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AAP & Down: An Insider’s Story of India’s Most Controversial Party by Mayank Gandhi and Shrey Shah- Review

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AAP & Down: An Insider’s Story of India’s Most Controversial Party

Authors: Mayank Gandhi

Publisher: Simon & Schuster


Pages: 308 ; Price: Rs 350

Flashback to December 2013, a brand new political party had stunned the Congress and the BJP in the Delhi Assembly elections by winning 28 seats in the 70-member House. AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) with its leader Arvind Kejriwal had defeated three-time Chief Minister Sheila Dixit. Delhi was on a high. And, why not? After all, the new party had a fresh take on politics. They had made a pledge to bring clean governance. AAP held the placard of anti-corruption and people were hopeful that as promised, they will change the political geography of the country, starting with Delhi.

Fast forward to 2018, people of Delhi are extremely unhappy and feel cheated by the party that was supposed to represent them and bring reforms. They are disheartened by Delhi Chief Minister, Kejriwal.

The book by Mayank Gandhi, AAP & Down: An Insider’s Story of India’s Most Controversial Party takes the reader through the inner workings of the party that has left most of the janta with a bitter taste in their mouth. Not only was Gandhi a National Executive member of the AAP, but also, he along with Kejriwal were part of the India Anti-Corruption (IAC) movement that started in Delhi in 2011, with Anna Hazare leading the movement.

Gandhi described the popularity of the IAC movement among the masses when he mentioned an incident from those days.  While on his way to Azad Maidan in Mumbai, he had witnessed a rally. It was not organised by them. In fact, it was put together by local people as a token of support for the IAC movement. He wrote, “Perhaps this, above all else, was a sign that IAC had grown larger than its leaders; support for it was now spontaneous and self-driven. From ‘our’ movement—Arvind’s, Anna’s, mine—it had become the movement of the people.”

The rift between Kejriwal and Anna was well known. Anna didn’t want IAC to become a political party and Kejriwal and Gandhi, both wanted it to become a political party. However, on hindsight as mentioned in the book, Gandhi explained in the epilogue, “While I had been staunchly in favour of IAC going political in the heady days of 2012, these days, when I look back, I wonder if it was the wisest decision. If IAC had continued, we would have been able to exert pressure on the system from the outside. We might have been able to spur reform.”

Talking about Kejriwal, the author said, “Let’s recall the Arvind I had first befriended. He was a man who cared for the poor and the underprivileged… He was a man committed to changing the nation, without any desire for power or any inclination to engage with messy politicking… Yet, by 2014, the same man had surrounded himself with unsavoury people, built a coterie, and abandoned all that we had stood for.”

Mayank Gandhi further said in his book, “Having closely observed Arvind, I think that some of his biggest failings have been his insecurity, impatience, anger, lack of faith in others and most importantly, the arrogant belief that he knows best, and worse, that no one else does.”

The author is refreshingly bold in stating his views. Overall, the book is a compelling read, especially for its insights into the world of politics, its pitfalls, power games and what happens when a party loses sight of the vision that they first began with. While, we wait and see what happens to AAP in the next election, a recent remark by Anna Hazare, that he will ensure that no other Kejriwal will emerge from his protests, says a lot about the future of the current Chief Minister of Delhi and his party.