Vinod Mehta became one of India’s most influential editors by launching a number of successful publications such as the Sunday Observer, Indian Post, The Independent, The Pioneer and, finally, ‘Outlook’ over a period of thirty years. He wrote his biography in form of two books, titled ‘Lucknow Boy’ and ‘Editor Unplugged’. An excellent writer and an even better editor, he conceded all the major mistakes he had committed during his career. Among other things, he has devoted a whole chapter to Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) and how he was wrong in supporting them. Beginning with the Jan Lokpal Bill movement with Anna Hazare as the figurehead, Arvind Kejriwal rose to prominence as the clean, anti-corruption public servant who decided to resign from government service due to massive corruption. The massive anti-corruption movement attracted continuous media coverage and sympathies from a broad segment of society. Ultimately, it failed to materialize into something substantive and Mr. Kejriwal fell out with Anna Hazare on the issue of political participation.

In November 2012, Mr. Kejriwal decided to enter formal politics and announced the formation of Aam Aadmi Party, party of the common man. It was a heady start with promises to provide equality and justice, decentralisation of power and anti-corruption legislation. Vinod Mehta was effusive in his praise for the party initially. He wrote, “A rare fragrant wind blows through our troubled land. Hope, optimism, expectation, and a sense of common destiny dangle tantalisingly before our republic. The irresistible rise of Arvind Kejriwal is nothing short of a miracle. All right-thinking citizens will welcome his entry into political arena and wish him bon voyage. Arvind’s determination, drive, energy, organisational ability are an object lesson on how to start from behind and end up in front. Each day brings news of CEOs, film stars, taxi drivers, eunuchs, university professors and journalists lining up to join the party.”

The first major political test of the party was faced in the form of Delhi Legislative Assembly Elections in December 2013. Indian National Congress, faced by anti-incumbent sentiments and poor performance nationwide, lost the election and was able to gain only 8 seats out of 70. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) obtained 31 seats while AAP surprised by gaining 28 seats. Incumbent Chief Minister Sheila Dixit lost her New Delhi constituency seat to AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal by a margin that was double her total votes. Since none of the parties gained an absolute majority, a coalition government was poised to take over Delhi. BJP was invited by the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi to form the government, which they declined. Arvind Kejriwal accepted the offer (after Congress decide to support him) and was sworn in as the 7th Chief Minister of Delhi.

Vinod Mehta cited two reasons for AAP’s phenomenal success: Mr. Kejriwal’s fixation with the TV camera and AAP’s mastery in the politics of protest. As has been witnessed around the world, politics of agitation is one thing while governance is a totally different ballgame. Anti-establishment parties usually find it hard when they themselves have to assume the role of establishment. Once Mr. Kejriwal and his ministers had been sworn in, they had to perform tasks that they had no prior experience of: Signing files, reading files, discussing files, holding meetings with bureaucrats and drafting legislation. The news agency Reuters exclaimed, “There is a sinking feeling of inexperienced, out of their depth politicians completely at sea”. Despite earlier promises, major political parties refused to cooperate with AAP on the issue of Jan Lokpal Bill, Mr. Kejriwal announced a sort of Civil disobedience against Electricity Bills and the final straw came in form of an altercation with the Police. As a result of these incidents, AAP resorted to what it knew best: They decided to hold a protest outside Parliament, demanding control of Delhi Police. Mr. Kejriwal along with some of his ministers held court on the pavements of Rail Bhavan. On 14th February 2014, Mr. Kejriwal decided to resign after forty-nine days in government because Jan Lokpal Bill had not been tabled in the Assembly.

In his final analysis, Mr. Mehta wrote, “Arvind Kejriwal erred, stumbled, blundered, laid and misled. But his heart was in the right place. On balance, he was a force for good”. AAP’s resignation was considered a nail in its coffin by most commentators. The party’s dismal showing in the Lok Sabha elections held in 2014 felt like another death blow. The Saffron tide swept away any residual sympathies for AAP in Northern India. Obituaries of AAP were being written after the national elections and their deficiencies were highlighted again and again. Come February 2015 and AAP was given another chance by the voters in Delhi’s Legislative Assembly. This time around, AAP managed a spectacular total by gaining 67 seats out of 70, decimating BJP and Congress in the process. According to Professor of Political Science, P.K Datta, two factors determined AAP’s victory in the elections: Their governance record during the forty-nine day period, favouring the deprived classes, and their organizing capabilities that withstood the shock of Lok Sabha defeat. BJP could not replicate its Lok Sabha performance because of anti-minority campaigns by its allies such as RSS and its championing of communal politics across India.

AAP’s victory is being hailed as a success of anti-communal forces present in Indian politics. It is yet to be seen if Mr. Kejriwal and his party have learnt their lessons or if they continue their crusader attitude. Till then, one intends to follow a quote by Rachel Griffiths: ‘There’s nothing as exciting as a comeback - seeing someone with dreams, watching them fail, and then getting a second chance.’