Everybody Loves A Rajya Sabha Seat: Why AAP Is Whining Even Before MCD Results Are Out

Everybody Loves A Rajya Sabha Seat: Why AAP Is Whining Even Before MCD Results Are Out

by Shefali Vaidya - Apr 25, 2017 08:33 AM +05:30 IST
Everybody Loves A Rajya Sabha Seat: Why  AAP Is Whining Even Before MCD Results Are OutAshutosh, Kejriwal, Khetan
  • From the exit polls, it seems like AAP is fast losing ground in Delhi.

    Whether the party will survive the MCD defeat that stares it in the eye would be an interesting thing to see, as that will determine who will represent Delhi in the Rajya Sabha in 2018.

The results of the Delhi municipal corporation (MCD) election results are going to be declared on 26 April. Newsrooms are already abuzz with discussions about the likely fallout of the MCD results. All pre-poll surveys, as well as exit poll results, except Aam Aadmi Party(AAP's) legendary ‘internal survey’, have predicted that the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) will win by an overwhelming majority. The India Today-Axis poll gave the BJP 211 seats out of 272 while the ABP News poll gave the BJP 218. These are huge numbers, especially when you consider the fact that the BJP was in power in MCD for ten long years, and their governance wasn’t exactly stellar.

From the exit polls, it seems like AAP is fast losing ground in Delhi. The Rajouri Garden by-poll result gave an inkling of the AAP’s fast waning popularity in Delhi. The MCD results are most likely to confirm the sharp downward slide of AAP. Many political analysts, including Arvind Kejriwal’s former colleague Yogendra Yadav, are looking at the MCD elections as a referendum on Arvind Kejriwal’s popularity. Arvind Kejriwal too is aware of this, which is why he is trying to set a shrill narrative of doctored electronic voting machines(EVM) in motion, even before the final results are out. That way he has a ready excuse on 26 when the results will be declared, and knives will be out for him both on social as well as mainstream media.

If you follow the twitter feed of AAP supporters, you can sense both their despondency as well as their mounting desperation. Party functionaries like Preeti Sharma Menon and Ashutosh have already started blaming ‘doctored EVMs’ for the exit poll results, quite forgetting that exit poll results are declared by talking to actual voters.

Aam Aadmi Party supremo Arvind Kejriwal has been sounding increasingly bitter and bizarre all through the MCD election campaign. Never before in India has an elected chief minister of a state gone on record wishing deadly diseases like Dengue and Chikungunya upon the kids of parents who do not vote for his party.

In 2014, Aam Aadmi Party came to power in Delhi winning an unprecedented 67 out of 70 seats in the Delhi assembly. Arvind Kejriwal fought the election using the slogan ‘Paanch Saal Kejriwal’, promising the voters of Delhi that he would not be a ‘bhagoda’ again and that he would govern Delhi for five years as their chief minister. However, Delhi was too small to accommodate Kejriwal’s megalomania and his unbridled lust for power.

As soon as he was sworn in, he left the task of running Delhi in the hands of deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and embarked upon a nationwide image building mission for himself. Crores of rupees of public money were spent on front page advertisements in languages as diverse as Malayalam and Marathi. Kejriwal sought to portray himself as a national leader who could pose a credible challenge to PM Narendra Modi in 2019.

In 2017, Arvind Kejriwal concentrated on Goa and Punjab, the two states where he thought his party had a fair chance of performing well electorally. A consistent campaign was launched months before the two states went to polls. Kejriwal himself made countless trips to Goa and Punjab every few days to gain a foothold in places other than Delhi. However, his party performed dismally in Goa, with all but one candidate losing their deposits, while Punjab gave Aam Aadmi Party far fewer seats than Kejriwal had thought.

Not one to take an electoral defeat lightly, Arvind Kejriwal had an epic meltdown after the results, blaming the EVMs and casting aspersions on the election commission. The Rajouri by-poll results seem to have angered him further, and he sought to lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of his candidate. It remains to be seen what his reaction is going to be after the final results of MCD elections are out. However, we can get a sneak preview of the same from the way Arvind Kejriwal’s trusted lieutenants Ashutosh and Ashish Khetan behaved in newsroom debates the day the exit poll trends were out. Both screamed breathlessly about ‘doctored’ EVMs.

Assuming that the exit polls are correct and that the AAP will be totally vanquished in the MCD polls, the question is, why are Ashutosh and Ashish Khetan parroting Arvind Kejriwal’s narrative so faithfully and shrilly on television? I think the answer lies in the Rajya Sabha elections coming up next year.

Delhi can send three Members of Parliament (MP) to the Rajya Sabha. With the brute majority Aam Aadmi Party enjoys in the Delhi assembly, it is a foregone conclusion that all three Rajya Sabha seats will go to AAP. Currently, these three seats are represented by Congress MPs Janardan Dwivedi, Parvez Hashmi and Karan Singh. They will remain in office until 27 January 2018, when fresh elections will be held for these three seats.

In the undivided Aam Aadmi Party of 2014, it was likely that at least two out of three Rajya Sabha seats would have gone to Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, who lent intellectual heft and money power to the young party in its initial days. However, both Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan were independent thinkers who had a political presence of their own. It is possible that having Yadav and Bhushan as parallel power centres in the Rajya Sabha was something an autocratic, power-hungry Arvind Kejriwal felt he could not afford. So Yadav and Bhushan were unceremoniously chucked out of the same party that they helped build from scratch in the name of internal democracy.

With Bhushan and Yadav out of the game, all three Rajya Sabha from Delhi are up for grabs, and it is quite likely that both Ashutosh and Ashish Khetan will claim two out of these three seats as their own. This could explain their staunch backing of Arvind Kejriwal and all his hysterical narratives. However, if AAP loses the MCD elections badly, as it is projected to, the power equations inside the party could shift.

It is possible that Arvind Kejriwal’s autocratic authority might be questioned or undermined by certain disgruntled sections of the party who can see the party’s fortunes slide under his leadership. His halo as an honest crusader has certainly vanished. In such a situation, the next big battle for the AAP leadership will come in January 2018, before the Rajya Sabha seats come up for re-election. Whether the party will survive the MCD defeat that stares it in the eye would be an interesting thing to see, as that will determine who will represent Delhi in the Rajya Sabha in 2018.

The writer is a freelance writer and newspaper columnist based in Pune.
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