Kejriwal must have thanked his stars that his fledgling Aam Admi Party (AAP) polled only 28 of the 70 available seats in the Delhi State assembly. Just 8 more seats would have forced him to form a government and rule!
The embarrassment of electoral riches Kejriwal now faces, with his massive mandate to “rule for change”, is instructive of two trends. First, Delhi is sick and tired of “more of the same” traditional party politics. Second, it is a long leap from attractive social activism to actually providing good governance. Gandhiji would have felt similarly uncomfortable as Prime Minister in 1947.
The party with the most seats (32), BJP, has opted out of forming a “minority” government since it does not want to risk a “lame duck” unstable, government, which could jeopardize its “development and governance” stance for the 2014 national elections. Kejriwal has been offered support by the Congress which gives him the numbers to form a government, but he has refused to play ball.
What Kejriwal now plans to do in unconscionable and exactly what any other political party would do; force a re-election so that he can ride the “AAP wave” to a presumed outright win in Delhi and gain Lok Sabha seats as well in 2014. This is no different from the BJPs strategy.
How then is Kejriwal different? He says that he is not in politics for power but he is already plotting for an expansive presence in the 2014 elections. Nothing wrong in that strategy except that it hits at the very roots of parliamentary democracy if it comes at the expense of forming a government when asked to.
People do not vote to elect an opposition party. They vote to elect a party to govern. By fore- going that possibility, Kejriwal is creating four negative outcomes:
(1) He acts against the interests of participative democracy since the outcome will be babu rule by the Lt. Governor till the next election can be held. Not a welcome outcome.
(2) He imposes unnecessary fiscal cost. Every election imposes huge direct costs on public finance and party finances (borne by business and supporters) and massive indirect cost on the economy through the extension of a period of uncertainty and babu indecision. Neither are desirable outcomes.
(3) By ducking the invitation to rule he comes across very much as Rahul Gandhi; long on concepts but woefully short on governance experience and effectiveness. This in sharp contrast to Modi and Shiela Dikshit.
(4) He also erodes the credibility of the AAP in the eyes of those who want corruption ended now! and a citizen centric shift in governance.
Kejriwal’s enthusiastic colleagues forget that the business of most ordinary citizens is not politics. Citizens enjoy and endure the electoral process because it gives them at least a marginal voice in decision making. The last thing they want to do is to make politics their primary concern. This will cost the AAP dearly in 2014 national elections, which will see both the Congress and the BJP pulling out all the stops and revamping their organisations.
Either way, Kejriwal will have earned his place in politics as the “disruptive innovator” of the decade. I suspect this result is what he truly values, unknown to his colleagues, who are merely riding the electoral wave. More power to his elbow.