India has just elected its first Centre-Right government and that too with a resounding majority. While the BJP got a commanding 282 seats, the NDA got 335. This is the first time that those occupying the Left space (and that includes parties like the Congress and not just the CPM) are in such low numbers.
This current Right movement in a way began with the anti-corruption movement in 2010. This was powered by a middle class youth rage that continued with the anti-rape agitation. Of course, social media has been the most powerful tool of the Right.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of this movement was activist Arvind Kejriwal.
He was the darling of the media and the masses. He could do no wrong. He was seen as a fearless crusader. He had TV anchors and reporters eating out of his hands. He launched the Aam Aadmi Party and that electrified the nation.
Everything was fine till Kejriwal quit as Chief Minister and he went downhill after that.
Or at least that’s what we think.
If you rewind a bit then you’ll realize it actually went wrong when the AAP decided to draft a Communist Manifesto. If you go through the Delhi Assembly manifesto then you would have realized it would be something Karl Marx would have proud rather than a new Indian youth in the Liberalized economy.
That’s why you had all those vigilantes going through hospitals policing the doctors and that culminated in Somnath Bharti conducting the infamous Khirki Extension raid. That’s why Kejriwal’s message was more of the “You have nothing to lose but your chains” type of rhetoric.
That’s why they wore Gandhi topis and came by auto and Metro like communist wannabes on the first day but ended up trying to enjoy the all the perks of power like common communist rulers. That’s why they allied with the Congress the most natural partners of communist parties in India.
That’s why the electorate totally rejected them. The aam voter may not know the definitions of Left and Right or their differences, but he can smell old communist wine in an old bottle by a mile.
So the question is simple. When Kejriwal’s entire support was from the Right, why did he turn Left?
The answer is two-fold and both have to do with fear.
The Centre-Right space today is totally occupied by Modi. Kejriwal was scared to occupy the same space as Modi and appeal to the voters standing on the same ground as him. It is difficult to do what Modi is doing and much easier to attack him as most of elite India has been doing for 12 years.
Secondly, when you go Right you take on the wrath of the entire mainstream media, historians, intellectuals, NGOs and Civil Society. That’s what Modi has been doing for 12 years. Kejriwal found it much easy to ally with them and that’s why they have been going gaga over him without the average TV viewer really understanding why.
Kejriwal got afraid again when the Congress offered support. Instead of taking a decision like a man, Kejriwal leaned on a referendum.
Once in power you could easily tell that Kejriwal was scared to rule. He was scared of the problems of New Delhi and he was scared of solving them. He was scared of the tremendous expectations of the people of Delhi and India.
The fear got so much that he eventually ran away from office and took to attacking Modi, which is by far the easiest way out in politics, at least till May 12 when voting ended.
The final fear was the fear of entering the Lok Sabha.
During the August Kranti agitation as everyone watched in horror our MPs dilly dallied and talked nonsense over the Lokpal Bill. Many wished that someone like Kejriwal would argue their case inside Parliament.
Well now Kejriwal finally had the chance! It is a certainty that had Kejriwal stood in any one of the Delhi Lok Sabha seats—he would have won by a landslide. That also would have lifted AAP Delhi.
And yet he chose a battle he was certain to lose. He chose a path that would get him a ticket to stardom and news headlines but not a ticket to the Lok Sabha. He chose to contest Modi in Varanasi.
This was sold as the move of someone who was bold, but it was the decision of a coward.
Kejriwal could have well contested a Delhi seat along with Varanasi.
But for some strange reason, Kejriwal is afraid of entering the Lok Sabha.
Kejriwal could have been the man of Indian politics who took on the might of both the Congress and BJP in the 2019 general elections. (It takes that much time to build a credible political party.)
Yet he became the boy who was afraid and lost it all in 2014.
Make no mistake about it. Both Kejriwal and the AAP still have the potential to make it really big in the national stage.
But till Kejriwal sheds his fear and decides to do something brave and new in Indian politics, he will be consigned to the dustbin of history.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.