider’ reveled in. While the Centre has been openly and often unjustly hostile to AAP’s emergence, when a combative attitude becomes an end in itself, it only breeds negativism. You can be anti-establishment as an oppositional, activist force challenging the status quo; you can’t survive on accusatory politics once in government.