Considered a master craftsman of Indian politics, Arvind Kejriwal, the AAP supremo and Delhi chief minister, happens to be a leader of the most successful political start-up, as he, in just a decade span, led his party to enter into the big league of national parties. But to achieve this, he always remained highly calculative without having concern for ideology, ethics, and morality.
However, AAP’s political base in Delhi remained intact and third time his party rode to power in the National capital in 2020 with more or less the same thumping majority which it got in 2015 by completely routing its main rivals the BJP and Congress. And, then the party expanded its base in Punjab by winning 92 out of 117 seats in the Assembly in May 2022 and then in December same year AAP bagged five seats in Gujarat Assembly.
Now, after these successes coming its way since the party was launched in 2012, the AAP appears to be heading for an existential crisis — the biggest it has ever faced. Ironically, the party and its leader Kejriwal, who positioned himself as the “anti-corruption crusader”, is now embroiled in a serious and to an extent real charges of graft against the government he leads, with his cabinet colleagues and a party MP lodged in jail.
The central probe agencies are now even knocking his doors too, as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had served summons to him for questioning, which he somehow managed to avoid for a while owing to his engagements in poll-bound states – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Rajasthan.
Politically speaking it is certainly not prudent to write an obituary for any party or a movement, but the AAP under the leadership of Kejriwal will find it difficult to overcome the current dent, which it has received following the corruption charges against it.
Many within the AAP and also those, who parted ways with the party, are of the view that the present existential crisis is the leadership’s own making, as the now scrapped Delhi Excise Policy ‘Scam’ has become its Achilles heel.
The refusal of the Supreme Court to grant bail to former Delhi Dy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia appears to have become one among the last nails in the coffin of the AAP. So far, the AAP, its leaders and supporters had been arguing that cases against Sisodia and other leaders were politically motivated and the SC would see the merit in the case and grant him bail.
However, the SC in its judgement clearly hinted that there is a prima facie case against Sisodia, as there has been a money trail and it appears that the change in liquor policy was done with an intent to benefit private players, accepting the ED’s argument in the case.
So, from now on the AAP’s argument of a political conspiracy against it and its leaders might not look logical to people at large, as the credibility of the SC has never been in doubt in the minds of the general public.
Close on the heels of the SC judgement, the ED served summons to Kejriwal for questioning. It is a fact that at least for now, he has avoided and skipped appearing before the central agency, but how long? Once the electioneering in the five states ends by the last week of November, he may not have an excuse and he would be bound to honour the ED’s summons. In that situation, given the status of the case and also the SC observing that the probe agency should consider AAP as an accused party in the case, arrest of Kejriwal looms large.
It is no secret that in the AAP, nothing moves without Kejriwal’s will and thus he is the party and the government, the rest are his followers to toe the lines given to them. This makes the party vulnerable in the event of his possible arrest, as there would be an acute power struggle to grab the top position in Kejriwal’s absence.
Incidentally, there are no dearth of examples in Indian politics, when a chief minister was arrested. Lalu Prasad Yadav was arrested in the fodder scam when he was the chief minister of Bihar. Following this he nominated his wife Rabri Devi to replace him as chief minister, and the party and the government survived. Similarly, Jayalalithaa was also arrested. O Panneerselvam, her proxy, was anointed as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. The RJD and the AIADMK both survived the absence of their top leaders.
Still, it is to be seen if history would repeat itself, as unlike the RJD and the AIADMK, AAP is not privileged with a strong political legacy and institutional memory. So, the next few months are going to be tough for AAP and its future remains uncertain.
Courtesy: opinionadda.in (https://opinionadda.in/2023/11/06/graft-charges-kejriwals-past-imperfect-future-uncertain/