By Sumit Jain:
The last fifteen days have certainly not been the nicest for Indian politics. I am not talking about the attacks made by BJP’s Subramanian Swamy on Raghuram Rajan or Finance Ministry adviser Arvind Subramanian, but the drama going on in Delhi between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung and the Bhartiya Janta Party. With political bashing touching another low (compared to the election time), it seems a lot remains to unfold.
AAP was formed in 2012 when there was a rift between Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal over entering electoral battles. The party was based on the promise of delivering honest politics, a claim made by its party members even today. After forming a minority government (with the support of congress) and then resigning over the lack of consensus for passing the Jan Lokpal bill (one of its key pre-poll promises) in the State Assembly, the party got a thumping majority with 67 seats in an assembly of 70 in 2015.
Since then, their strategy and ambitions seem clear. The party is campaigning hard for the coming state assembly elections in Punjab and has announced it will be fighting the ballot in Goa, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat (all NDA ruled states); going all-out to fulfill its national ambitions. It tried to do the same in the 2014 general elections in a hustle but their plans could not materialize because of poor planning and strategy making. The party then took note of some basic issues like health and education in Delhi and then capitalized on some of its policies like slashing the prices of electricity and water bills, allocating 23 per cent of the Delhi government’s annual budget to education sector and establishing mohalla clinics in the capital. While their achievements, like the implementation of odd-even rule, made in the past fifteen months will remain debatable (the party at large has failed to convince the population about its positive effect on the environment), what many people have failed to observe is the reason behind its continuous tussle with the BJP at centre.
AAP realises it has 67 MLAs and few MPs in a country which sends more than 4,000 MLAs to state assemblies and almost 700 MPs to the Parliament. For if it has to accomplish its national goal, remaining LIVE in national media is mandatory (nation-wide media coverage of party’s agendas was one of the important pillars in BJP’s strategy as well for 2014 general elections). While launching good policies do bring some media attention (at least in Delhi), AAP was (is) not content with the same. It seems it has decided to drag the central government in issues related to the governance of Delhi and elsewhere. While it then loses on cooperation and support from the government of India, coverage on prime-time and front page of national dailies is guaranteed. The spread of social media has made this job quite easy for the party (BJP leaders, now famous for remaining pro-active on Facebook/Twitter, too used this quite effectively in 2014 general elections).
To say that the behaviour of government of India towards AAP was noble will be grave injustice to the latter. In fact from control of Delhi Police to that of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), it is the central government which has proved to be a trouble-maker in the whole scenario. AAP tried its best to wrestle the control of ACB in order to probe the charges put against Ms. Sheila Dixit (ex-CM of Delhi). It even requested the centre to handover the control of Delhi Police to UT government to improve the deteriorating law situation. But the Delhi party failed in both the cases. Obstacles, like delay in forwarding the bills and in day-to-day bureaucracy, introduced through the office of LG were (are) another hurdle for it to overcome. The raid conducted by CBI on Mr. Kejriwal’s secretary’s office guaranteed some high-voltage drama.
But then even AAP has now learned a bit of politics. While it is sometimes a victim of the hegemony of the central government, it has mostly learned to play its cards. The party deliberately raises the issue of full statehood for Delhi to match its political ambitions. The party is quick to gain points by using social media to put the blame on central government in case of worsening condition of law and order (the Delhi Police and ACB both come under centre’s purview). Some stern actions taken by ACB/Delhi Police like naming Mr. Kejriwal in water tanker scam act as catalyst in implementing AAP’s strategy of playing the victim card. Recent comments made by BJP MPs combined with ‘dharna’ outside his home assure national media coverage.
There is no doubt AAP is playing a dangerous game. Its amendment (suggesting removal of the post of Parliamentary Secretary from office of Profit) being rejected by the President of India, when other states have conveniently done so, suggests who the party is locking horns with. But it seems Mr. Kejriwal is unfazed and unmoved with all of this. He looks prepared to take on every obstacle that comes between his national dream. The strategy to implement ahead is, though dangerous, crystal clear.