The AAP’s dictatorial ways

Published: March 8, 2015
The writer is the editor and translator of Why I write: Essays by Saadat Hasan Manto, published by Westland in 2014. His book, India, Low Trust Society, will be published by Random House

The writer is the editor and translator of Why I write: Essays by Saadat Hasan Manto, published by Westland in 2014. His book, India, Low Trust Society, will be published by Random House

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) this week disappointed its volunteers and supporters by acting as petty and as thuggish as other Indian parties. Its leadership under Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal pushed out two of the party’s most respected members from an influential party body. The two men, scholar Yogendra Yadav and lawyer Prashant Bhushan, had offended Kejriwal when, in the most polite and respectful terms, they asked the party to observe the principle of devolution of power. Currently, Kejriwal is Delhi’s chief minister and the party’s national head (something which even Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not and something Sonia Gandhi never was). This violated the party’s one-man one-post principle, according to the two, and this is of course irrefutable.

The media got a whiff of the controversy, though apparently in some form or the other the issue had been bubbling away for some time, and there was pressure on the party to do something. On March 2, Kejriwal tweeted twice to address the problem. He wrote: “I am deeply hurt and pained by what is going on in the party. This is betrayal of trust that Delhi posed in us. I refuse to be drawn into this ugly battle. Will concentrate only on Delhi’s governance. Janta ke bharose ko kisi bhi halat mein tootne nahin doonga. (I will not let the people’s trust be broken).”

This conflation of ‘us’ and ‘I’ was typical. Who had betrayed this trust? According to Kejriwal, those demanding, politely and gently I repeat, that the AAP not become a tyranny. All through this time, while claiming he would not be drawn into the matter, Kejriwal left it to his boys to attack Yadav and Bhushan. These included the former journalists Ashutosh (famous for weeping on television over one story) and Ashish Khetan, who was so carried away by his master’s brief that he had to later apologise for his language on Twitter.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going and Kejriwal got going, running away on a 10-day break. He was asked to remain for the meeting to decide this matter of ‘indiscipline’ but chose to let his lieutenants deal with Yadav and Bhushan. A report said Kejriwal was putting himself above the fray but that is untrue as events were to show. A blog post by one of the AAP members who was moved by the injustice to Yadav and Bhushan then revealed what happened at the meeting. Kejriwal’s Deputy Chief Minister, Manish Sisodia, heard a proposal from the condemned men that the policy body be reconstituted without the two men (and expanded to include others). The other option was that the body remain in the same form but the two men would switch themselves off and be inactive. Both seem reasonable compromises.

However, the meeting took a break in which reports said Kejriwal was consulted on the phone. A vote was taken and the two men were dismissed by a narrow vote. The Kejriwal camp assumed, in the Indian style, that this was the piling on of humiliation. They were wrong. The two men behaved in the most dignified manner and refused to take their complaint to the media. This swung all sympathy towards them, but the real problem for Kejriwal lay elsewhere. The ugliness and bitterness has damaged the party’s most priceless asset — its base of volunteers that separates it from other political groups. These volunteers are from the middle class and not insensitive to the sort of thing that they were witnessing. They were anguished and let their emotions be known, Twitter and Facebook being particularly good for this sort of thing.

When the Kejriwal group realised their mistake, they finally shut up. Ashutosh and Khetan stopped the kind of aggressive tweeting they had been indulging in, under instruction from Kejriwal no doubt. The chief minister has remained silent as well, but he will be forced to eat his words and address the issue when he returns. That he should have been threatened by Yadav, one of the party’s most eloquent (in my opinion also its most knowledgeable) leaders, shows a troubling side to Kejriwal. The incident also demonstrates that a totally opportunistic person like my friend Shazia Ilmi was right. She said, on leaving the AAP and joining the BJP, that it was dictatorial in many ways. We laughed at her then, but who can say today she was wrong?

Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • C. Nandkishore
    Mar 8, 2015 - 3:35AM

    Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Kejriwal has lost his bearings.Recommend

  • ahmed41
    Mar 8, 2015 - 8:52AM

    @C. Nandkishore:

    It is about POWER !

    Behind every ” AAM Admi “, there should be an extraordinary woman !!!Recommend

  • JSM
    Mar 8, 2015 - 9:38AM

    Net elections, congress returns everywhere- in Centre and States. And easy to say why.Recommend

  • Bewildered
    Mar 8, 2015 - 12:22PM

    Dictatorship is not that bad if the real intentions are making progress and improving the lives of the ordinary people. Even a cursory gloss over history reveals that most of the nations progressed, or at least started progressing, only under dictatorships and authoritarian rules. Do I need to give you examples to prove my point?Recommend

  • observer
    Mar 8, 2015 - 1:25PM

    Well, You can not fool all the people all the time.

    Truth has this annoying habit of surfacing where you least expect it.

    Arvind Kejriwal is only showing his true colours.Recommend

  • Gp65
    Mar 8, 2015 - 3:10PM

    Dream on. Congress is losing in state after state and has been thrown out of power in 5 states where it was earlier in power. Barring Delhi, where BJP preserved its voteshare but lst number of seats, BJP has been dramatically improing ist tally in every single state election and is part of ruling coalition. It also performed extremely well in local elections in Assam and MO that were held AFTER the Delhi state elections.

    I am not sure who you think would be the Congress leader – Rahul? Who wold be its PM candidate?Recommend

  • Hella
    Mar 8, 2015 - 5:03PM

    @JSM, doesn’t matter who rules India, Congress, BJP, nothing changes for the common man. Now even AAP is proving to be no different.Recommend

  • Rakib
    Mar 8, 2015 - 5:58PM

    @JSM: If you mean Congress as in INC, the oldest political party of India, it appears unlikely to revive in foreseeable future. If you mean “Congressism”-a state of mind-as manifest in terms of attitude, aptitude & lassitude, the party currently ruling at Centre has shown great promise to out-Congress the Congress & the Delhi CM is ensuring that AAP is nothing but Congress by another name. Its relatively easy for India to get rid of Congress, impossible to rid itself of that “culture” since it was INC which is the mother of political culture of India.. Recommend

  • Mar 8, 2015 - 7:03PM

    A lot of what the author has written is speculation; consider “…under instruction from
    Kejrival, no doubt” The author should not grind out rumors and innuendos, under
    assumptions. He should have his bona fides. Here he is skating on mala fides.
    The author’s reputation just went down several notches. Something he cannot afford.
    Still if you look at the whole diorama,..Lord Modi is still way ahead of Kejrival in the
    repugnancy index. Recommend

  • Mar 8, 2015 - 7:14PM

    Ah,.. the trials and tribulations of writing a column. When there are no news
    then invent some. Throw in shock value for good measure. The author’s needless
    diatribe on Kejrival is perplexing. To say the least. He could have picked on, say a
    Sadhvi Prachi, or Mohan Bhagwat, or the out on bail, recently freed Amit Shah, even
    a Bhagwan would have been a better subject. But Kejrival? The author is just fishing.Recommend

  • Abhishek
    Mar 8, 2015 - 7:22PM

    I knew from the beginning that all of this inner party democracy, Lokpal, transparency and all the other things are fraud. Further, now instead of remaining satisfied of type 6 Bungalows that they get as per the rule, they are asking for type 7 bungalows. So much even for VIP culture!!! rest asured that anything comes after any revolution is and has been always fraud.Recommend

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