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AAP: The Party That Never Was

04/04/2015 8:08 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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NEW DELHI, INDIA - JANUARY 16: AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal addressing Delhi Dialogue during an election rally ahead of the upcoming Delhi Assembly Elections 2015 at Trilokpuri on January 16, 2015 in New Delhi, India. Accusing BJP of razing slums, Aam Aadmi Party today promised pucca houses for slum dwellers and freehold rights to the lease holders at affordable rates, as it presented its agenda for 15 lakh residents of 45 resettlement colonies in the national capital. (Photo by Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

People who live in glasshouses shouldn't throw stones, or so the old saying goes. What of those who specialise in throwing stones? Perhaps they should never claim they live in glasshouses? The AAP, the moralistic 'saviour' of our polity has certainly proved this saying true. In a matter of days, it did exactly what it spent its relatively short lifetime accusing other political parties of doing.

Dramatically and with little explanation, Arvind Kejriwal and his followers contrived the ouster of two of the founding members of AAP -- Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav. The drama played out at the meeting of its National Executive in Delhi recently. The meeting had Kejriwal lecture his party colleagues on backstabbing and the importance of loyalty and honesty. The video made available later makes for an interesting watch. It's not clear what exactly he is getting at as he oscillates between complimenting his party workers, making absurd claims on their achievements, highlights his dislike for power and willingness to give it up and speaks of the critical role that Bhushan and Yadav have played for him. He speaks in great detail of his own great sacrifices and incidents which have little substance or corroboration. At best, he comes across as melodramatic, petulant and self-serving. In the end, he gives his colleagues a choice -- between him and those that "backstabbed" him. Yet soon after he dramatically leaves to attend a "very" important meeting providing the so-called backstabbers no room for explanation or discussion.

Dissent it seems was never encouraged in AAP. Kejriwal refers to how all previous meetings were marred by "screaming and shouting" -- or did he mean dissent? A party with a difference should welcome that but perhaps not AAP. The language and rhetoric used by Kejriwal is particularly instructive -- backstabbing, loyalty, failure and loss around elections seem to be the most important aspects of his speech. There is nothing on the importance of discussion and dissent, or the right to disagree within the party (or in particular with him).

"Finally the curtain has lifted and AAP in the spotlight has come out looking like a power-seeking, intellectually feeble, one-man show seeking to deliver little but rhetoric. "

Despite oft-repeated claims of total transparency, inner party democracy and freedom, Kejriwal and AAP seem to be unable to provide us with a clear explanation. Much like Modiji, they refuse to answer questions and communicate only as and when they wish to. Finally the curtain has lifted and AAP in the spotlight has come out looking like a power-seeking, intellectually feeble, one-man show seeking to deliver little but rhetoric. Ironically, they accused After Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi of having similar traits last year.

Perhaps the most revealing part of this skirmish is the curt and unceremonious dismissal of Admiral Ramdas, the Lokpal within AAP. A party that was founded on the principles of accountability and instituting the Lokpal in government sacked its own without rational explanation or even informing the man himself properly. The entire incident reeks of authoritarianism and deep-seated fear within the Kejriwal camp about what might emerge from an investigation.

Discussions with AAP supporters are equally revealing. They seem enraged and offended when confronted with Kejriwal's growing domination. They clearly abandoned all decorum as they shouted down all those in favour of a united party or those who spoke in support of Yadav or Bhushan. These followers of Kejriwal are not fringe elements - they are clearly emerging as the core of the new AAP.

The parallels with Mr Modi or even with Sonia Gandhi are difficult to ignore. If anything, Kejriwal actually seems more despotic and unscrupulous.

"The parallels with Mr Modi or even with Sonia Gandhi are difficult to ignore. If anything, Kejriwal actually seems more despotic and unscrupulous."

Beyond the pettiness of this incident, this matter should be of particular interest to Delhiwallas, who have entrusted their city to this party. While many who voted AAP are dismayed, others are deeply concerned. If this party spends all this time and energy in infighting, what awaits Delhi? Many believe that the 70-point manifesto is causing much internal panic. How will the free water and reduced-price electricity be provided? How will the promised increase in public health centres be managed? Let's not event talk of the schools and colleges. What possibly awaits Delhi is even more hysteria than the Bhushan-Yadav episode inspired.

If AAP were truly the party it claims to be and Kejriwal the honest leader he says he is, he would step out of the way and institute an independent inquiry into what has happened. He would address the media on behalf of the party and apologise for any misbehaviour that has happened. This, however, is unlikely to happen. They'd still like to be perceived as unsullied and virginal. Well, it's a little hard to believe when you have been caught with your pants down.

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