By Abhishek Jha:
As more and more reports and revelations fly in, AAP seems to get into further trouble. The latest is a blog post by senior AAP leader Mayank Gandhi, which reveals that both Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan were ousted publicly from the political affairs committee, despite agreeing to voluntarily step down. The whole mud-slinging and muckraking started when a letter written by AAP ombudsman, Admiral L. Ramdas, was leaked, which was followed by a couple of more letters- one written by Prashant Bhushan and the other written jointly by Bhushan and Yadav. These letters ask for changes so that the party functions more transparently and democratically, while exposing the rift in the party to have existed for quite some time now. After Kejriwal offered to resign on February 26 as national convener, two camps became very much evident in the party, with each accusing the other on twitter and in the media.
The Cult Image of Kejriwal
But even as this continues, and people try to find or imagine whether Bhushan and Yadav had plans to revolt, the manner in which Arvind Kejriwal has responded to the situation is far from exemplary. Even as the party enjoyed a landslide victory in the Delhi elections last month, the concerns being raised were the same. AAP relies heavily on the cult image of Kejriwal. This is evident from the manner in which AAP’s campaigns were being led prior to the elections. In a manner not very different from BJP, the Aam Aadmi Party had slogans and posters that made Kejriwal the face of the party. This in itself is a problem if AAP has intentions of going nation-wide. In a linguistically and culturally diverse country like India, strong regional leaders are needed. In this light, if Arvind Kejriwal were to snub or get rid of its key leaders who are viewed variously as- and could possibly really be- the “conscience” and “backbone” of the part, it only makes the party weak.
Equally damning is the fact that he was absolutely adamant on getting them out of the PAC, when there existed only a difference of opinion on the method of functioning of the party.
Alternative Politics and AAP
The concerns being raised by Mayank Gandhi, Yadav, and Bhushan, now public, are also the concerns of the real aam aadmi. The great hope that the aam aadmi has put in the party is because it offers what is being called an “alternative politics” and not just an “alternate party“. Unlike the BJP or the Congress, the common man knew AAP to function in a manner in which all voices- including dissenting ones- are heard. However, the current developments argue different. Not only the voting seems to have been orchestrated to ensure that the majority voted Yadav and Bhushan out according to some reports, but the fact that Arvind Kejriwal would not even let them voluntarily step down reeks of a very autocratic person. This, while harming the party internally, will also malign its image in the eyes of the public whose expectations are very high. If the face of the party itself harms the party, it is bound to bring troubles in the elections too; for AAP does depend heavily on Kejriwal as of now.
The Sting Operation and More
Something else that points at the naivety with which the whole matter has been dealt with, is the sting operation done by Kejriwal’s aide Bibhav Kumar on a journalist. For one, recording the conversation was not ethical. Two, this cloak and dagger activity again points at the very issues of lack of communication and misunderstanding that have been pointed out by Ramdas and the beleaguered duo. As it appears, both Bhushan and Yadav have not been able to so much as talk personally to Arvind Kejriwal at all, despite major decisions having being taken against them. (“In the meantime, Bhushan sent two messages to Kejriwal, but he did not respond.“)
At this point, it is not only the leaks that make the party appear comical, as party leaders allege, but the whole functioning of the party itself. This is in addition to the autocratic ways in which volunteers are silenced or state executive committee’s gagged (This is the article that resulted from Dogra’s meeting with Yogendra Yadav).
How the issue is resolved and the dirt cleaned will depend heavily on how Arvind Kejriwal responds to it when he comes back from Bangalore, where he is currently undergoing treatment for his chronic cough and diabetes. While Yadav and Bhushan appear to be ready for reconciliation, provided the principles on which the party is built are honoured, one can only wait to see whether Arvind Kejriwal will compromise with his personal problems in working with the two.