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Major Setback

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The Aam Aadmi Party has finally had to withdraw from its indefensible position of retaining a jailed minister in his cabinet post. With Manish Sisodia in custody after Satyendar Jain, this unprecedented and unconstitutional display of ‘loyalty’ had to be brought to an end. The party has had six of its ministers in Delhi and Punjab having to quit their posts on charges of corruption. Considering the fact that its USP was the anti-corruption platform, the present situation indicates how far it has fallen from its high ideals.

Should Sisodia obtain release on bail, it is unlikely that he would be re-inducted into the Cabinet and not just because two new ministers have been appointed – Saurabh Bharadwaj and Atishi Marlena. From being number two, Sisodia will find it hard to regain his influence in the party for obvious reasons. It may be noted that he had begun to rival party Supremo Arvind Kejriwal in terms of projected popularity. In time, he could have made a bid for the top position. His ouster will increase the party’s dependence on Kejriwal.

This is much like the progress of other parties in Indian politics. Most began with a pantheon of tall leaders, each commanding an independent following but, one by one, they lost power, leaving matters in the hands of just the one. Be it the Samajwadi Party, the RJD, the JD(U), etc., they turned into personal and, then, family fiefdoms, each with a narrow but loyal caste base. It will be interesting to see how AAP shapes up, particularly as Kejriwal’s insecurities are only going to increase, despite a ‘rival’ having been rendered hors de combat for the time being.

The party does not have any allies in the opposition, either. Its rise has flummoxed the traditional parties, which have not yet learned how to counter Kejriwal’s popularity among the marginalised and disempowered sections, obtained through reckless electoral promises. Claims have been made regarding delivery of good governance in Delhi, but Punjab is already posing serious challenges. So, the question is how long this much touted ‘model’ will last. Can the clever talk help sustain the party’s credibility among the masses? How long before disillusionment sets in, particularly when the economic consequences of the freebie culture begin to hit? In its early days, AAP’s idealism had conveyed hope and promised change, but mishandling of the electoral support and unfounded arrogance have brought it to its present pass. Recovery seems unlikely in the present circumstances.