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Ravi Munshi

AAP, and its meteoric rise to power in the nation’s Capital has the Congress and the BJP licking their wounds and not knowing what hit them.

Riding on the surge of a populist agenda, AAP’s impromptu plan to extend its domain to the Lok Sabha is causing consternation in both parties. It may have already hurt Rahul’s prospects of becoming the next Prime Minister. But, with Modi’s rising popularity and charisma that have captivated the nation, odds still favor the BJP to emerge as the largest party returned to the Lok Sabha.

AAP has made history but there is no historical data to predict its long term survivability, particularly if it’s subjected to political and physical assaults by trenched-in parties determined to bring it down. At a time like this, a prudent approach is to consolidate the goodwill, while it lasts, by solidly delivering on the promises and then waiting for the positive results to emerge before boarding the Lok Sabha Express. Many a large company has failed simply because it bit more than it could chew.

Weeding out corruption and instituting clean governance are worthy causes, but India can’t be run solely on that charge. Capitalizing on its success to enter national politics is no sin but any serious political party, wishing to play in a major league, has several important responsibilities to its constituents. It ought to have an ideology of sorts, a party platform and a clear vision on a wide range of domestic and foreign policy issues - national security, foreign affairs, economy and more. Without a clearly defined party position, AAP runs a risk of either endorsing conflicting positions dictated by the likes of Prashant Bhushan that are given to barking their radical views, or constantly distancing from them.

If Prashant Bhushan represents the voice of AAP, then expect national referendum on everything; from fixing the price of onions to army deployment in times of war. Asking the army to actually fight may require a separate referendum.

Achievement beyond expectations has placed added burden to replicate its success elsewhere. Will AAP succeed? May be, but it’s unlikely. The Delhi experiment was successful largely because of the contempt for repulsive culture of corruption and discontentment with rising crime and prices. Campaign was confined to Delhi; still, it took AAP two years of back-breaking work to score an upset. Compare that in scale to the enormous effort needed to spread the message to the whole country with only three months to accomplish that goal.

Arguably, corruption is the only common thread that holds India together into a colossal conglomerate and AAP has a patent on anti-corruption. But to make a telling difference that goes beyond anti-corruption, an understanding of regional needs and aspirations is essential. That understanding can neither be gained in a three month crash-course nor outsourced to AAP's candidates whose credentials may not go past a thousand signatures on their application forms.

Going nationwide is an enormous risk AAP is preparing to take so early on. Congress and the BJP will not be twiddling their thumbs while it forages on their turf. It will be challenging, if not impossible, to generate the same degree of passion that was felt in Delhi. Not to be confused with AAP's incentivized membership drive; free until the Republic Day - the number of candidates to be chosen to contest and the stringent criteria for their selection present a logistical nightmare. Here’s the math:

By a conservative estimate, 300 seats to contest; 10 applicants vying for each seat and each applicant required to obtain 1,000 signatures, the number of signatures adds up to a staggering 3 million. Unless the background check and verification of the supporting signatures are sidestepped for expediency, on an average it would take 33,333 signature verifications everyday - right until the Election Day.

That is just to verify if the candidate has met the minimum requirement, without ever trying to determine if she has aptitude for a life in selfless service to the nation. If anyone believes the process isn't fraught with errors, or worse - misuse of authority by the agents of change (NGOs) that may be chartered to verify candidate credentials, then he lives in utopia.

A politician in the making, Arvind Kejriwal is an engineer by education and an arithmetician by past vocation. He ought to know how the logistics doesn’t support his vision of building an army of 300 credible contestants from scratch and running a successful campaign in the available time, without affecting his primary undertaking - turning Delhi into an enviable model of governance for the rest of India to emulate.

How good is a good idea if its goodness can’t be seen or felt? Foraying into the Lok Sabha elections prematurely is inexcusable. Shifting its focus away from the work at hand, AAP may be squandering the opportunity to live up to the gold standard it has set for political reform in the country. Poor showing at the polls will prove disastrous for that reform to take root.

“Rome ne s’est pas faite en un jour,” - Rome wasn’t built in a day; nor will India. One measured step after other offers the best opportunity for a lasting success. Otherwise, AAP's disruptive force will soon turn into a passing fad.

You can view more articles at the author's Blog at: http://ravimunshi.blogspot.com

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