Business Standard

Will Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest be AAP’S Waterloo moment?


In April 2011, Anna Hazare, a 73-year-old Gandhian, launched a ‘fast unto death’ protest against corruption at Delhi's Jantar Mantar. Thousands joined him, including Arvind Kejriwal, a former Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer, who later came to be known as “a close aide” of Hazare.

Thirteen years later, Kejriwal is among the most popular leaders in

India's political opposition. The bureaucrat-turned-activist-turned-politician is serving his third term as the national capital's chief minister. The Aam Aadmi

Party (AAP), which he launched in 2012, is today one of the six national parties in India. Apart from New Delhi, the AAP is in power in Punjab.

With Kejriwal’s arrest by the Enforcemen­t Directorat­e (ED) on March 21 on charges of money laundering, life has come full circle for him. His arrest has sparked a debate on whether it will become the Waterloo moment for Kejriwal and the AAP, or catapult them to a bigger, better national standing before the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.

Sanjay Kumar, professor and co-director of Lokniti, called this a “moment of crisis” for the party and said he does not see AAP’S position getting any better. “I think the possibilit­y of the party growing and gaining ground because of the sympathy which they are likely to gain from the arrest, is very unlikely. It is going to be an extremely difficult task for the leaders who are outside to lead the party the way Arvind Kejriwal was leading,” Kumar said.

He said he was expecting more fervent protests on the streets.

"I decided to take the metro to the office because I thought by road may be a little difficult due to protests on the street, and barricades. But I don't think there is any buzz about that," he said.

The AAP did not reply to Business Standard's questions. However, a party strategist, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the party was looking at the positives.

“Yes, it would be difficult to replace a star campaigner like Kejriwal. But we have a committed rank and file, and a robust organisati­on. Others will step up. It is a growth opportunit­y for us,” the strategist said, adding that prophecies that the AAP might implode were premature.

The strategist pointed to the enormous support the party has received from across India, and the unpreceden­ted coverage it received internatio­nally, with Kejriwal’s arrest being one of the top ten trends worldwide on Friday.

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