By Kainat Sarfaraz for Youth Ki Awaaz:
The Aam Aadmi Party was created with the objective of contributing towards a more transparent democracy. However, the recent infighting has raised questions about the party’s internal democracy itself. In March, a series of leaked letters revealed that some of the senior leaders in AAP were unhappy with the way the party was functioning. From candidate selection to faulty donations, the party has been accused of indulging in dishonest means. Leaders like Yogendra Yadav, Prof Anand Kumar and Prashant Bhushan were ousted from the National Executive of the Aam Aadmi Party after they made such claims.
As a comeback of sorts, these leaders initiated a political reform movement few weeks ago. Named as Swaraj Abhiyan, the movement aims to bring about reforms and make space for alternative politics. The movement has support of all the AAP volunteers who were disenchanted by the lack of internal democracy in the party. Leaders of the Abhiyan have repeatedly claimed that their only aim is to create a new political agenda for the country and work towards bringing democratic changes in AAP itself. The movement intends to work at grass-root level and create the platform and space for debate, discussion and dissent.
To know more, Youth Ki Awaaz got in touch with Professor Anand Kumar, who is one of the founders of this movement.
Q. In an interview with Hindustan Times, you have been quoted as saying, “There is no cold war (in AAP). We’re trying to get closer.” Given the current situation, would you still stand by that statement?
A. There was no cold war till the open and aggressive stance of Shri Arvind Kejriwal, as was evident in his audio tape about Prashant Bhushan, YY, Ajit Jha and me. Then it became an all out attack for eliminating all dissenting voices including Lokpal Ramdas, and NE members Prof Rakesh Sinha and Vishal Sharma. The elimination drive has now percolated to state and district levels. From the expelled leaders side there is equally forceful campaign in the form of Swaraj Abhiyan to claim the heritage of swaraj and anti corruption movement.
Q. There is a growing perception that instead of being a reformist movement, Swaraj Abhiyan aims to be a political party and it is currently gathering support before making formal announcements. Your comments on this.
A. It is not a misplaced enquiry, because there was a visible minority of 25% participants who have voted in favour of creating a new political party to carry on the process of alternative politics. After expulsion of the supporters of internal reformist line like YY, Ajit Jha, PB and me, the supporters of creating a new party have increased in a sizeable manner.
Q. From Jayalalithaa to PM Modi, personality cult politics rules the roost today and yet it has been a major bone of contention for Swaraj Samwad. In the era of PR and media blitzkrieg, how do you think it is possible to abstain from it and still win elections?
A. Politics of personality cult has not been the major game changer in recent elections, otherwise Congress investment in promoting personality of Rahul Gandhi may have yielded better results. It is always problems plus programs plus processes of connecting with people plus personality or the face of the campaign.
Q. You have also mentioned in your Facebook post that the party has shifted towards ‘autocratic politics’. What are the chances of a cooperative relationship with the party in future, if any?
A. Unity in action is the only way for diverse parties for working together on the basis of a ‘win-win’ approach. In case of AAP, Swaraj Abhiyan is the most unacceptable part of the present political spectrum. There are more chances of increasing distance and disagreements in Delhi than proximity and cooperation, as these are the last things in the wish list of AAP leadership at the moment.
Q. On one hand, the law minister of Delhi has been accused of having a fake degree. While on the other, the Delhi government has set up an anti-corruption helpline. In the presence of such contrasting scenarios, how will you rate the Aam Aadmi Party’s governance in Delhi?
A. There are more deficits than dividends in the last 10 weeks of governance by AAP in Delhi. It has not moved on the anti corruption front beyond a telephone number and innumerable hoardings with the photographs of the CM. It was expected that the announcement of the Lokayukt will be one of the top most priorities of the AAP govt. in power, similarly there is declining transparency in governance with increasing hostility towards media in general. Inaccessibility and non-availability of the ministers and the MLA’s is another area of common criticism.
Q. From being involved in the Janata Party movement to this, you have witnessed and been a part of two different eras. How has the democracy and political scenario grown since those times?
A. There are paradoxical trends in today’s politics in comparison to the JP movement and Janata party government days. We have a much larger social base for anti corruption forces. But there is much greater individualism also; it looks paradoxical because we do not have any one on the political horizon today who can be comparable with towering leaders like JP, Morarji, Charan Singh, Jag Jeevan Ram, Vajpayee, Raj Narayan and George Fernandes, but there is too much individualism and hero worship in the politics of today. Secondly there was much higher cautiousness about the need of democratic values and practices. Today we see more and more pragmatism bordering opportunism.