By Prerna Grewal:
Is Arvind Kejriwal a fox in a lamb’s coat? Does the desire for power, and inherent arrogance, lie under his cloak of simplicity and honesty?
Aam Aadmi party (AAP), the bright light of interminable hope, suddenly seems to be foreshadowed in controversy.
“I quit, I have not come into AAP for this nonsense. I believed him; I backed Arvind for principles not horse-trading.” – Anjali Damania
Damania’s statement reflects the sentiment that the majority harboured regarding Kejriwal and the AAP. Against the communalism and fundamentalism of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and prolonged feudalistic rule of the Congress, the AAP was looked upon as a fresh alternative. The Aam Aadmi’s aspirations and expectations got intricately attached to it. Most people believed in Kejriwal, as an honest man of logic and reasoning. Recent events, however, have sparked off an ambience of doubt and deceit.
The party witnessed a major rift, with Kejriwal and his loyalists on one side and Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan on the other. This was almost immediately followed by the release of Arvind Kejriwal’s recorded conversations (held in 2014 before elections). The first released conversation was between Kejriwal and Rajesh Garg, while the second between Kejriwal and Irfanulla Khan.
In the first tape, Kejriwal was alleged of trying to break the Congress and attain the support of six congress MLAs from outside in order to form a government. The second tape posited Kejriwal as indulging in communal politics and denying seats to the Muslims for he believed that they anyway had the support of minority community in their pocket.
The overwhelming majority with which the AAP stormed the elections is a manifestation of the trust and support they enjoy from the people of Delhi. The rift in the party therefore came as a big blow to people’s expectations. However, the after effect of this blow was no less in its intensity. The release of Kejriwal’s recorded conversation led to AAP leader Anjali Damania’s resignation and had a negative effect on Kejriwal’s image as the people’s benefactor.
The question therefore arises: Are terms such as “horse trading” being applied to Kejriwal as a result of an emotional outburst? AAP leader Ashish Khetan’s comment is significant in this regard – “Using the term horse-trading is far too harsh and irresponsible. We neither lured them with money nor did we offer them with any gains. Political realignments are not new in this country.”
Khetan’s comment in defense of the party does make sense. Even if Kejriwal was hungry for power, as he has been alleged to be by the BJP, I believe that he was hungry for power for the benefit of the larger community. Today, actions of the BJP outrage us, the state of the Congress party disappoints us, and the most we do is articulate it through one mean or the other. The AAP, however, decided to do something about the situation and realized that in order to bring change on a larger level, it needs to acquire some kind of power.
Former AAP MLA Rajesh Garg claimed that he did not release the audio but had passed it on to AAP leader Kumar Vishwas since he had asked for it. Vishwas hit back at Rajesh Garg by alleging that he was trying to blackmail him in return for a party ticket. Vishwas tweeted “… you tried to exchange a Vidhansabha ticket with this audio.. remember? Denied a ticket, u r free to do whatever u wish”.
The contents of the second tape too can be justified. What Kejriwal said regarding the Muslims might be labelled as “communal”, but it can also not be denied that it was nothing more than the brutal truth.
The question of AAP being hungry for power can also be re-examined when put in perspective with the fact that while AAP was contesting in the Supreme court for re- election in Delhi, the BJP seemed to be least interested and postponed it for about 6-8 months.
The factors brought out by Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan post the split in AAP are, however, a little worrisome. The letter jointly drafted by Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan reads,
“Kejriwal was adamant on formation of government. We opposed this and insisted that it would send a very wrong signal among the volunteers across the country, as Congress had recently been rejected by Delhi voters completely. However, Kejriwal went ahead with his efforts on formation of government …”
In an email conversation in late November last year, Bhushan had said that AAP was so desperate to win the Delhi elections that it was selecting candidates based on their “win-ability” factor.
In this case, it is worth considering if arrogance of power has indeed taken a toll on the Chief Minister. However, as I pointed out earlier, politics is not an easy game and requires deployment of various tactics. Perhaps Kejriwal chose to do the same in order to win elections. At the same time, given his resignation as Chief Minister in 2014, perhaps there was an element of desperation shared with a desire of hitting back.
One must remember, however, that most of these statements are from last year. Rather than being concerned with the past, one must focus on the present. Kejriwal has been sworn in as the Chief Minister and has already acted upon some of the promises made.
Irrespective of the allegations levelled against them, even Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan hope for party unity and see the rift as “an opportunity to strengthen AAP”. Internal conflict is almost inevitable in politics, and so are controversies. At the same time, these are influential in keeping the members on their feet. One must refrain from jumping to conclusions and rather than being swept by one sided opinion, adopt an analytical approach towards these controversies.