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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 15, April 4, 2015

Where Are We Heading?

Sunday 5 April 2015, by SC



While the Aam Aadmi Party’s squabbles have snowballed with the summary expulsion of two of its founder-members—Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan—and some other leading figures in the party, like Anand Kumar and Ajit Jha, also meeting a similar fate, the organisation’s internal Lokpal Admiral L. Ramdas (Retd) too was suddenly removed from his post on March 29. In a dignified letter to the party the same evening, Admiral Ramdas wrote:

It is with grreat surprise and sadness that I heard today from a reporter that AAP no longer requires my services as its internal Lokpal.. I am disappointed that the leadership did not accord me the courtesy of informing first before making this decision public.

He underlined that the move was more surprising since the party had asked him on February 15 if he would serve another five years.

At no point in my tenure did the party express to me any dissatisfaction with my service. Neither did its leaders question my neutrality or objectivity.

This letter brings into focus the inability of the APP leadership, primarily its supremo and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, to countenance anyone, including the party’s internal Lokpal, speaking of consensus and unity among different contending factions within the organisation. Hence what is going to happen is a break-up of the party. All the latest events within the APP point to that direction.

In this context The Time of India has noted:

The AAP break-up also reflects what the party has in common with almost every other party in the country: they are one man or one family shows. There is little space for dissent or alternate viewpoints to be freely expressed. With internal democracy stifled, the rise of coteries who owe allegiance to a Supreme Leader is a natural consequence. The personality cult around Kejriwal is now both a strength and a weakness of AAP. Without his charismatic leadership, the party has limited vote catching appeal. But the excessive reliance on a single individual means that AAP has so far been unable to build an organisational structure that can endure over an extended period. The challenge before Kejriwal now is twofold. First, he must define what AAP stands for. Second, he must find enough people on his wavelength who also have the talent to implement his party’s vision for Delhi.

The basic issue is that of internal democracy. As The Indian Express has rightly observed,

what happens the next time someone disagrees with the Kejriwal/ party line and persists with it? The AAP will have to work out where to draw the lines so that it becomes more stable and less fragile. It is good, even refreshing, for a political party in India to have a lively and contentious inner life but it is counterproductive if the inability to give it a shape or resolution paralyses the party and singes its government.

Meanwhile the fringe elements within the BJP leadership and Narendra Modi Government enjoying the PM’s full backing and unstinted support continue to wreck havoc. The latest to do so is Union Minister Giriraj Singh who had several months ago advised Opposition leaders criticising Modi’s Pakistan policy to go and settle down in Pakistan thus embarrassing the BJP leadership. This time he has struck a new low even by his own standards with a racist insult directed at the Congress. He has publicly stated in Hajipur:

If Rajiv Gandhi had married a Nigerian woman, if she was not white-skinned, would the Congress have accepted her (Sonia Gandhi’s) leadership?

It not only embarrassed his party (the BJP) but resulted in a diplomatic problem with the Nigerian mission in New Delhi demanding an unconditional apology for Giriraj’s “unacceptable” comments.

As a consequence, Giriraj was pulled up by the BJP President, Amit Shah, directing him to apologise. He finally did so but the language he used—he was “sorry” if he had hurt Sonia Gandhi’s “sentiments”—showed that the exercise was definitely half-hearted and fell far short of expectations.

The Opposition demanded that Modi sack him from the Council of Ministers for such racist outbursts. But given the fact that Bihar is going to polls within a few months from now to elect a State Assembly and the ruling party at the Centre is leaving no stone unturned to emerge victorious at the hustings, Modi cannot take any chances.

The latest developments involving the AAP and BJP have led to much cause for concern. And the question—‘where are we heading?’—is assuming more importance now than at any point of time in the past.

April 2 S.C.

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