India has a plethora of political parties, the number exceeding 1400. Yet, the emergence of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in 2012 was quite phenomenal. Born out of ‘India against Corruption’ (IAC)-a civil society movement led by Anna Hazare-AAP appeared as a lode star at Indian political horizon. AAP founders claimed that merely launching a political party was not enough. They wanted to bring vyastha parivartan and an alternative model of politics.
Along its commitment to bring Jan Lokpal Bill, AAP promised that it would change the course of Indian polity in three fundamental ways. First was the use of only white money in political funding. The second was to end the high command culture and instituting inner part democracy. AAP professed that it would be a cadre based organisation with a bottom up approach and stressed that the candidate selection for elections would be done in what we know as primaries or caucuses in the Western word. In nutshell, AAP promised to introduce a qualitative version of ‘inner party democracy’ never seen before in India. At the governance level, AAP stressed that participatory democracy would be its plank.
The phenomenon of ‘direct democracy’ will manifest in way of mohalla sabhas, and taking wider opinions. Thus, it should be noted that AAP wanted to infuse Swaraj at the party level as well as governance level. It is important to underline this distinction because deviation from Swaraj has become a bone of contention among its idealist supporters and sycophant careerists. The third way was internal vigilance of its own party functionaries and elected lawmakers: For this, an Internal Lokpal or ombudsman panel was constituted headed by Admiral L Ramdas. It was widely publicised that teh party volunteers and party members would be empowered with the arsenals called right to reject and right to recall.
Since its launch with much enthusiasm in 2012 and backed by a national level goodwill and watchful expectancy, AAP made rapid strides. In February of 2014, it got a landslide victory with 67 out of 70 seats, upon which Kejriwal muttered that the mandate was scary. However, much water has flown under the Yamuna bridge in last four years. Today AAP stands as a model of broken promise.
The biggest disappointment from the party has been at the organizational level. A party that was supposed to usher an era of alternative politics has been reduced to merely one other party. The compromise with principles has been quick; the moral debasing of the party has been swift. The principle of Swaraj has been crucified giving way to a totalitarian regime. A party formed to end high command culture is today a living example of ‘one man’ show. Arvind Kejriwal has increasingly shown dictatorial tendencies with little patience for a differing view. Only a handful of sycophants are running the party. So insecure is Arvind Kejriwal that he does not let systems take shape in the party lest second rung leadership should develop. In Punjab, where the party is focusing on assembly elections, the show is being run by ‘Dilli Durbar’ of Kejriwal. So much for a party that came into politics promising decentralisation of power. The office of Internal Lokpal has been practically decimated, even though the party wants us to believe the contrary. After the unceremonious exit of L Ramdas, Kejriwal reportedly wanted a panel of three Lokpals who were ‘willing to sign on dotted lines’. As of now, two have left, the remaining single member Lokpal office is dormant.
The principle of white money exists only on papers. The party has carefully devised ways where it only shows the inflow of money, but fails to provide honest and meaningful details of its expenditure. And within the party, there is a culture of soliciting undisclosed money. A party formed with a focused agenda of fighting corruption and make life easy for an aam aadmi, Kejriwal soon started hobnobbing with issues like Dadri beef case, Rohit Vemulla death, and JNU’s Kanahiya Kumar. His free for all style has transformed him into a politician trying to encash eagerly on whatever and howsoever manner. AAP government in Delhi has been characterised by three things: blame game, hit and run politics, and hype rather than the substance. A Chief Minister chosen on the premise of ‘Paanch saal Kejriwal’ appears to be in a hurry to jump to national scene. Rather than accepting the mandate of people with full humility and trying to bring succor to the lives of people through good governance, Kejriwal started changing tack within weeks of assuming power. Last 18 months, Delhi government has been in news for constant confrontation with Center, challenging and name-calling the Prime Minister and blaming BJP for letting it not perform. During the previous regimen of Sheila Dixit–led Congress government of Delhi, AAP portrayed that she was fully responsible for failure of law and order issues, even though Delhi Police was under the Center. Delhi’s constitutional situation remaining the same, today, when Kejriwal is the CM of Delhi, he owes no responsibility for law and order situation! This intellectual dishonesty and sheer hypocrisy has become apparent now. It seems that the last thing he wants to do is governance.
Not only spirit is weak, but flesh is also weak . Within days of assuming power, his unwillingness to take a firm action on the fake degree case of his law Minister Jitender Tomar was a clear indication to party insiders for things to come for a party born to fight corruption and bring transparency. Delhi state Janlokpal bill (JLPB) was a hoax. Not only Kejriwal desperately attempted to pass a much-diluted version of JLPB, he wanted a political control on the legislation. In conclusion, AAP is characterised by hype rather than the substance. Governance requires a mix of political will, diplomacy and the ability to get things done. Even if Delhi is a partial state, you can still make a difference with the quantum of power and privileges you have. No one is preventing Kejriwal to bring traction to the system with the current resources.
(The writer is a
Chicago-based columnist. Views expressed are his personal)
DR munish raizada
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