Politics is a pursuit of the imperfect. An attempt to reduce the degree of difficulty people live by. There is barely anything perfect in this branch of human activity. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) too is anything but ideal.
Swift death is likely if it continues with its miserable ways. Its inherent distrust of itself should not, however, condemn it to the dustbin. There is always a way out. Here are ten things that can get the Aam Aadmi Party on its feet again.
1. Dissolve all committees, including leadership.
Starting with the disliked and defanged Political Affairs Committee at the centre, the AAP has to do away with its national executive and national council. This has to happen at the state, district and block levels where they exist.
Arvind Kejriwal ought not to be AAP convenor. None of the party spokespersons have the skill or the aura to carry the party on television. All of them need to go. They did the AAP disservice, however much the party convinces itself otherwise.
2. Place a moratorium for five months on election work.
Elections to the AAP are what drugs are to the addict. The party perks up at the mere thought of an election where it can be a nuisance and ride on public rage. It deflates at the idea of the daily grind that goes into solid party work.
You can’t bank on a collection of greenhorns equipped with smartphones and online fundraising skills. Those are peripheral assets. The core job of a party is to know the country first, its rhythm, requirements, challenges and crowning glory. The AAP thinks politics begins with it. It doesn’t.
3. Sack all advisors.
No one in the AAP appears to have balked when Kejriwal appointed a left-leaning Hindustan Times correspondent as his advisor. It was bound to flop. It did. Leaders don’t need yes men. They need people they can trust, people with instincts who can see things others cannot.
The staff and brains trust of others is even more embarrassing. I was introduced to a young man fiddling with his phone in Varanasi. They said he was the media advisor of Manish Sisodia, Kejriwal’s confidant and number two in the brief Delhi AAP government. The chap was clueless.
4. Constitute an independent board of trustees to guide the party for five months.
The current leadership is tainted. Their destructive sides have turned the whole thing toxic. Kejriwal needs to step back, as do Sisodia, Yogendra Yadav and Sanjay Singh. The others matter even less anyway. All of them have learned the hard way that they don’t measure up.
The only chance is with a fresh board of trustees to oversee the party as it reengineers itself. They could ask Anna Hazare, Santosh Hegde, Arundhati Roy, Aruna Roy and others to take charge in the interim.
Seven or maybe nine members. This is important to create trust in the party.
5. Let frenemies go forever.
Most of the Delhi ministers and Lok Sabha candidates are of no use to the AAP. The party picked a bunch of people from the newsroom even before they could firm up journalism credentials. It was an immature act. It failed.
Then, they filled subcommittees with friends. The one on media gave the disastrous input that Kejriwal should attack the entire media. He hasn’t recovered since. None of these people have the honesty to detach themselves for the bigger picture. They work on individual agendas.
6. Form a solid party structure before anything else.
It is all fine to say the man on the street must have all powers. If humans were so designed, to operate with sense, they wouldn’t need to be governed. Humans lack control. Their sense of right and wrong is fuzzy or nonexistent. They need laws and leaders.
The AAP has only personalities. This makes it impossible to function except when those individuals, like Kejriwal and Yadav, are on the move. It needs the paperwork, the brick and mortar, the fulltime employees, the supporters, the cells, the funders. Not just the mavericks.
7. Weed out the lightweights.
Shazia Ilmi was no good to the AAP. She lacks the intellectual depth. She can only be of use when money is needed – she was their richest member in Delhi. This is not to say that the AAP needs brooders; it is to say that they need big fish. Not the small fry who flee at the first sign of trouble.
Only Prashant Bhushan has fought the system for decades. The rest came on board after the media and the RSS pumped oxygen into the Anna Hazare movement. An NGO background may be clean and activist. But it is not political. They can’t outthink anyone.
8. Induct fresh blood.
The AAP needs flesh and blood homegrown soldiers. NRIs often misread Indian politics. They operate in a different mental space in the country they live in. And they stir in an emotional bond with the country of origin. This can make them see things that don’t exist – like an AAP wave.
The one crore membership the AAP touted – on missed calls if you can believe that – is a phantom army.
It needs a phalanx in the 40 to 60 age group, which the BJP, the BSP and the Congress [still] have. Those in the 19 to 30 age group are social media tigers. They need the infantry too.
9. Be trained rigorously.
It’s good to say [Yogendra] Yadav held political training classes for Rahul Gandhi and the Congress. It didn’t work. Yadav’s own team is made up of political novices. You can also sense it in the Punjab AAP MPs. The more Bhagwant Mann talks, for instance, the more you realize he needs training.
All through the AAP are people who only know anger. When the going is good, they turn on others.
When the going is grim, they turn on each other. They have school-level understanding of politics. This has to improve for the AAP to survive. A strong five-month training period would help.
10. Elect a new leader.
Kejriwal, Yadav and Sisodia are not leaders. The others are not even seniors. The AAP needs a new face at the top, unhurt by the sniping. Like, maybe, Medha Patkar or Bhushan. There are no perfect politicians – Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi too are not.
But there are decent people with enough guile to keep the AAP ahead of competitors. An anti-corruption leader needs more than corruption as tool. VP Singh was India’s biggest anti-corruption politician. He sank after a while. The AAP ought to find a new chief so Kejriwal can evolve.
More from the author:
The scary BJP work ethic Modi should change
Modi beware: All Indian politicians end in failure
10 things I support Narendra Modi on
The descent of Arvind Kejriwal
What the new Lok Sabha would look like with proportional representation
Sonia’s time is up, not Rahul’s
Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi.
Vijay blogs here and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org