Critics of Mr. Kejriwal are back to doing what they do best. They’re trying their darnedest best to relegate him to the margins by painting him as an ‘anarchist’, ‘naxalite’, 'urban maoist', ‘bhagoda’, ‘U-turn artist’, ‘congress stooge’, ‘nautanki baaz’, ‘mealy-mouthed liar’, ‘CIA agent’, ‘bomb thrower’ and other things unparliamentary. The idea is to somehow dim the glow of his moral aura by questioning the tiniest of his indiscretions. The strategy is to relentlessly create a national ruckus around profound allegations such as: ‘He travelled by a chartered plane!’, ‘He’s accepted Z-security!!’, ‘He charges 20,000 bucks to have a dinner date!!!’, ‘He’s not vacated his government quarters, yet!!!’, 'He actually instructs TV anchors to play up sections of his interview!!!!', and ‘He wears Calvin Klein underwear!!!!! (Okay, I made that one up)’.
Try hard as they may, for some mystic reason, the Teflon-coated Arvind Kejriwal and his fledgling party only seem to be going from strength to strength. But the national media is in no mood to concede this inconvenient truth. Ergo, AAP is projected to win a generous 1 to 5 seats in the coming Lok Sabha elections. And often, Arvind Kejriwal’s name is not even taken in the same breath as Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mamata Banerjee in surveys polling potential prime ministerial candidates.
There are several reasons why the entire political class, the mass media and the myriad arms of the establishment have missed detecting the national emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party. Here's why:
a) It’s not a party. It’s a movement.
Movements are fueled by undercurrents of anger that are rarely picked up by the radars of conventional measurement. They start in concentrated pockets and multiply at the speed of thought. The anti-corruption movement that started in Jantar Mantar is far from finished. It’s still swirling, spreading and igniting the minds of millions in the distant, dark corners of Mera Bharat Mahaan. With Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, and General VK Singh openly identifying with the major players of the establishment who prefer no-systemic changes, the Aam Aadmi Party has been the sole beneficiary of the deep-rooted desire for alternative politics.
b) Movements go viral. Parties don’t.
Pundits have the greatest disregard for newbies in politics. In their fossilized view, it takes decades for anyone to even erect a national party. The Indian National Congress took 62 years of effort to get ready to rule independent India. The BJP, although officially born in 1980, made its electoral debut as Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1951. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) took 23 years to rule a state. The CPI(M) reared its red head way back in 1964.
So, applying the same logic, the AAP needs many more summers to attain critical mass. How awfully wrong can they get! Movements are not molecules to follow formulae. They are biological. And hence, contagious by design. They don’t need large scale infrastructure to proliferate. Mere contact of minds will do. The social network allows the possibility of a contagion. That’s why every state unit of AAP has a facebook page!
c) The disenfranchised don’t hold rallies. They vote.
Vast sections of the populace don’t find a voice in the mass media. They don’t even show up on social media. Just because they are invisible doesn't mean, they don’t exist. They announce their presence resoundingly on the polling date by forming serpentine queues to give us a clue of how they think. For years, pollsters have been unable to gauge the strength of BSP for this very reason.
The AAP has been attracting people in droves from the ignored, weak, voiceless and oppressed classes. Anti-nuclear activists, displaced tribes, the gay community, besieged minorities, lost farmers, disenchanted workers, and those disillusioned by the system have all banded together to form a silent coalition around the party. The first overt signs of the coalition was visible during the Delhi assembly polls. A small flashback would reveal that even during campaign time, this group, seldom thronged to rallies. Naturally, no one detected the signals. The same events are on play now. Which is why it would be fallacious and foolhardy to judge AAP on the basis of headcount at rallies. What really matters is the final tally of votes on May 16, 2014. That would tell a whole new story.
d) Virtual support cannot be seen. It’s felt.
The AAP movement is not a one-man show as the media would like us to believe. It doesn't begin and end with Arvind Kejriwal and his gang of five. The real fuel for the movement comes from virtual supporters disdainfully labelled as ‘AAPtards’ by the NaMo cheering squad. They are there everywhere and yet you can’t see them as they don’t walk around with ‘Main aam aadmi hoon’ topis. A miniscule section of ‘AAPtards’ fight verbal duels online, some contribute the much-needed moolah for the election, a few contribute in kind by donating cars, bikes, office space and home stay options for workers, a significant chunk however slave away for the party as unpaid volunteers. It is these mystery volunteers that blew the BJP and Congress away during the Delhi elections. Their base has grown manifold in the last two months. The 4.6 million likes on Arvind Kejriwal’s facebook page is an indicator of their numeric strength. Ignore them at your peril.
e) People crave for change. Not for ideologies.
Another thing that flummoxes the elite is how people support AAP without knowing where they stand on economic policies, foreign affairs, internal security, defence, and everything else essential for a party serious about governance. The absence of weighty policy declarations delude intellectuals into assuming that the AAP will never be taken seriously by the voters. Another mistake. Supporters of AAP are very clear about what their party stands for. They know that it’ll be a far less corrupt administration with a populist streak when it comes to taking crucial decisions that affect millions. So, crony capitalism is out. Agriculture, fishermen, labour and small enterprise friendly policies are in. Hawkish postures are out. Friendly equations with neighbours are in. Laxity on law enforcement is out. Vigilance is in. Central planning is out. Local empowerment is in. The ideology-free stance of AAP makes it a very attractive mainstream option for those craving for simple, jargon-free governance.
The go-with-the-flow, impure-yet-pure, fluid River Ganga-like nature of AAP is what endears it to millions of voters. At the moment, it may look like the missing mythical Saraswati. Having begun its journey on the banks of Yamuna, the common man’s party may well spring a surprise by gushing down the lands blessed by the Kaveri, Narmada, Mahanadi, Sutlej and Brahmaputra. If that happens it will be a watershed moment for the underdog.