Thursday, April 9, 2015

Priya James - An AAP Volunteer's Blog

The way the saga of AAP is unfolding reminds me of the movie "Titanic". The great ship hit the iceberg and started crashing. Chaos everywhere, people screaming at the top of their voice, some trapped, some leaping out. Unaware of the crash, a bunch of people hijack the control room. They kick out the officers in charge and take the wheel. The ship is about to break but our hero is continuing with his painting, conveniently ignoring all the chaos.

For argument's sake, let's consider that Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav are evil and plotted against the party. Even in that situation, the heavy-handed means used by AAP leaders to kick them out was outrageous, unethical and completely against the spirit of AAP's founding principles. The events in the NC meeting are truly shocking and brought AAP to the level of RJD and SP.

Volunteers have been asking for proof against Bhushan and Yadav since March 1, but nothing has been received so far. Some of the allegations against these two are nothing but a laughing matter. (Eg: Yogendra's (A) PA (person B) allegedly talked to another volunteer (C) to work with YY *when* he will become convener. Person C then tells Person D who informs Arvind Kejriwal's PA (person E). You basically lose track of this absurd chain. When Ashutosh makes this statement with all seriousness, we don't know whether to laugh or cry). Everyone knows Yogendra Yadav is well connected to all major national media channels and prominent journalists. So if he had real intentions to plant stories in the media (allegedly to expose Kejriwal), commonsense says, he would have done a much smarter job. He wouldn't have done a sloppy job of planting the story in an open meeting with 10 journalists.

Now let's consider that Kejriwal's coterie is telling the truth that Yadav and Bhushan did sabotage the election campaign. If they had rebelled against Kejriwal before the election, AAP wouldn't have got the massive mandate it recorded. The recent poll done by livemint.com shows only 37% would have voted for AAP if this crisis had happened before election. Majority (47%) said they would have voted for BJP. Hence, BJP would have easily won a majority if Bhushan and Yadav went public before the election with their complaints and concerns. So even though there were disagreements among leadership, there is absolutely no proof that it affected the campaign or the results of the election in anyways.

Now, just look at both camps. On one side, we have PIL warrior Prashant Bhushan, political scientist Yogendra Yadav, Dr. Dharamvir Gandhi, Admiral Ramdas, Prof. Anand Kumar, activist Medha Patkar...not only do they all have 30+ yrs of distinguished social work track record, but also they are widely-respected people and were known even before joining AAP. Now look at the other side, we have Sanjay Singh (Mulayam Singh's former aide), Ashutosh (a former TV anchor), Ashish Khetan (many of us volunteers feel his only achievement is a sting operation), Dilip Pandey, Pankaj Gupta (no one knows their record). These people look like opportunistic toddlers who have done nothing notable in their lives when compared to the leaders in the other camp. This is precisely the reason why thousands of volunteers are still revolting. And this is why the meeting called by Bhushan and Yadav on April 14, billed "Swaraj Samwad", is getting significant traction.

Kejriwal and Bhushan did enjoy a very close relationship. Close relationships often involve or lead to more arguments, disagreements and conflicts which can be deeply hurtful. And it is very easy for this sort of close relationship to turn sour and for the people involved to grow apart. It looks like the entire crisis is rooted from this personal conflict. 

The Kejriwal coterie, who were struggling to make their political careers, milked the situation, which reminds me of the fable of the jackal licking the oozing blood from two fighting goats. Disagreements, conflicts, personality clashes are normal events to confront any dynamic team, be it a political party or a corporate. Disagreements and differences doesn't equal anti-party/anti-organization. Nehru and Patel had their differences, conflicts and personality clashes throughout their tenure. In spite of their personality differences, together with VP Menon, they were an unbeatable team. They managed to work together till Patel's death. The difference between an average leader and a "great" leader is in his/her ability to resolve conflicts amicably and lead the entity towards the goal in spite of (personal & professional) disagreements.

AK, PB & YY, together was an unbeatable complementary team. But only a great captain can steer such a formidable ship. Kejriwal clearly won this personal battle, but lost a great war. He failed to rise to the occasion and lost an opportunity to be a great leader.

There is no doubt that in the next five years, Kejriwal will fill all the potholes, build roads, clean the hospitals, send the corrupt to jail, fix the schools...but so did the Congress and Communist government (in Kerala) in their initial days, so did Lalu Prasad Yadav and VP Singh in their initial days. They all made their first compromise and then filth snowballed. The compromises Kejriwal has made today will catch up with him five years from now. In politics, there is no turning back from certain compromises.

Kejriwal still has the time to reconcile and undo the damage he did to the party and send the right message. If he shelves his ego and arrogance, if he shuns mediators and shows the magnanimity to directly reach out, if he cares to listen...there is still a fighting chance, and it is all worth it. 

To the coterie: the jackal got caught up in the fight. The jackal was hit on the head and it died.

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