Amith Prabhu: The Aam Aadmi Party just did business

06 Apr,2015

By Amith Prabhu

 

I have been getting calls from friends with a common interest in politics to understand my reading of the new kid on the block. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was written off until December, then positioned as the challenger in January, became the victor in February and went through its worst ever internal squabble in March. Now, its voters hope it delivers on its poll promises starting April.

 

As I write this column, it has just delivered on its election assurance of launching a corruption helpline. One needs to understand that AAP is different from most other parties. For instance, it was not founded by breakaway factions or a regional satrap of an existing party, though it is bound to have the usual ups and downs any other party goes through.

 

With this in mind, let us look at the fiasco and ouster of two party stalwarts, if I may call them so. Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan were part of the troika led by Arvind Kejriwal. If Arvind was its face and limbs, Yogendra and Prashant were the brains trust and would have ideally been frontrunners for two of the three Rajya Sabha seats that the party would be entitled to in couple of years.

 

That is where the problem starts. During the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, Kejriwal went ballistic about letting over 400 individuals contest across the country against the wishes of the brains trust who are a combination of bundlers, legal expertise and psephology. The two leaders felt the party was spreading itself too wide for a bad fall, which did end up happening. Besides casting the net wide, the party supremo did a few other things that did not go down well. He put all his resources into the Varanasi basket, he was keen to get back to the seat of power in the Delhi assembly to avoid an existential crisis and he did not want to focus on Haryana state elections which the party had felt was a sitting duck a few months before the October election.

 

Most importantly, he felt he was offering an alternative to those disgruntled with the INC and the BJP and wants to occupy the space left behind by the Congress and counter BJP without ever being seen close to either one of the party, especially the BJP for obvious reasons. In the midst of all this clever posturing, Shanti Bhushan (Prashant’s father and one of the first big donors of the party) decided to warm up to the BJP and its CM candidate which was the nail in the coffin. Once the election results were declared, the daggers were out.

 

This was waiting to happen and they did it in style with effortless execution skills that even well-established parties were put to shame. In my opinion, the core AAP voter base does not care about intra-party fights as long as the party they voted for delivers on its promises which the governments has got down to do. When Delhi goes to the hustings in 2020 another Lok Sabha election would have been fought, even if half of the 67 legislators get their act together in the next five years and get voted again, AAP will be in for a second term with a simple majority.

 

These were well-calculated moves which were delayed from last summer to ensure the perception of the party was not tarnished until the historic mandate was won. Key takeaways for Public Relations: a) Even as you go about putting your house in order don’t stop from delivering on the core b) Stakeholder memory is short and the last event is remembered, so go about offering some great experiences to the larger base, and c) If you can achieve what you have set out to do your reputation will take care of itself

 

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