Race for Rajya Sabha In AAP

Kejriwalal and sisodia

To galvanize party workers for 2019, Kejriwal may enter parliament via Rajya Sabha

By Anil Anand

It was a well-known fact that the feud between Aam Aadmi Party ( AAP) supremo and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his senior colleague Kumar Vishwas was far from over even after the latter’s detractor MLA Amanatullah Khan was suspended from the party. Vishwas gleefully accepted the lollypop in the shape of being made in charge of party affairs in Rajasthan with an express assignment to gear the organisation for next year’s state Assembly elections which, from Kejriwal’s perspective, was a deft move to keep Vishwas away from Delhi’s power-centre.

Vishwas has never hidden his desire for a Rajya Sabha berth even when the polls to three Delhi seats were at a distance. Now as the seats will be falling vacant with three sitting Congress MPs Dr Karan Singh, Janardan Dwivedi and Parvez Hashmi retiring on January 27, 2018 and AAP in a formidable position to bag all the seats the contest among hopefuls is getting nastier and shriller.

Is Kejriwal eyeing this opportunity to recast his strategy particularly after his dream to form government in Punjab was shattered? Is he viewing Rajya Sabha elections to catapult  AAP to the national mainstream as despite winning four Lok Sabha seats in 2014, all from Punjab and three of them revolting against him, this goal could not be achieved?

The recent bout of clash between Kejriwal and Vishwas after the AAP’s political affairs committee revoked Amanatullah Khan’s suspension who had described Vishwas as an “RSS agent” cannot be seen in isolation. The move was decidedly meant to show Vishwas his place in the party hierarchy and he immediately reacted that a conspiracy was afoot to oust and divest him of well-deserved right over a Rajya Sabha berth. 

For all practical purposes Vishwas is out of the race once for all. He figured prominently, till the other day, in the list of hopefuls for the three seats with others such as Kejriwal’s close confidant Sanjay Singh, his former political advisor Ashish Talwar and journalist turned politician Ashutosh. By hit and trial Talwar lost the race after total decimation of AAP in Goa Assembly elections where he was the in charge and Vishwas has been ousted for different reasons, false or true.

Is Kejriwal now the person to be watched once again? The dictum Kejriwal is AAP and AAP is Kejriwal is as true in his case as was in the case of Indira Gandhi or presently Prime Minister Narendra Modi vis-a-vis Congress and BJP respectively. There are indications that Kejriwal is fathoming his chances of entering Rajya Sabha and by dint of being on the national political scene properly place AAP for 2019 Lok Sabha elections particularly in the context of forming an anti-BJP front.

If some AAP insiders are to be believed Kejriwal is seriously mulling over entering Rajya Sabha and be at the centre-stage of political action and among the political big-wigs of the country. In that event he is now prepared to promote deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, his close aide, and hand-over Delhi’s charge to him, for a greater elbow space for him to fulfil his political ambitions at the national levels. But that does not mean Kejriwal will lose sight of Delhi which gave the newly born AAP under his leadership its first major electoral victory.

An underlying feeling behind this move could be that RS membership would give more freedom to Kejriwal to work and find a bigger space for AAP as all his earlier attempts starting with last Lok Sabha elections and subsequent Assembly poll losses came a cropper. The fact that the AAP’s electoral fortunes are continuously on the slide and that his strategy to emerge as a champion of politics of conflict has failed sooner than expected, could be yet other compelling factors for Kerjiwal to grab this opportunity with both hands and enter the hallowed portals of Parliament House.

His presence in Rajya Sabha could also be seen as an effort to control AAP’s four Lower House MPs as most of them have been moving in directions different than their own party or leader’s policies. Although it is already too late in the day as less than two years are left for Lok Sabha elections and that three of the four MPs have made their political preference known, but a party with seven MPs could see an important role for itself in coalition politics.

In Kejriwal versus Kumar Vishwas political slugfest the Rajya Sabha elections gave former an opportunity to hit at the rebellious poet who has publically admitted his friendships in the BJP quarters. Perhaps Vishwas thought he was indispensible particularly because of his aura as a poet of eminence and quality to spell bound crowds. Ostensibly, he forgot that AAP like other political parties is a leader and personality-centric party notwithstanding Kejriwal’s claims to the contrary and his penchant for taking decision making to the mohalla levels.

May be he realises now that Kejriwal is the only leader in AAP and that he (Vishwas) is among the army of lesser mortals, the followers. Even if he has realised as there are no indications to this effect at this juncture, it has come too late in the day.

In all probability, if Kejriwal sticks to this plan, the other two strong contenders for the remaining Rajya Sabha seats from Delhi would be Sanjay Singh, who has withered all storms even in the face of his many controversial actions, and mercurial Ashutosh. Given the unpredictability of Kejriwal’s nature, the two must keep their fingers crossed.

It is in view of changed strategy focused on Rajya Sabha polls that Kejriwal has adopted a new ‘mool-mantra’ of lowering his profile at least in terms of controlling his acerbic tongue lashing of his political rivals. This attitudinal change could also help him repair his relations with his rebel Lok Sabha MPs as one of the factors behind their disenchantment with Kejriwal was his high-handed and dictatorial approach.

In any case, next two months, till AAP Rajya Sabha candidates are declared, are going to be of greater turmoil for the party. Not only will Kejriwal have to placate feelings of Rajya Sabha hopefuls who would not be able to make it, but he will also have to control his MLAs particularly as many of them  face charges of different nature including holding dual office-of-profit and suppressing facts from Election Commission of India, in their poll affidavits filed before it.