Common Concerns about the Aam Aadmi Party

10 Common Concerns about the Aam Aadmi Party
-Uday Dandavate

In the spirit of addressing concerns of some of the AAM Aadmi Party supporters, I invited people to express their views online. Here are my comments on some of the key points that came up during our interactions.

1. Why is Aam Aadmi Party so impatient in going national? It should have first set example of good governance in Delhi before going national.

Since the beginning of the anti-corruption movement the focus and appeal of AAP has been pan India. Unlike the All Assam Student Union (AASU) or Telagu Desam, Aam Aadmi party was not formed with a state level mandate to protect local pride. Most Aam Aadmi party supporters voted for the party because they want AAP to change the culture of politics in India.

AAP did not get a mandate to govern Delhi. AAP won 28 seats whereas BJP won 31. Once it became clear that BJP was unable to form a government. AAP took the opportunity to use a brief stint in the government to test its concepts in participatory democracy, despite criticism from both the media and a section of its own supporters. Rather than letting the assembly be dissolved after the BJP declined to form a government, AAP decided to treat Delhi as a laboratory for experimenting the concept of Swaraj, knowing fully well that the experiment would last only as long as the congress party would allow it to last or until AAP leadership decided it was time to extend the experiment to a larger canvass- India. 49 days was not a long enough time to govern in a traditional sense, but it was enough time to discover the challenges of building an organization and cultivating a disciplined cadre to translate beliefs into action. When AAP gets a clear mandate to govern Delhi, it will be better

prepared and wiser because it is learning from its mistakes and has gained confidence from its successes.

For a congress party, which is used to propping up minority governments, and armtwisting them into submission, the experience of supporting a nonsubmissive AAP government was indeed an unexpected experience. Instead of offering the congress party protection from their corrupt deeds the AAP government provided the Delhi citizens a quick trailer of their earnest desire to keep the promises made during the campaign and to start the process of punishing the corrupt, howsoever powerful they might be.

2. Supporting the Khap Panchayats and Somnath Bharati’s midnight activism have revealed Aam Aadmi party’s regressive social outlook. This controversy surrounding Khap Panchayats was raked up after Yogendra Yadav’s statement to the press. It is important to understand what he said. “All castes tend to have their social organizations, which do internal dispute resolution. We certainly acknowledge the right of all such organizations to exist. They have a right to exist and perform a legitimate role because we do not want every social dispute to go to the court of law. The problem arises when the dispute resolution is done through cohesion…when the law of land is broken or when killings and murders are defended in the name of some adjectives like honor killing, etc. We are absolutely unopposed to compromising any coercion, violation of law or any killing.” He clarified that “AAP will not fall before the feet of these community organizations for the sake of votes”. Arvind Kejriwal also clarified, “"Khap Panchayats are a group of people who come together. There is no bar on people to assemble in this country … (But) whenever they take a wrong decision, whenever they take an illegal decision, they ought to be punished."

Banning castist or communal organizations is not a solution to eradicating inequality in Indian society. The difficult path of social reforms chosen by people like Ambedkar, Jyotiba and Savitribai Fule and more recently by Narendra Dabholkar stands greater chance of success in challenging the orthodoxy and rallying progressive forces. A secular democracy must fight regressive ideas through public education. While several progressive minded people were initially alarmed by the reports of AAP support for Khap panchayats, a closer look at what Yogendra Yadav and Arvind Kejriwal actually said clarifies their secular and progressive credentials. Likewise, midnight activism by Somnath Bharati against alleged sex and drug trade in Delhi created similar outrage amongst progressive Indians. The claims of African women have not been verified yet. The videos from the media and those released by the AAP do not support the claims of the women that Bharati led a mob or an assault on them. The matter has been investigated through independent and impartial judicial inquiry and a report has recently been submitted to the Lt. Governor of Delhi. Most local citizens attribute police’s refusal to follow Somnath Bharati’s orders to connivance between the police and local drug and sex trade. If, if the inquiry proves Somnath Bharati or other people guilty, they should face the legal consequences. 3. Recent violent spat between the supporters of AAP and the BJP in Delhi and Lucknow makes people wonder if at all there is any difference between the Congress, the BJP and the AAP with regard to hooliganism in politics. Indulgence in violence is unacceptable. Keeping the cadres in check is the responsibility of political leaders. The apostle of peace- Mahatma Gandhi also had to suspend his agitation when it took a violent turn. AAP did not sit silently after violence broke out (as Modi did during anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat), nor did AAP justify the violence as Rajeev Gandhi did the massacre of Sikhs in

1984. He quickly apologized for the acts of AAP volunteers. The fact is that Aam Aadmi Party is a product of people’s restlessness with the corrupt system and AAP leadership is determined to train its impatient cadres in non-violent Satyagraha. 4. In its ranks Aam Aadmi party has supporters of Naxalite movement. If AAP were to occupy power, naxalism will grow. On the contrary, if Aam Aadmi party were to play a key role in shaping public policies, the Naxalite movement will recede. There is a direct link between unchecked exploitation of the poor by the state machinery and growth of Naxalism. When the government machinery failed to serve the weakest sections of the society and instead became an exploitative machine, the poor and the landless were driven to arms only as a last resort to re-claiming their dignity. It is obvious that the same anger against the oppressive state machinery is driving weaker sections of the society to the AAP. They perceive in the AAP a hope for dismantling the corrupt system, which is thriving with the connivance of both the BJP and the Congress. 5. AAP leaders only know how to protest, how will they govern India? The ruling party and the opposition share equal responsibilities in making a democracy work. Unchecked governance, howsoever efficient, will inevitably lead to unchecked misuse of power. The emergency era during 1975-77 has proved that in the absence of opposition Indira Gandhi’s administration committed atrocities that could be compared to atrocities committed by dictators worldwide. Shaping national discourse through dialogue and dissent is a critical aspect of establishing a clear vision and a consensus for national development. The congress party through its dynastic politics and Narendra Modi through his authoritarian style have only facilitate fast decline of democracy in India. On the other hand, within a very short time of its founding

the AAP is already dictating the national discourse for clean politics and setting public policy benchmarks for other state governments to follow. The AAP represents a true dissenting voice of India and is providing provocation for alternative models of development. Regardless of who will form the government in Delhi, AAP will be in a best position to serve as the major opposition party that can hold the feet of the ruling party and the administration to fire and engage the imagination of everyday people. The AAP is the only party will keep the interest of common citizens at heart. The AAP has made the commitment to engage citizens in dictating public policies and in serving as watchdogs against corruption. 6. With people like Medha Patkar in its ranks AAP comes across as anti development, whereas Narendra Modi has the ability to cut red tape and implement projects efficiently. Greed for consuming nature’s resources and scant respect for the rights of native population, has led humanity to the brink of ecological disaster. National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM) an alliance of grass root level organizations who champion the need for a just and sustainable development has been instrumental in ensuring that megalomaniac policy makers are restrained from upsetting ecological balance and forced to respect the human rights of communities being displaced by mega projects. The NAPM has joined the AAP campaign and has offered to serve as the watchdog of AAP’s policies to help make India a world leader in sustainable development. Just as without Martin’s Luther King Jr. movement it would have been hard to envision African American population of the US getting equal rights, or without Ralf Nadar’s activism it would have been difficult to imagine passing of laws for protection of consumer rights, watchful activism of Medha Patkar and her colleagues from NAPM has made India cognizant of the need for environmentally responsible policies. On the other hand Narendra Modi

has surrendered his administration to the interests of a small group of industrialists. He has diverted natural resources to help them conduct their business without interruption. A large crowd gathered in Ahmedabad recently to listen to Arvind Kejriwal has made Narendra Modi very nervous. He must be remembering Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. 7. AAP is only an urban phenomenon. Howsoever compelling its mission of eradication corruption, the rural population has not yet bought into AAP’s vision. The need for a party that will not sell itself out to the corrupt is a pan-India dream. Based on previous experiences- such as the movement for Total Revolution launched by Jayprakash Narayan in mid 70’s, and the anti corruption movement led by V.P. Sigh, it is clear that when an icon of hope catches the imagination of the masses, craving for getting out of the abyss spreads fast. It is a fact that with the fast declining credibility of the congress party, Narendra Modi appeared on the political scene of India as an alternative. However, as the anti-corruption movement gained momentum and ordinary citizens, traditionally averse to participating in politics, took to streets to assert their point of view, the Aam Aadmi party’s bold stand against the corrupt establishment has began to resonate with people’s simmering anger. People realize that both the congress and the BJP are a part of the same system. A number of police officers, who traditionally have great respect for a clear line of authority, have begun to flock to the BJP. On the other hand, a number of social workers, representatives of NGO’s, intellectuals, entrepreneurs, professionals, academicians and creative people are drawn to the idea of disruptive innovation offered by the AAP. The results of Delhi elections have

demonstrated that AAP’s appeal cuts across caste and religious divisions. Its message has already reached rural India. As the campaign picks up AAP’s prospects will improve just as they did during the campaign for Delhi elections. 8. AAP has a narrow program focused on corruption. Governance is more complex than just blaming the corrupt. Corruption touches every aspect of life. At the same time the AAP leadership is cognizant of the need for social reforms and sustainable and fair development. A number of professionals who are drawn to the AAP are engaged in studying models of governance that have helped countries around the world bring prosperity to its citizens through participatory democracy. Young volunteers who have taken a break from careers involving state of art knowledge and technologies manage AAP campaign. While focusing on defeating the corrupt congress and BJP AAP is committed to harnessing leading edge ideas and technologies to establish a new development model. AAP’s support base comes to a large extent from the younger generation. The first time voters in Delhi formed the core constituency of the AAP. This generation is less concerned about pre-conceived models and ideologies and more eager to eradicate corruption and give their imagination a chance. They have access to the Internet and have got accustomed to the Open Source model of contributing their own ideas for a larger good. Crowd sourcing has become a reliable method of finding patterns in people’s needs and aspirations, more reliable than any expert opinion. In this background the youth are less loyal to centralized control and delivery mechanism and more tuned into the fuzzy space of collaboration and co-creation. As long as the intent to harness the imagination and energy of youth and wisdom of the honest citizens remains at the heart of AAP’s agenda it may be destined for

successes beyond anyone’s imagination, because the awakening of Nation’s conscience will define AAP’s future role in serving the nation.

9. Instead of exercising his power as the chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal resorted to street demonstrations in Delhi causing hardships to the citizens of Delhi. Street demonstrations are a part of Delhi life. Every political party worldwide resorts to mobilizing public opinion through street demonstrations. The position of the Delhi Chief Minister is different from other Chief Ministers in India. The police do not report to the Chief Minister, Delhi Assembly also has to seek permission of the home ministry through the LT. Governor before enacting a law. The congress chief minister Sheila Dixit campaigned for changing this situation without success through her entire ten year long tenure as the Chief Minister. Recognizing the strong grass root level support the AAP has generated amongst the people of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal used a public venue to bring focus on an issue that remained a part of futile backroom negotiations during Sheila Dixit’s tenure. Rather than becoming a puppet holding a Chief Minister position at the mercy of congress high command, Arvind Kejriwal demonstrated that he was irrepressible when it comes to exercising his powers as the Chief Minister, to serve his constituents.

10. Arvind Kejriwal is a polarizing figure. He likes to point accusing finger at people, instead of taking everyone along.

India is not in a mood to collaborate with the corrupt. People have lost faith in existing system to deliver justice and want AAP to take a bold stand and demolish the corrupt system mercilessly. People have a real bad attitude

about the established political system and Arvind Kejriwal’s no nonsense style reflects the mood of the nation.

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