Kejriwal’s real challenge begins now

The cat is in the bag, almost. The Delhi exit polls are in, and it looks like the Aam Aadmi Party will coast through to a comfortable majority in the Assembly. Now, for the tough part.

The first stint for Arvind Kejriwal as CM of Delhi was relatively easier. There were clear black-and-whites – corruption vs law-and-order, price rise vs affordability, middle class hope vs political cynicism. In a way, the abrupt resignation reflected these easy, clear-cut choices. Either you’re in, or out. And AAP chose out.


But Arvind’s second innings are going to be different, difficult and require of him the ability to balance long-term goals with short-term political practicality. The last part — balancing the long-term ideals of the Aam Aadmi Party with the demands of short-term political expediency — will be the test of the leader in Arvind Kejirwal.

Very few have the ability to do both. Some leaders are totally committed to their long term goals and unwilling to show even temporary flexibility. In such cases, the inflexibility of such leaders leads to their never really breaking out into the real scene.

This tendency was visible when Kejriwal resigned after 49 days. But the Aam Aadmi Party leader has since learnt his lessons, and promised to “never run away” from his duty again.

But there is another side to this realization — that of accommodating expediencies too much, of overlearning a lesson.

Adjusting too much is what happened to the Congress Party, for example. Despite all the talk of secularism and justice, the Congress Party is a great example of an organization with almost no long-term ideals, and a game-plan focused almost entirely on achieving and retaining power.

Every party starts out with a vision and ideology. But the requirements of practical politics teaches the leaders the art of compromise. Sometimes, the leaders don’t know where to draw the line and slip down the slope all the way to the bottom, and the party becomes a purely power-focused organisation.

The focus of such non-ideological parties is purely to capture and remain in power. In many ways, such parties are like people whose sole aim in life is to earn money.

Notwithstanding such an obvious danger of overcorrection, there exists no easy way to distinguish between ‘acceptable ideological flexibility’ and impractical self-defeating inflexibility.

Only a true leader can avoid the extremes of focusing only on long term goals on the one hand, and of letting political exigencies totally eclipse the long term vision on the other.

A true leader realises that sometimes, to go west, one has to go south-west, or south, or even east, and the shortest distance between two points is not always a straight line. Kejriwal seems to have realized that fact after his resignation.

Yet, one must always remind oneself that west is where one must reach, and not be caught up in the distractions that politics offers. Because once you start making ‘small compromises’ in the name of flexibility, it is easy to make large compromises as well.

To sum up, Kejriwal would do well to remember these things everyday:

1) The Aam Aadmi Party is the embodiment of the hopes of millions of people tired of lawlessness and corruption. It is not about Kejriwal, or Manish Sisodia, or Yogendra Yadav, or even the party itself. It is all about the people, and their need for a society based on law and order and justice, instead of ‘jiski laati, uski bains’.

2) Political expediency should not be allowed to overshadow long-term goals, and it’s a slippery slope. Long term vision of a society where law and order rules, and where justice is served, is what created the party, and what holds it together. A party held together purely by its members’ combined desire for power would be like the Congress. Losing sight of long term goals would make AAP another Congress Party in the next 2-3 years.

3) A rising party would be targeted by power-oriented individuals. People who have not associated with a movement when it had no perks to offer, and who seek to join it only when it seems close to power, do not deserve a high place in it.