So what can Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi can learn from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader? Or rather, what are the lessons that the former could have utilised but did not, allowing the latter to cash in on them.
Here are five factors that have made a difference between Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal.
1. The Aam Aadmi sentiment
The Congress has forgotten the meaning of Aam Aadmi, to put it straight. May be remaining in power for so many years has cut off its links with the ground. Whatever the pro-common man talks that the Congress leaders do nowadays are too suprficial and those on the ground can not identify themselves with them. The AAP has filled up the vacuum created between the Congress and the common man. One of the biggest blunder of the Congress's top brass is that it never interacts with the people through the absorbing media.
Parties like the AAP and BJP have gone miles ahead in this aspect. Whether it's complacency or arrogance that the Congress bosses know themselves but gone are those days when you come out of your room, wave a hand or two and retreat only to see on the television that your party has stormed home in the elections. Those who deal with the media from the Congress are generally motormouth spokesperson who help the party's image little. The top leadership's alienation from the common people, especially the urban educated youth, has backfired.
2. Questioning the status quo
This is another aspect which Rahul Gandhi must learn from Kejriwal though how much can the former succeed in doing this is questionable. Kejriwal always had the freedom to question the system and he went on doing it religiously.
His biggest achievement is that he produced a magic by doing this in the national capital and not in some faraway state. Rahul Gandhi should have remembered that charity begins at home and sensing the evolving threat from the AAP, should have worked more on public communication over the last one year. But one feels that the Congress is too much concerned with who will be its next prime minister and not improving the grassroots situation.
If Rahul can't fathom the mood in his own place, how can he deliver nationwide?
In Delhi, Sheila Dikshit would be enough for Kejriwal, the Congress might have thought. If Gandhi can not fathom the mood in the place where he lives, how can one expect him to succeed across the length and breath of the nation?
It is not that Gandhi hasn't questioned the status quo, like when he rubbished an ordinance to shield tainted politicians. But his execution of the task resembled more the whims of a top boss rather than a natural disapproval of the system. This was the difference. True that Kejriwal leads a party much less in size than that handled by Gandhi, but even then the latter could have always tried the best exhibited by his rival which he didn't.
3. Kejriwal worked as an outsider yet a leader
Arvind Kejriwal succeeded because he offered a reliable leadership to the people even as a fresher in politics. He managed to strike the right chord with his followers and admirers and used the media limelight to promote his party's case. Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, remained a reluctant well- wisher of his own party who never took the control in his hands perhaps except the ordinance moment. As an insider, Rahul Gandhi should have known the system much better than Kejriwal.
But since the latter was more closer to the people, the real source of power in a democracy, he had a greater chance of succeeding which he did. Also another difference was Kejriwal's candid understanding of things. He never spoke arrogantly against his rivals nor did he said what could have been.
Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, aired a sense of arrogance and irresponsibility by saying things like "They would kill me also" and "Pakistan is influencing our youth after UP riots, I was told by intelligence officers". They did great harm to his image, apart from the demoralising "Adhi Roti Khayange..." comment at every other rally.
4. Nirbhaya factor
Kejriwal's fortunes were immensely helped by the Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case of December 2012. It had fuelled the prevailing anger against the establishment and benefitted anti-establishment forces like the AAP. The Gandhis had interacted with the agitators post the grueseome incident briefly but never tried to transform the crisis into an opportunity.
Rahul Gandhi, as a youth leader, should have taken up more responsibility to make his party look like one concerned for the common men. The Nirbhaya case was an assault over the sentiments of the commoners but the Congress completely failed to take that into consideration. To become a people's party, one needs to have an informal and soft approach and not big-time state action. This is where Kejriwal clearly outsmarted Rahul Gandhi.
5. Setting agenda for clean politics
The Congress's policies were always unclear when it came to dealing with corruption and tainted politicians. While Rahul Gandhi as a party leader felt it wasn't right, the government of Manmohan Singh, another Congressman, pursued it till the matter reached a point of confrontation after which Singh backed. If Rahul Gandhi is indeed eager to improve his party's situation, he must take up the whole responsibility.
He can't act like a partyman and not a man in the government if his party is in power. Kejriwal, on the other hand, always set the agenda of clean politics straight and right. His one-point programme was ridiculed often but he stuck to that. Rahul Gandhi, unlike him, is yet to chalk out a standing of his party.