Dismissing Kejriwal as an anarchist and trying to corner him on that score is unfair because the AAP is unlike any other party we have so far seen. It takes its strength directly from the people not just by way of votes but being participatory in its decisions, says Mahesh Vijapurkar.
When a crowd, however well-meaning, becomes a party, there are bound to be wrinkles, or even problems. The Aam Aadmi Party is encountering that in an in-your-face manner, two of them being Somnath Bharati and Kumar Vishwas who have some weight in the party. One is a minister; the other is set to challenge the fiefdom of the Gandhis in Amethi.
Bharati has not just been a minister who was defied by the Delhi police but as later security cameras revealed, had been at the hospital when the suspect women were put through medical tests. He was also, as a video capture showed, inside a shop at midnight purportedly demanding answers as to why they were open. He is clearly in the role of a vigilante.
Vishwas’s past, in the form of his poetry which he recited at mushairas as a profession, for a fee, have shown up some unpalatable verses and descriptions: one about a religious procession and another of nurses from Kerala. These are have been ferreted out from the past, thanks to YouTube, but it will haunt him and the AAP.
Whatever Bharati’s conduct that infamous night, it is up for scrutiny, with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress ensuring that their diggers were active looking for just anything damning. It is not so much to underline the correctness or otherwise of a word or deed but as a means to corner the AAP which continues to have an upper hand in Delhi, with Lok Sabha polls within shouting distance.
It is not that conventional parties have not goofed up. That they have and do on many serious issues is why we continue to have headline-making scams where the sums involved are mind-bogglingly huge. However, these very parties facing tough election prospects because of their misdeeds are out to sermonise the AAP. To that is politics, to the AAP, it is not -- it is an attempt to cleanse.
The AAP’s most visible, and obviously most powerful and maverick leader, Arvind Kejriwal has taken to the streets to demand the suspension of police officials who did not act when crimes were committed or purportedly being committed. When it is a political power game, as seen by the Congress, AAP would have to struggle to get its demands met. But unexpectedly, he continues to bat for Bharati.
Much as the AAP has in place some system of screening people who move upwards to party positions and to executive positions in the government, it is quite likely that the level of diligence may be inadequate. The way a person would conduct himself is hardly likely to be determined and digging into the poems of a poet who just reels them off, is near impossible. The party does have a problem in this area.
Wouldn’t it have been better for him to have jettisoned Bharati and push hard for the Delhi state government’s administrative control over the police force in the national capital? It may have, but the AAP would have been seen as caving in under pressure. His option has been to counter it by pressure by public action. Control over police is the crux and though all three parties -- AAP, the Congress and the BJP -- have been demanding full statehood for Delhi.
Once that is ensured, the police automatically come under the state instead of being managed by the Union home minister. It is ridiculous for the Union home minister to be concerned about a local police when serious other issues -- terrorism and spread of Maoism -- have not been decisively and adequately tackled. If what Kejriwal says about graft and transfer is true, then the preoccupation of the MHA is misplaced, even stupid.
That is why dismissing Kejriwal as an anarchist and trying to corner him on that score is unfair because the AAP is unlike any other party we have so far seen. It takes its strength directly from the people not just by way of votes but being participatory in its decisions. It is, as sociologist Shiv Viswanathan says, is also “hyphenating protest, participation, and empowerment and its first symptoms are often disorder”.
This protest post the formation of the government now is a manifestation of that disorder. When an established order, ossified but self-serving for the governors instead of being people-friendly emerges in their midst, there is bound to be a tumult among the practitioners of the old kind of politics. When outliers try to dictate terms, they are bound to shout ‘anarchy!’ and they have.
They have understood the implications of an AAP and its idea of being truly representative of the governed instead of a phalanx of the governors. If not uprooted, it threatens the way politics has been run, with a surface sense of propriety hiding the rot within. The battle in Delhi is between these two forces: participative versus patronising. But AAP is on course.
Image: Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia on dharna in New Delhi