The bear hug of AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav went viral recently and spurned umpteen memes. Why did the people react thus? When Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar joined hands with Lalu, the reaction was more muted.
The Congress joining hands with Lalu also did not see as much derision that the #LaluKejriBearHug saw. Why is that? It's because we still try to pretend that Kejriwal is a politician with a difference and AAP is different too.
The truth is that they are using the tried and tested formulae for Indian politics and following a readymade beaten template for getting ahead. That's not a bad thing actually (at least for Kejriwal and AAP). Here's what he's actually doing…
Consolidating his power
Whether it's Jawaharlal Nehru and the Congress, Jayalalithaa and the ADMK or Mamata Banerjee of the TMC, one thing is clear: You have to run your party in a dictatorial manner. That's a bitter truth of Indian politics.
Relatively democratic leaders like PV Narasimha Rao are soon thrown to the roadside. That is what Kejriwal is doing and that is why dissenters like Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan had to be humiliated and kicked out.That is why so many members have been removed ahead of the AAP national council for which protests are taking place in the capital. What this means is that the AAP will always be united under Kejriwal and it will always take decisive action under him.
Building a national base
This is 2015 and it's difficult for any national party to go national overnight. That is why you have to do business with whichever ally comes your way whether they be corrupt or communal.
That's why Kejriwal joined hands with the Congress in 2013 and hugged Lalu so warmly recently. The AAP's spectacular New Delhi victory brought together all anti-BJP parties and Kejriwal will make sure that he carries this bonhomie and goodwill to 2019.
While core supporters may be alarmed, Kejriwal is on track to be a key alliance player in the future.
Building a narrative
Lalu is seen as a pro-backward leader even though all castes and religions suffered under him. The BJP is seen as a hardline Hindutva party even though it really hasn't been able to take forward any hardline cause (Article 370, Ram Mandir, Uniform Civil Code etc) since May 2014.
They say an ounce of image is worth a pound of performance. AAP is seen as a "different" anti-corruption party and that image is stuck like superglue (despite #LaluKejriBearHug). Most Indian voters don't have time to go into intricacies and vote by image.
That way the AAP brand image is still quite strong.
Enjoying the perks of power
No-one comes into politics for doing service. They all come for benefits. Kejriwal upgraded his bungalow and gave a big one for his Deputy CM. He went out of his way and made 21 MLAs parliamentary secretaries.
Kejriwal's core group enjoys all the perks of power and they will always stay with him no matter what. This has been an art which has been perfected by the Congress.
When a lion takes control of a jungle, it marks its territory and flexes its muscles. Political parties do that too. The CPM ruled West Bengal by muscle power and TMC did the same.
You cannot take on ADMK workers in Amma's Tamil Nadu. SP goons are feared in Uttar Pradesh and Lalu's men ruled Bihar. That's why you'll see AAP workers on the rampage and AAP MLAs regularly clashing with Delhi Police.
Marking your territory and flexing your muscles curiously works in Indian politics!
Communism and socialism
It is amazing how much these ideologies still have sway. If you are seen pro-capitalist, you are rejected and if you spout socialism you are accepted by the voters even though they don't understand any of these ideologies.
The name "aam aadmi" (common man). The way they dress. The way they talk. The reality may be different but they appear as socialists who want to benefit all. That gives them the support of intellectuals, artists and certain sections of the media.
No matter what you and I think, Kejriwal has a clear-cut plan and is following it to perfection. He has a good night's sleep knowing he's on the right track.
Kejriwal is a khaas aadmi. AAP is an aam party.
With the way Indian politics works, that will actually help them in 2019!