Denial can seduce you to death. It happens with anyone having trouble reading the writing – people, institutions, political parties and even empires. The Congress and the BJP are showing signs of denial over the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that could mean more sorrow for these older parties.
Now that Arvind Kejriwal will form the next government in Delhi, the bigger parties are compounding their errors. Here is how.
1. Changing the nature of support to the AAP government.
The Congress first said its support to an AAP government was unconditional in a letter to Lt Governor Najeeb Jung. The dictionary defines the word unconditional as not limited by conditions, absolute. It is a word cast in iron. It is not used casually.
Now, former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit says they have offered conditional and outside support. The word conditional means not absolute and made or allowed on certain terms. This is wholesale shift and needs to be explained fully, if so.
It makes the Congress look even more untrustworthy than ever.
2. Calling the government formation a betrayal.
Delhi BJP chief ministerial nominee Harsh Vardhan now calls it a betrayal. Some days ago, he was happy to sit in the opposition because the BJP didn’t have the numbers. Being an opposition party implies that someone else is in government.
The BJP seems to think that they still control the immediate future of the AAP. They don't. The AAP’s health depends on the people of Delhi, and India, and the party itself. The rise of the AAP is the opposite of a betrayal; it is an act of fidelity.
The BJP risks big losses in Delhi in 2014 if it continues to see the rise of AAP as betrayal.
3. Describing the AAP referendum as a farce.
BJP senior and Narendra Modi loyalist Arun Jaitley says the AAP has enacted a farcical referendum. He describes it as a self-serving model based on the support of naive and motley crowds.
Jaitley even calls it a statistical wonder where less than 30% people voted for the AAP in the election but more than 75% want it to form a government.
Jaitley is wrong on all counts. You can't collect crowds on such an issue. Everything about the referendum was unpredictable. Opinion was sought on the streets, in colonies, on mobile phones and on the Internet.
This is impossible to manipulate. Also, the AAP speaks of 74% of the people who participated in the referendum, not 75% of all Delhi citizens. This is a big difference.
Minimising own faults and exaggerating those of others is a dangerous sign for a political party. It always backfires.
4. Having difficulty letting go.
Sheila Dikshit’s days in the Delhi Congress are over. She didn't deserve a thrashing after 15 years of decent governance. But she was punished for a host of reasons, one of which was individual insolence. Self-importance has immediate consequences. It makes voters want to show they are more important.
Dikshit had lost her own seat as well and it is time to go. Instead, she is still making statements on the AAP and what the Congress would do. There is a new chief of the Delhi Congress and he should be allowed his space.
Believing that she knows best is a sign that Dikshit may be having trouble accepting what has happened. She could drag the Congress further down if this continues.
5. Imagining that the AAP will have a short honeymoon.
A substantial section of Delhi has opted for a form of governance that promises to be what Mahatma Gandhi used to talk about. The AAP has got everything right so far and they are not likely to unravel in a hurry. If anything, they could have a long spell of public goodwill.
All the big promises in the AAP manifesto for Delhi are what the people want. When Kejriwal junks the vast and forbidding official bungalows, he will make a place in everybody’s hearts.
The sight of a chief minister and his cabinet living as ordinary people will not be forgotten. And there is space to lower electricity tariff and offer cheaper water. Delhi would love a public swearing-in.
Something big is happening and it has jolted the bigger parties. The Congress and the BJP could be in for a long spell in the cold if they stay resentful.
6. Not adapting to Arvind Kejriwal.
The choice of Arvinder Singh Lovely as the new head of the Delhi Congress is a mistake. He is part of the old school although he is only 45. He is a strong loyalist of Sheila Dikshit and therefore represents a continuance of old policy. And, most worrisome, he is in trouble over paid news in the
On 3 December, The Hindu reported that Lovely was found guilty in a paid news case. There could be consequences if this is followed through. Harsh Vardhan’s biggest advantage is his individual integrity. But he is old school too. He tends to think that there is no way other than the BJP way.
Neither the BJP nor the Congress knows how to respond to Kejriwal. This could hurt in other states as well.
7. Heaping scorn on the people for supporting the AAP.
Jaitley’s disdain for the people who said the AAP must form the government is striking. He said on his website that the AAP 'collected' motley crowds who were ‘obviously thrilled with the idea’ when asked if the AAP should form the next government.
The dictionary defines motley as exhibiting great diversity of elements. Such a crowd forms. It is difficult to ‘collect’.
Jaitley adds that this is ‘political opportunism being masked with the idea of popular sanction behind it’. It is anything but. Kejriwal’s decision to seek a referendum was a masterstroke. It brought everything into the open. And, the thought that they are credulous is exactly what upsets voters.
The AAP is likely to gain more support if the BJP and the Congress continue to look down on those who elect.
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Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi. His most recent journalism assignment was as executive editor with The Financial World, New Delhi, and tehelka.com.
He was a guest on Season 1 of the popular Indian TV show Satyamev Jayate, hosted by Aamir Khan.
Vijay blogs here and may be cont acted at firstname.lastname@example.org.