Aap Ka Kya Hoga?
Don’t be alarmed, one is not worried about aap ka future, but over the fate of the two-year-old Aam Aadmi Party of Arvind Kerjrial, which suddenly appeared on the political firmament, riding the tsunami of UPA’s corruption as a harbinger of hope and corruption-free society and for improving the quality of lives of slum-dwellers and lower-middle class. Yet with 67 of 70 seats being won by it, odds are being offered about its longevity. Why?
Much dirty Yamuna water has streamed past Delhi since Arvind Kejriwal jumped off his chief minister’s chair and resigned after 49 days. He disenchanted the middle class which was enamoured with Kejriwal to the point of alienation. So much hope they had in him but he could deliver nothing.
Yet he has come back with brute majority, the BJP lost 28 seats, reduced to three and Congress went off to “Jupiter” and thus it won zero seats. The very fact that Kejriwal was not only pardoned by the Delhi people but given an absolute, indeed, amazing 67 out of 70 seats reaffirmed that the ideology as enunciated by Kejriwal—the people’s government to be run in consultation with the people, zero tolerance of corruption—is overwhelmingly approved by the people. Both the BJP and the Congress have no better alternative.
But within days of coming to power, the inevitable dissensions became public. The two ideologues Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav were sacked from PAC, the sacking which has been remote controlled by Kejriwal from Bangalore.
But further setback to his claim of clean politics was the exposure of a sting operation. Apart from Kejriwal’s attempts to woo Congress MLAs (the last time), the assorted stings that the party has been subjecting its own members to, the letters of Prashant Bhushan’s family members, public allegations levied by Kejriwal’s core supporters, blogs challenging the decision to oust the two leaders, Yadav’s too-frequent interviews and letters that appeal for harmony while continuing to stir the pot ever so gently, led to utter disappointment in AAP’s voters and odds started to be offered on the likely longevity of the government despite the huge majority. It was all very melodramatic.
Add to this various criminal defamation cases against Kejriwal. Even if he gets in trouble in one of these cases his survival in the party would get jeopardised.
Why such tremors affect AAP despite the goodwill and total control of the Assembly? Possibly because the leaders have in their genes an expertise in street protests, making utopian promises and roadside hunger strikes, but a normal routine running of administration and the concentration to formulate policies is not their strong point. The record of 49-day-rule bespeaks of itself.
Is this trait of leaders opposing each other on ideology, inner party democracy? Or is this AAP’s own patented culture, which invariably finds instability in both success and failure, holding together only when it is in protest mode?
The weakest link is the AAP structure, which is in itself an unstable one. AAP is a party based on a set of ideals, “but without any legacy of structure or hierarchy seems to find it difficult to locate an organising principle that key stakeholders can agree upon”.
The fact is that it is because of Kejriwal that all AAP candidates win, it is difficult to guess whether the likes Yogendra Yadav, Sisodia and most of the members could have won on their own. In any other party, for example the Congress, winning elections by this margin would have rendered Kejriwal’s position unassailable, as it did in the case of Mod or earlier that of Indira Gandhi. But here Kejriwal continues to be treated like ‘one of us’. The protesters generally have a leader but he is never ever unassailable. Kejriwal’s position is just like that.
Anyone who has a sense of affinity or indeed of opportunity, proclaim themselves to be AAP supporters, and when either disillusioned or overlooked in terms of opportunities, leave publicly with much fanfare. This is AAP’s weakest link. And it is also responsible for its adverse publicity. It is this factor that led to Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan been sacked from the PAC. Another pointer to this is the fact in his speech after his swearing-in, Kejriwal promised not to go out of Delhi like the last time, but, instead to concentrate on good governance and development of the capital. Now within just few weeks after assuming power in Delhi, the AAP announced that it has decided to go national.
AAP leader Sanjay Singh told the media that the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) has decided to expand the party in other states, an issue over which senior leader Yogendra Yadav had come under fire as he had favoured AAP spreading its wings in some other states.
A decision on which states party should contest elections will be taken only after looking at political capacity. Thus one issue on which rift took place is now removed. Attempts are also on to patch up other points of differences and unite AAP. Singh also said that the crisis in the party would soon end, and party leaders would reach out to Prashant Bhushan, who, along with Yogendra Yadav, was ousted from the PAC. “We have already started working to normalise the situation in the party. We have taken a step forward as we have already met Yadav,” Singh said.
But Yadav seems to have checkmated their political expediency with his obduracy. “Na todenge, na chhodenge. Sudhrenge aur sudharenge,” he said after his eviction from the party’s PAC, suggesting that he will not quit. But allowing Yadav and Bhushan to hang on, could be dangerous for Kejriwal. The two senior leaders already have the support of several volunteers, leaders and state units. Kejriwal would like to get rid of both of them before the meeting of the National Council of the party, scheduled in the last week of March. Kejriwal knows that it would be difficult to dictate and control the agenda at the meeting since—unlike the PAC where his loyalists command the majority— it will be attended by volunteers and office-bearers from across the country. So, he wants to end the game in a hurry. But everything may not unfold according to Kejriwal’s script. Bhushan and Yadav are ready with their own version of facts against the allegations against them. Once they reveal their side, we will perhaps get a bit closer to the truth.
Thus any thought that the AAP’s Delhi debut was pregnant with possibility of achhe din both for the party and Delhi electors is not on the horizon, but one sees bure din for both, owing to leadership war between Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan on one hand and Arvind Kejriwal and company on the other. Also, political and intellectual leaderships have taken different trajectories. While Kejriwal is undisputedly the political face and aggressive, Yogendra is the unanimously acknowledged intellectual backbone of party but is ‘too soft’. While the AAP claimed that it will write a new grammar of politics, Kejriwal does not seem to have taken that commitment in letter and spirit after he tasted massive power.
As Yogendra tried to provide intellectual leadership in rebuilding the AAP beyond Delhi, many others seemingly persuaded Kejriwal to believe that his real intent was to provide leadership in governance matters as well. This would tantamount to interference. Though Kejriwal claimed status of chota aadmi without aukaat, he behaved otherwise failing to give space to someone with better intellectual stature and political acumen.
Any patchwork can hardly be long-lasting. The problem in AAP is that all top leaders are ideologues and a clash between them is inevitable. This affects stability although none would be willing to go the point of collapsing the government. They know that of the government falls for whatever reason, the voters would not return them to power.
But this does not ensure that every issue would be resolved. This means policy formulations might become difficult, which in turn mean that not only achhe din would not come but bure din might. This would mean AAP would have difficulty in coming back.
The leak of the sting which showed how ambitious Kejriwal can be, and worse indulge in practices he condemns in others did not put him in any good light. When the dusts settle we might find AAP like any other political parties and indulging in same things against which Kejriwal fought and won. The fact is that the AAP is a colloidal mix of ideas and people that abrade each other and not a smooth blend that rolls easily off the tongue. It is a rough-and-ready stream-of-consciousness spewing experiment, that needs its inner volatility. It is a fractious party, stuck to immaturity, like the idealists who have vision but no idea how to make use of it.
Yes, the policy of good governance, change and development of Narendra Modi is more attractive, to the aspirational youth who are about 65 per cent of the population. And moreover the basic policy of Kejriwal to select candidates, prepare the manifesto and then formulate policies in consultation with the people is also appealing. But Kejriwal at least gave a glimpse of doing it before the last year’s polls. But such an exercise is not possible in bigger states. Fact is the promise was nice to seduce voters for 70 seats. But he cannot do such a thing in bigger states. Then how AAP does sell itself to voters?
A major loss to Kejriwal and his is that the manner in which Bhushan and Yadav have been sacked is the drop in his public esteem. Probably, a group of not-so-competent leaders in the AAP felt threatened by the intellectual stature of Yogendra and Prashant, and to offset that, they entered into a cartel against them.
Another danger to Kejriwal—and I would bracket AAP with him—is that some petty leaders without public base and belonging to Thakur-Bania castes and coming from pockets of Uttar Pradesh are trying to capture leadership positions by positioning Yogendra against Kejriwal and deliberately taking sides against the former.
The allegations of his NGO getting foreign donations from dubious sources continue to haunt him. The most serious allegation is that he was popular amongst Pakistanis and anti-India activists safely ensconced in the POK (Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir).
After the successful debut of his outfit AAP during the Delhi Assembly elections of 2013, an expose of his Pakistani connections had appeared in The Afghanistan Times, Kabul. In a well researched article posted by a Baloch journalist, Aamna Shahwani onMarch 04, 2014, the following important questions were raised in The Afghanistan Times. Briefly, Aamna Shahwani’s article highlighted important facts showing Kejriwal’s Pakistani connection.
After Kejriwal’s AAP won 28 seats out of the 70, the Pakistani media was full of praise for AAP. Although the BJP had won a few more seats than the AAP, the well known Pakistani newspaper, Dawn, totally ignored it, but emphasized the AAP victory by front paging the news. The Pakistani media also started praising Kejriwal for his spectacular success. No one knows why Kejriwal became a darling of Pakistani establishment and chatterati.
There was a big spurt in online donations from Pakistanis to AAP. According to Aamna, more support was likely come to AAP from Pakistan because the ISI wants to have a puppet regime in New Delhi.
The prime reason for Pakistan’s love for Kejriwal and AAP is their anti-India stand on the Kashmir dispute. At least three members of AAP had openly delivered anti-India and pro-secessionist statements on Kashmir favouring a referendum or plebiscite as voiced by Prashant Bhushan. Why do the AAP activists have a pro-secessionist approach on Kashmir?
It needs to be observed that AAP has many members who had pleaded for sparing the life of the 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab who was convicted for attacking the Indian Parliament.
Aamna Shahwani reportedly further alleged that no attempt was made by Kejriwal during his 49-day-long regime to recover the long pending electricity bills running into several lakh rupees from the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid: Was the soft corner of the AAP leadership towards the Shahi Imam occasioned by his proximity to groups of radical Islamists? Or was it pure vote-bank politics?
One must recall Arvind Kejriwal’s very clear appeal to policemen in Delhi to join his ‘dharna’ just days before the Republic Day and only at a stone’s throw from India’s seat of power—the Raisina Hill. With hardly any socio-political similarities between a democratic India and a dictatorial Egypt, a new destructive model was being artificially created. He warned again during his agitation at Rail Bhawan just before the Republic Day this year: “We would fill up the entire Rajpath with people…” And then on the same day, his party member Kamal Mitra Chenoy complained on Headlines Today about why just a small space was allowed to the protestors around the Rail Bhawan. Why not the entire area around Rajpath? Was it an indication of Chenoy’s larger plan to create a Tahrir Square in Delhi? In an interview, Malauna Hasrat Ali complained about Kejriwal’s idea of creating a Tahrir Square like scene on Rajpath filled up with numerous skull-cap wearing Muslims assembling there.
Opposition leaders including Jayaprakash Narayan were arrested by Mrs Indira Gandhi when they appealed to the Army to join their Total Revolution. Why was Kejriwal spared? Because, the UPA expected him to cut into the BJP votes.
Another question often asked is, why does he have so many Naxalites, separatists and their sympathisers in AAP like Prashant Bhushan, Gopal Rai, Sabyasachi Panda, Binayak Sen and Medha Patkar—who profess a similar ideology and mission. According to Russian security experts who specialise in understanding fake revolutions: “New schemes for overthrowing legitimate authorities include the use of military groups of extremist and terrorist organizations…”
AAP’s primary reason for massive support has been marketing itself as the best alternative to the Congress. It also tried to bracket the BJP along with Congress as equally corrupt with its clever marketing gimmicks—in order to wean away a section of BJP voters. People thought that AAP politicians were all Mr. Clean. But many facts have begun to come out in open about the shady dealings of many of its topmost activists. A story appeared in the media about misuse of foreign finds by many members of AAP in an NGO called Kabir—which was funded by Ford foundation. News in Times of India dated Feb 4, 2014, makes a startling revelation of the scam in Kejriwal’s and Sisodia’s NGO: “Close on the heels of reports about law minister Somnath Bharti’s alleged spamming days comes another embarrassment for the Aam Aadmi Party…This time, the party’s second-in-command and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s close aide, Manish Sisodia, is alleged to have diverted foreign funds meant for his NGO, Kabir, for personal use. Kejriwal is a governing body member of this NGO that works in the right to information (RTI) sphere.”
On Feb 8, 2014, Dainik Bhaskar reported: “In a major embarrassment to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), it has come to light that Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti was involved in selling pornographic domain names, English news channel Headlines Today reported on Friday.”
AAP’s “governance model” was an unmitigated nightmare for the national capital, Delhi, where their government was in power for 49 days. Shekhar Gupta who read Kejriwal’s manifesto ‘Swaraj’, was shocked to find their dangerous model in black and white: “The instruments of governance, law enforcement, judiciary, executive, parliament, as we know them, shall cease to exist, or at least, to matter. The mob will be sovereign. The police will have to take orders from the mob. The mob, or the gram sabha or the mohalla sabha, will be able to levy and collect its own taxes. No decision will be taken unless the “people” decide. No wonder Prashant Bhushan wants a referendum in Kashmir on whether the army should stay there…”
Historian and AAP member, Rajmohan Gandhi in his article in Sunday Tribune pointed out, “Kejriwal cannot bring about the revolution he wants on his own or with the aid only of people he is comfortable with. Occasionally, he’ll need the comradeship of those whom he might find difficult but who may have valuable ideas, talents and perspectives, and whose commitment has earned the trust of number of people including many AAP volunteers.”
With so much in his cupboard, it is anyone’s guess Kya Hoga AAP Ka.
By Vijay Dutt