By Mehernaz Patel:
Dissent is a word thrown around fairly often in our current political vocabulary. Despite, its common usage, its importance is often forgotten in a highly competitive democracy like India, where garnering enough votes to come to power can often seem like the first thing political parties base their priorities on.
This has been dubbed as “winnability” by Yogendra Yadav. He has criticized this in his and Prashant Bhushan’s open letter following the events of yesterday, which culminated in their removal from the AAP’s National Executive, along with Anand Kumar and Amit Jha. The AAP in its interactions with the media and also on its official Facebook page lists the reason for this as “their anti-party activities”.
Further, the update also states:
“The National Council has also authorized the PAC to take disciplinary action against any member who, without authorization, issues media statement against party line and decisions in a bid to tarnish the party’s image.”
From their allegations, it seems that those removed have committed an error in their statements released to the media that apparently tarnish the party’s reputation as a whole. This isn’t a very new thing to anyone even remotely interested in the current Indian political scenario. Factionalism has always been a part of and a major detriment to India’s parliamentary system that not only results in a dilution of ideological standards, but also hinders crucial legislation processes.
Interestingly, when the AAP Convenor Arvind Kejriwal first resigned from the post of Chief Minister of Delhi in 2013, it was because the then minority government couldn’t pass the anti-corruption legislation. These beliefs in the values that define the AAP, once their USP, seem to be deteriorating under the pressures of internal bickering. For example, although Yadav and Bhushan have, for a while, kept their silence on the issue, their letter brings to light a number of reasons they believe they saw fit to raise their voices against the prominent party members and their decisions. The most disconcerting reason is that a Lokpal needed to be set up to investigate into the candidature of some MLA hopefuls.
Yadav, even went on to say that this was brought to his attention by volunteers. He added that these candidates were either under-qualified or in possession of a criminal record. He lamented at “making winnability the main criterion.” Another complaint that prominently featured in the letter was the fact that the state divisions were not being given the autonomy to contest in the state wise elections.
These are two in a long list of criticisms against what was till recently one of the most respected parties in India, which was built upon the trust of voters and the input of a number of grassroots workers. The lack of transparency amongst party members, the absence of a secret ballot, and the outing of the party’s most known and loved faces is not in any way helpful to its image. Even the Delhi Congress chief, Maken, has commented on how the Delhi government is one of the few that has failed to assert the losses in agriculture caused by the freak weather.
Is this how the AAP is choosing to reward the loyalty of its base? By engaging in the same dirty politics that the other parties have been critiqued for? The way AAP has been behaving recently is alarming, and it shows a lack of transparency in their reasoning. Actions such as not allowing for anonymous votes, not considering the 54 members who walked out on the party leadership’s decision to not let Admiral Ramdas attend the Executive meeting, and then removing him as the leader of the internal Lokpal don’t bode well for the party. This isn’t how they are warranted to treat those volunteers who have worked to support this party.
A party that has the words “directly responsible to the voters who elected them” seared into its vision cannot fall apart and more importantly, it cannot treat dissent with intolerance. If the AAP, that has thus far stood up for its own members is trying to weed out those who stand against its “central” leadership, there is no doubt that it has little time left in power, let alone fulfilling the promises of effective work to the people.