Tomorrow as the Aam Aadmi Party gathers for what promises to be a stormy national executive meeting, both the BJP and the Congress will be wishing for the same thing: An implosion in the AAP. Ever since the party was formed in 2012, and more so after it made a dent in electoral politics in Delhi, not once but twice, the AAP's opponents have just been waiting for the party to falter.
With two of its most prominent leaders - Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan - being accused of "working against the party", the AAP is facing its worst-ever crisis. If Yadav and Bhushan are sidelined, the BJP and Congress's charge of the AAP being a one-man party would be vindicated. Even though the AAP will survive and Arvind Kejriwal will run the government in Delhi till 2020, the idea of AAP would be defeated. Here are five reasons why AAP needs to stay united.
#1. Alternative politics
Even though the AAP has made its share of compromises based on electoral calculations, it is still a unique experiment in Indian politics. It has taken steps towards greater transparency in the fund-raising process and tried to go against the lavish corporate-funded style of election campaigns that the mainstream parties seem to be following. During the Delhi elections, the AAP's style of campaigning had forced the BJP to supplement its expensive publicity campaign with door-to-door canvassing. If the AAP implodes, it would be back to old style politics.
#2. No Voldemorts or holy cows
Soon after its formation in 2012, the AAP went after Reliance chief Mukesh Ambani, who no party or even the media would dare to mention. Of course, this resulted in a few channels blacking out the AAP completely, but the net result was a positive one. Today when one writes against Gautam Adani's nexus with the Modi government, somewhere it has been made possible by the space created by the AAP. If the AAP is discredited with a split and if it sidelines an anti-corruption crusader like Prashant Bhushan, this space for attacking the high and mighty might yet again get severely constricted. It would be worse if within the party, one leader becomes a holy cow, beyond all criticism.
#3. Voluntarism and idealism
Even those who aren't AAP supporters would acknowledge that the party's real strength lies in its large base of volunteers. The Delhi elections saw street-vendors, software professionals, journalists, gym instructors etc give up their vocation to don the AAP topi and campaign for the party. The party does deserve credit for bringing some kind of idealism back in politics. Its leaders must stay united to ensure that this idealism doesn't dissipate.
The Anna Hazare agitation and the subsequent formation of the AAP brought corruption to the centre of the country's political discourse. Before this, it was considered okay for our netas to make a few bucks on the side so long as they were taking care of our interests. It was after the Hazare agitation that both the BJP and Congress realised that it was important for their leaders to be at least seen to be clean.
#5. Broke Modi-Shah's invincibility
More recently, the AAP's victory in Delhi halted the winning run of the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo that saw the formation of the BJP governments in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand. The duo appeared unbeatable, until the AAP handed the BJP a comprehensive drubbing in Delhi. Soon after the BJP's debacle in Delhi, other non-BJP leaders like Nitish Kumar in Bihar and Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal began flexing their muscle, sensing that they too can "do a Kejriwal" against the BJP in their respective states.
No one disputes that Arvind Kejriwal is the AAP's main face and that his popularity and acumen has played a major role in the party's success. But the idea of AAP isn't of a party based on a personality cult. Even Kejriwal's own popularity isn't because of himself but what he, like his party, has come to symbolise: A clean, people friendly brand of politics.
For this brand of politics to survive, the AAP must remain united. Perhaps messrs Kejriwal, Bhushan, Yadav and Ashutosh would do well to say to each other: "Pehlay aap".