Any rebellion has a chance of success if these crucial elements come together:
- finding a cause or platform that strikes at the roots of the oppressing structure and shakes up the ideological backbone i.e. the faithful,
- getting the timing to strike right to send the chattering classes & intellectuals into a relative quietness,
- giving a sense of safe continuity to the benefited classes, and
- creating a perception of relative strength for the flock to follow.
If one assesses the challenge mounted by sacked minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader, Kapil Mishra, it is possible to conclude that he is going strong on all four factors and his challenge is probably the toughest one Arvind Kejriwal has faced till date.
When Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan rose in revolt, it was successfully projected by the team Kejriwal as a power struggle, which it probably was. The duo of Yadav and Bhushan wanted Arvind Kejriwal to focus on Delhi while they wanted the task of expanding AAP footprint beyond. They were kicked out of party, literally and metaphorically, the faithful justified the undemocratic & dictatorial act as a necessary one based on the belief that the fight against corruption demanded such authoritarianism.
Both Yadav and Bhushan, behaving like two school boys expelled from the class, standing outside the room, having nowhere else to go but unable to get back in till the tyrannical teacher is there, at times sulking at being expelled and at other time, trying to charm their way back, have a slave – master relationship with AAP till date.
They did not have (and do not have till date) the right platform to build their rebellion on, the support of the narrative (despite being favourites of the class that traditionally shaped narratives) or the benefit of the timing. They also failed to create a perception of a strong challenge to sway enough fence sitters.
When Shazia Ilmi left, she was successfully projected as a casual politician who did not have core principles of the party at heart and was there to share the limelight like many other celebrities were. On same lines, when Sucha Singh Chhotepur was expelled, it was seen more as a fight between local leadership and the set imposed from Delhi, a kind of ‘durbari’ coming in from the emperor’s court and divesting the local subedar of all powers & expelling him.
On the other hand, the campaign of Kapil Mishra works on many counts.
Firstly, it shakes up the articulate acolytes who brushed off every challenge to Kejriwal with, “What if he is authoritarian or dictatorial, at least he is fighting the corrupt” narrative. Now that the focus is on individual corruption of Arvind Kejriwal, the ‘at least’ statement has lost its basis.
The flurry of charges about hawala transactions, black money in donations, taking cash from Satyendra Jain, giving contracts to his own brother in law and protecting other corrupt, even congressmen, have pulled the platform of being anti corruption crusader from right under the feet of Arvind Kejriwal and the faithful are befuddled, confused as if unglued, unhinged when the carefully built ideological edifice is seen to be just that, an edifice.
Secondly, the timing could not be better. Just after the massive defeat in Punjab, Goa and MCD, the question are anyway being raised about how personal ambition of Arvind Kejriwal destroyed the prospects of Aam Aadmi Party in particular and the anti corruption movement in general.
The intellectuals and the chattering classes are quiet when not brave enough or they are trying to hedge their bets, to seem unbiased when they muster up enough courage to open their mouth or keyboards. The celebrities masquerading as thinkers are trying to find ways to keep quiet about the whole issue. The media is looking at ways to keep saying something but not going hammer and tongs after Kapil Mishra as they are not sure how the cookie is going to crumble.
Thirdly, since Kapil Mishra is not trying for a split but a take over, the benefiting classes are not feeling threatened as they see a continuity of the gravy train. And it is indeed a bid to take over the control of the party along with the well oiled money making machine it is perceived to have become and the Chief Ministership of Delhi.
He has been careful enough keep his attack focused on Arvind Kejriwal and his handful of cronies and not expanded it to strike out at the party in general. He is focusing on the corruption and not any other issue. And by emphasizing the fact that there is no corruption charge on him personally, he is trying to project himself as an honest leader, a good alternative to the failed and discredited leadership.
Lastly and importantly, his strategy of making allegations in phases and staying in news on daily basis coupled with the relative quiet from the opposing camp on charges mounted by him, other than usual botched bids to divert the issue to EVM is capturing the mind space of the lower rung of Aam Aadmi Party and creating a perception among the flock that he is dealing from a position of strength. This perception, psephologists would agree, provides the tailwind to a slight lead to convert it into a wave.
In a way, Kapil Mishra has been somewhat successful in creating the binary equation of ‘an honest challenger vs a corrupt ruler’ which exactly mirrors the equation of Anna & Kejriwal created in 2011, though Arvind Kejriwal is now on the other side of the moat, inside the fortifications and worried about the onslaughts.
Of course, given the mostly unethical, opportunist, expedient and unprincipled politics as practiced in Aam Aadmi Party, there is a strong possibility that one fine day, Kapil Mishra may decide to accept a kheer eating session at the home of an AAP leader and pose for a sulking, smirking, smiling group photo, after accepting the offer to become party in-charge for Mizoram or even Canada, the source of cash or even Zambia or Kenya for that matter, if he fancies the accompanying foreign trips. Nothing can be said till the time this game concludes, one way or the other,
Till then, however, Arvind Kejriwal has a big problem at hand, one that threatens his absolute control over Aam Aadmi Party.