View from India: Imran Khan & Arvind Kejriwal’s mistakes

Kisan Baburao Hazare, popularly known as Anna Hazare, is an Indian social activist who led movements to promote rural development, increase government transparency, and investigate and punish corruption in public life

The two-decade long Imran Khan phenomenon has had its ups and downs. But the 2013 elections and his increasing popularity brought greater attention to him and his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
Imran Khan was being invited to international forums, and media houses even in India were competing for his interview. His thoughts on politics in Pakistan, of foreign relations with India, the US and the rest of the world mattered. All, this was being viewed from across the border as a positive development.

Indian views were seen in light of the anti-corruption movement launched by Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal. Similar to the PTI forming the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), India’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) launched in 2012 and made Arvind Kejriwal the Chief Minister of Delhi.

He and his party had the backing that it needed. But the pace of change that followed was slow, dominated by political posturing. Meanwhile, the situation of Nawaz Sharif government went from bad to worse to his ultimate removal, raising concerns in international circles. Now everyone seems to waiting for the 2018 elections.

With a weaker PML-N at the center and the PPP not showing much of a promise of revival, the 2018 elections will be the golden opportunity for Imran Khan to grab the throne of power. But there is a catch; the PTI has had mixed results in governing KP. There is no big policy achievement for Imran Khan to show off. He has focused on his anti-corruption stand and fights with the center. The removal of PM Nawaz Sharif might have weakened the PML-N in their Punjab stronghold, but it hasn’t strengthened the PTI.

There is a parallel that can be drawn here. India’s AAP took another shot and got a thumping majority in a regional government. But, just as with his supposed counterpart in Pakistan, Arvind Kejriwal’s political struggle with the Modi government distracted the party as well as media support away from their governance goals. The resources of the two-year-old party were further stretched when they decided to focus on national elections rather than solely on Delhi. Meanwhile, CM Kejriwal continued to lose allies, with Anna Hazare deserting politics early on, followed by Kiran Bedi moving to the Modi-led BJP. Today AAP seems to be a one-man show as an internal tussle with led to the departure of close friends.

Arvind Kejriwal is an Indian politician who is the Chief Minister of Delhi since February 2015. In 2012, he launched the Aam Aadmi Party, and the party won in the 2013 Delhi Legislative Assembly election.

It is then that anti-corruption hero turned to alliances with ‘traditional’ politicians, leading to an end of hope of a new political culture in India. Cut back to Imran Khan and one can see similar loss of focus on KP, a coalition with the ‘traditional’ Jamaat-e-Islami and no clear national policy. Imran Khan has been grappling with intra-party feuds for long now and there is also a lack of strong regional leaders in the party.

If PTI wants to get a majority, Imran Khan will have to do something big in policy before 2018 to capture the nation’s attention. The ‘Naya Pakistan’ dream will have to be backed by a concrete plan and a pilot project in KP. PTI doesn’t have much experience in governing and it has to prove itself to the people of Pakistan that they can achieve concrete results. The PML-N despite all the corruption charges has infrastructure projects and CPEC as their showcase success story. Taking on an old entrenched party with strong grass roots and regional leadership structure cannot be a one-man show.

There is too much at stake here. Political stability is the key as the economic situation in Pakistan is still critical because of mounting debt and current account deficit. Security has only partially improved and terrorist attacks are a constant reminder of the threat looming around. At present, 2018 is headed for a 3-way split, even if PTI will have the upper hand.  What Imran Khan does now, will formulate Pakistan’s future for the next decade. Will he be able to fulfill his promise of a ‘Naya Pakistan’? He has less than a year to convince voters.

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