ABP News, a mainstream Hindi news channel was running a hashtag, "AAPKaSexScandal", on Twitter as news broke that Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal sacked Cabinet Minister Sandeep Kumar on Wednesday evening. The channel was running visuals of a half-naked Kumar in bed, with sleazy commentary playing in the background. "ABP News cannot play the rest of this video as it would be crossing the "line of privacy" for the woman," said a scandalized narrator. What kind of twisted logic the channel editors employed to suggest that a man does not deserve the privacy they were protecting for the woman in this tape, is something only they can answer. ABP News had no business airing the contents of the tape. However, that is a debate for another day.
The CD in possession of ABP apparently contains footage and photographs of Kumar having sex with two different women, on separate occasions.
AAP draws its cadres from the same society as other political parties. But what sets AAP apart is that whenever morally questionable elements present themselves, they are not spared.
AAP Convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal sacked the Cabinet Minister with immediate effect upon receiving the CD from ABP News.
Cheerleaders of the BJP and opponents of the AAP got into their usual rut immediately. "Is this the clean politics Arvind Kejriwal promised to the country? Didn't Kejriwal claim we are a party of honest people? How did three ministers have to be sacked within one year?" asked righteous voices from all sides. And why wouldn't they? AAP's Minister for Women and Child Development had turned out to be an adulterer and a cheat.
Editor of news agency ANI Smita Prakash tweeted, "Just like any other party." Each time a scandal hits the AAP, the media is quick to equate AAP with other political parties, admitting in the process that it is the biggest indictment of all to be like the Congress or BJP.
Indeed, it would be terrible if AAP were to behave like the establishment. But if that had been true, no minister of ours would ever have been sacked. Ms Prakash and many others seem to skim over the fact that each and every time AAP has been confronted with evidence against ministers, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been prompt in taking swift action.
For foot soldiers of the party like myself and lakhs of others, such incidents do dent our dreams. Sandeep Kumar has shamed people associated with AAP. What keeps the hope alive is the alacrity with which the leadership responded.
What this episode shows is that AAP draws its cadres from the same society as other political parties. But what sets AAP apart is that whenever morally questionable elements present themselves, they are not spared. No matter how important and significant a leader might be, when there is clear evidence of wrongdoing, the party punishes them to make an example out of them. The sacking of Kumar has only reinforced this unique aspect of the AAP's politics.
It takes guts and an extraordinary commitment to high moral standards to take action against senior leaders, at the cost of one's own reputation.
Is this necessarily a moment to pride ourselves about our policy of swift punishment? Perhaps not. But it is most definitely not a moment to equate AAP with others. Let's be clear -- sacking three ministers within a year does make AAP look bad. It takes guts and an extraordinary commitment to high moral standards to take action against senior leaders, at the cost of one's own reputation. Leading an effort for clean and honest politics is clearly not simple. It was the party's assessment that Sandeep Kumar was fit to be given a ticket and be made Minister. Now there is evidence to the contrary, so the person in question has been sacked. There is not much more a party can do.
In any professional organization, people are hired after thorough background checks. The problem with background checks is that they don't predict future behaviour of the person. A good boss recognises an errant employee and sacks him or her. That is what Arvind Kejriwal did and it would be wholly unfair to discredit him for this entire episode.
Sex scandals in politics surface from time to time. A pliant media has more often than not respected the privacy of politicians from across party lines. And perhaps that is the right thing to do. It serves little purpose to broadcast sleazy videos of netas on television, except as a cheap attempt at boosting ratings. ABP News received the video, they forwarded it to Arvind Kejriwal and before the channel made the story public, the minister was sent packing. ABP News could have reported the incident and left it there. Broadcasting soft pornography on prime time television was pathetic and disgraceful. Apart from Sandeep Kumar, ABP News also has something to feel ashamed about.