Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Kissa Dilli Ka: The AAP Rift

In a short span of time, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has once again revealed its penchant for theatrics and drama. The alleged 'rift' within the party ranks, owing mainly to lack of internal democracy and depleting spaces for dissent has brought the party back into the news wheels and has dominated the agenda on social media for nearly three weeks. For the uninitiated, the rift began with a letter: 'Note on the Way Forward' penned by Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav which was written to the National Executive of the comparatively new political party. In these two weeks, various leaders from the party articulated their views on the rift across different media platforms. 

It is indeed surprising that the party's principle face: Arvind Kejriwal conveniently chose to distance himself from the controversy citing his naturopathy treatment in Bangalore. While he did tweet twice expressing pain over the infighting, Arvind Kejriwal refused to communicate to the media and clarify his stand. It is understandable to assume that such petty matters such as an ego clash would not affect the citizens of Delhi on a daily level especially when they have voted for the Aam Aadmi Party with a decisive mandate. It would not be entirely wrong to perceive that the focus for the Delhi residents has to be that the party focuses on governance instead of squabbling among themselves under the media glare. Hence, Arvind Kejriwal’s comment that suggested that he is committed to fulfilling the Delhi mandate sounds surprising.

In a city-state like Delhi, with limited powers, Arvind Kejriwal successfully manipulated the people by assuring them of free WiFi, cheaper electricity and water. While one may assume this to be election rhetoric, it remains to be seen how this can be actually implemented. In a country with an ingrained sense of socialism, it would be desirable to hope for a balance between excessive socialism and capitalism thereby adopting a centrist approach. Unfortunately, in the case of Delhi, the actual implementation is the key. Unless a government knows where the money is coming from to fund these subsidies, it would be difficult to provide unlimited subsidies. This idea gains importance especially when basic utilities such as power and water supplies are dependent on economic factors such as profit and loss. It would again pose as a challenge as how long a government can recover money by way of additional taxes and levies.

Secondly, one is not entirely sure if Arvind Kejriwal is committed to being the Chief Minister of Delhi. Politics, as we know it, demands full-time concentration and commitment. Unfortunately, Arvind Kejriwal’s track record has not been impressive. He squandered his mandate by ‘sacrificing’ power within a short span of 49 days thus forcing fresh elections. In one of his dharnas, he proudly announced that he was an anarchist. The unfortunate handling of the midnight raids at Khirkee Extension sadly does not inspire confidence. It would be unfortunate if Arvind Kejriwal resorts to the same brand of politics that he has perfected. The politics of disruption in the end unfortunately does not bring any productive results. It may well be positive if Arvind Kejriwal learns that the mandate he has got this time is for him to govern and agitating at every second issue will not help.

The citizens of Delhi have voted decisively that focuses on governance. In fulfilling such a decisive mandate, the challenge remains to stay grounded and work on implementation of such promises. During its election campaign, the party repeatedly raked up the issue of policing since the Delhi Police is under the Ministry of Home Affairs and promised full statehood for Delhi. There is no doubt that the intent deserves to be congratulated but it requires extensive deliberation among different stakeholders that would rest its premise based through consensus. It would also require adequate support from the Central Government. It would be premature to judge whether if AAP would be willing to compromise on its original stand. Secondly, it is natural for citizens to expect quick delivery of results given the high expectations. In the age of social media and constant media glare, every passing day would bring forward uncomfortable questions especially if the government fails to perform.

The lack of a credible opposition in the Delhi Assembly is disturbing. Given that his party is known for practicing a brand of economics that deviates towards the extreme left, it is worrying to learn how the assembly would function. Given that the BJP has just three seats in the assembly, it would be anyone’s guess on their limited role in the decision making process. The absolute power that they enjoy in the assembly due to their numerical strength makes them vulnerable to succumb to temptations and behave in an autocratic manner. The lack of a credible opposition could also result in a loss of focus making them complacent.

Internal contradictions certainly remain as one of the biggest threats for the party. The contradictions on various issues such as the implementation of free WiFi, installation of CCTV cameras, full statehood and the lack of a vision document remain unanswered. Arvind Kejriwal is known for his autocratic style of functioning, given the way many founder members and senior members were expelled from the party for questioning him. It remains to be seen whether if the AAP can aspire to expand its wings nationally given the tiny clique that Arvind Kejriwal seems to retain. With a diverse background among members, it is heartening to realise that many of them do not have corruption cases pending against them. However, as experience shows, personal integrity alone cannot be a measure for good governance.

Hence, given the media perceptions of Arvind Kejriwal as an autocratic leader with high ambitions, it would only be rational to hope that internal contradictions coupled with infighting and the difficulty in implementation of these promises that the AAP will not be able to complete a full term in Delhi. Given the previous experience, it remains to be seen whether if Arvind Kejriwal has the maturity to commit himself for a demanding job. Lastly, history teaches us that absolute power has the ability to corrupt an individual. Whether or not, this perception holds true for a city-state such as Delhi remains to be seen. 

1 comment:

Vishal Kataria said...

Interesting point of view Akshay.. the AAP has already shown that its taste for drama never dies... wonder how they will work in the 5 years to come and what consequences will it bring for Delhi...