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AAP – a Reincarnation of Congress?

AAP a Reincarnation of Congress

Delhi’s recent watershed event has far greater significance than the experts have appreciated. The rise of AAP should be seen as the beginning of a new nationwide phenomena, not limited to Delhi. One may think of AAP as Congress 2.0 – having the same base of popular as well as elite supporters, minus only the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

For the past century, certain communities used to combine their political voices under the umbrella of the Congress, until the party started to meltdown as a revolt against the dynasty. For a while, these ‘homeless’ communities of voters wandered in different directions, experimentally and opportunistically supporting different parties including the BJP. These forces – which I have termed ‘fragments’ – have now found a new home in AAP and have reinvented for themselves a Congress like new political entity in AAP.

Kejriwal wears a Gandhi cap. In the eyes of his support base, he projects a Mohandas Gandhi style simplistic lifestyle, humility and dharmic values. His integrity has been accepted by an immensely broad base in Delhi, and it may be expected to spread elsewhere.

It brings together caste groups and minorities by providing them a shared umbrella. It attracts many well-educated and wealthy supporters who prefer this choice on idealistic grounds. All this resembles the old Congress before Sonia Gandhi killed it. The collapse of Congress due to Sonia Gandhi’s misrule and too much family domination is what its support base has rejected, not the so called ‘big tent’ ideals it once had.

 The Congress’ formal structure resisted getting get rid of the dynasty and while tolerating its ethos of corruption. So the only way to give a rebirth to the Congress was to migrate its ideological and human assets to a new political entity – and leave the family behind, holding an empty shell except for the billions allegedly stashed away.
Under such a scenario, BJP’s rise could be a temporary phenomenon resulting from a one-time dividend. There was a time lag between the two events, and this window became the “BJP era”.
The collapse of the old did not instantly give rise to a new entity. During this interim period, BJP was able to attract many communities and leaders into its fold. It enjoyed success because there was no competing structure with broad appeal.
The larger implication here is that BJP should not imagine it has a secure, robust base with a long-term loyalty to its ideals or leadership. By no means do I suggest that BJP’s domination is over. What I do propose is that a new era of two-party competition might be emerging in which AAP will play a role similar to that once played by Congress.
In light of this, BJP would need a radical rethinking. It should introspect and revisit its own narrative, and whether this (as perceived by the public) is viable in the long run on a national level. I have many specific points in this regard but will not go into them in detail in this Column for the sake of brevity.
In closing let me just say that the BJP needs to conduct a detailed re-evaluation of the manner in which it has run the NDA Government during the past 8 months. Trivialising the Delhi debacle would be another blunder it cannot afford. It would be well advised to honestly and courageously make some major mid-course changes. 

Author: Rajiv Malhotra

Published: Feb 16, 2015

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