The politics of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is so convoluted that it has left its opponents, and perhaps the party itself, in a mystified state where no one knows what tomorrow may bring.
If politics is supposedly the art of the possible, the new party is trying to achieve the opposite. For a start, it is taking the support of the Congress while promising to investigate its wrongdoings. Probably never before have two presumed allies begun on such a wrong footing.
If the Congress is nevertheless willing to go along with this weird arrangement despite objections from within, there is a canny political calculation on the gains and losses of this unlikely partnership.
The gain stems from the assessment that if the Congress can prop up the AAP for a few months, even a few weeks, the fledgling outfit may be able to attain a measure of stability if it learns the unfamiliar “grammar” of governance, as one of its leading lights, Yogendra Yadav, has said.
If the AAP lacks surefootedness at present, the reason is its seemingly inebriated condition where it is on a high on its success and an idealistic certainty about being able to mould the system to its own liking.
The Congress, on the other hand, will want the AAP to steady itself, not as an act of indulgence by a 128-year-old party towards a one-year-old, but to give it just enough sustenance so that it can cut into the BJP’s base of support as it has done in Delhi this time.
For the Congress, it is a limited objective which is expected to hold good till the next assembly election in the national capital is held, probably along with the general election. If the AAP can stymie the BJP at least in Delhi, and to an extent in any other state where the new party will be in the fray, the Congress’ purpose will be served.
However, the danger of this cat-and-mouse game is that the Congress itself can fall into a ditch if the AAP succeeds in unearthing even more scams than the ones which have already sunk the no-longer Grand Old Party.
However, the Congress probably also lives in the hope that before the AAP can zero in on the scams, it will shoot itself in the foot. This possibility is always there when a group of naÃ¯ve utopians wander into a hall of mirrors where it is not easy to distinguish the real from the unreal.
The AAP at the moment harbours the belief, with a little prodding from the Congress, that quite a few of its idealistic projects can be implemented through executive action. But what it will learn as it pushes them through is not only the criticisms which it will face in the assembly but also the law’s delay as those affected by its decisions approach the courts.
If the first brush of the romantics with the real world was the walkout by one of its members after the denial of a ministerial berth, the second one may well be the realization that the system, which it is so fond of denigrating, is one of checks and balances aimed at ensuring that the government does not act in haste and repent at leisure.
Unlike the Congress, which has some kind of a devious game plan in mind, the BJP has been so flummoxed by the election outcome that it is yet to get over its bewilderment. What it expected to be an easy ride to power because of the extent of the popular anger against the Congress has led to a situation where it cannot be absolutely sure of winning the next election in Delhi.
The BJP has been so shocked that it shied away from applying the tactic of Operation Lotus, which it effectively used in Karnataka in 2011 to win friends and influence people. Instead, it has had to put up a show of honesty by shunning the time-honoured practice of horse trading which used to be a feature of the election scene whenever a party fell a little short of the majority.
However, the AAP’s strident flaunting of uprightness has left the BJP with no option but to sit in the opposition although in “normal” circumstances, luring four or five legislators to its side would have been child’s play. Now, all that it can hope for is for an all-mighty row to break out between the AAP and the Congress over the probes into scams and the allegations of revenge politics.
The BJP cannot be sure, however, whether the fracas will help the AAP to further consolidate its position by calling for another election on the grounds that it will need an absolute majority to fulfil its promises. In that event, the BJP may fall further behind, Modi or no Modi.
(28.12.2013 – Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)