Just weeks before Delhi elections, it is fascinating to see how the Aam Aadmi Party has resurrected itself from the ashes of defeat, suffered a mere seven months ago. A crushing loss in the general elections and a devastating fall of its 49-day government before that, Arvind Kejriwal and his motley band of motivated supporters were written off as history. Disheartened members walked away, high profile workers ditched the party and found solace in the BJP that was on a winning spree... but Kejriwal plodded on.
While AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal started from rock bottom, rebuilding the cadres and apologising to the people for his mistakes, Congress scion Rahul Gandhi is nowhere to be seen in the party’s campaign in Delhi. File pic
He started from rock bottom in June this year, re-built his cadres and then went back to the people with folded hands, admitting his mistakes, apologising and going about things in the same manner of old. He used the same modus operandi, made stunning and debilitating charges against rivals, promising to be the only non-corrupt alternative. And all this, without the support of the media. Channels shut their doors on him, newspapers stopped covering AAP’s press conferences but somehow he worked even that to his advantage. They made fun of his muffler; he used it as his leitmotif. He became the Muffler Man.
The crowds started coming back as did the donations. Slowly volunteers also found their way back to the party. From being labelled a ‘bhagoda’ (deserter), he crawled his way up the popularity charts. Who would have imagined this six months ago?
Compare this now with the Congress and its permanent management trainee Rahul Gandhi. Why could Rahul Gandhi not have galvanised the cadres of his party in the same manner as Kejriwal? He heads the oldest political party in the country with the largest and most experienced political cadre. Okay, technically his mother heads it. But that is semantics. Between the two of them, they led the party to its most crushing defeat ever. In the past six months, they have presided over one loss after the other.
Why could Rahul not have done things the Kejriwal way? Shown some energy instead of the trademark lethargy? There are random reports of how he wants to bring in elections into the Congress Working Committee — these reports have been recycled every few months for the past six to seven years. Then there is talk of him wanting to go on a Bharat Yatra. Suddenly he pops up at a jhuggi jopri area, bravely facing a bulldozer saying it can go over him before demolishing an unauthorised shanty. Then poof! Gone for weeks.
In Parliament, he is silent. In front of the media, he seldom speaks. It is left to Messers Chacko, Tewari, Digvijaya, Dwivedi and Maken to decode Rahul’s silences to the media. And they too do not have much to say about him. All this when traditionally the media had leaned towards the Congress.
Kejriwal’s men and women hop in and out of public transport, weave their way into the gullies of Delhi’s not so tony areas, apologising, seeking forgiveness, taking down notes, chatting, pumping hands, and sharing meals. They debate the BJP’s policies at nukkads, on the social media, on radio interviews. And Kejriwal leads from the front. Not Rahul. He is nowhere to be seen in the Congress party’s campaign in Delhi. He supposedly lives in this city.
Is he in Amethi? Nope. Priyanka Gandhi was there on Saturday asking people to protest against Modi’s and Akhilesh’s policies. Why? Where is the people’s representative? Didn’t they vote Rahul to do precisely that?
If Kejriwal could emerge from ridicule and devastating loss to becoming a serious contender for Chief Minister of Delhi, what stops Rahul Gandhi from at least trying to energise his party? Why is he always the reluctant Prince?
Optics count. All one saw of him this month was walking protectively with his mother in and out of the CWC meeting. But wait, it looked more like she was being protective of him. Shielding him from the media’s probing questions, from the disappointment of party workers, from the dejection of senior leaders.
Even the BJP, which is on a victory roll, doesn’t take things for granted. Weeks before the Delhi election, they roped in Kiran Bedi when they saw things getting tough in the capital. Constantly revamping, remodelling, rejigging so that lethargy doesn’t set in. On the other hand, the youngest leader of the three parties still cant dig his party out of the paralytic state. What will it take to wake up the Gandhi?
Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash