The Big Story: AAP and apology
The elegies to the Aam Aadmi Party have already been written. After Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal apologised to Shiromani Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia for alleging he was involved in the drug trade in Punjab, many have criticised the craven retreat of the once-fiery political leader. Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party had come to power by vowing to speak truth to power. They were to be the alternative to the corrupt players in a rotten political system. A few years down the line, the party under Kejriwal is dodging defamation suits and feebly handing out apologies to those it might have offended; Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley could be next in line. As the Aam Aadmi Party turns into a political insider, with all the compromises that entails, it has been plunged into an existential crisis.
Another sign of political atrophy is the fact that, increasingly, the Aam Aadmi Party has begun to resemble a Kejriwal personality cult. This makes it no different from conventional parties, most of which are bent to the will of a dear leader or one political family: Narendra Modi in the BJP, the Gandhis for the Congress, Mamata Banerjee for the Trinamul Congress, the late J Jayalalithaa for the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. This is a departure from the Aam Aadmi Party origins as a chaotic collection of voices, pulled both Left and Right, united only by an anti-corruption agenda.
It started soon after the party won the Delhi assembly elections in 2015 with the “Stalinist purge” of prominent faces in the party, such as Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan. Kejriwal’s dislike of dissent was apparent once again after its defeat in the Delhi municipal elections last year elicited loud criticism from within. Displeasure was reportedly expressed over “bayaanbazi” or public statements made by party leaders and one errant legislator was jettisoned. Now, Kejriwal’s sudden apology to Majithia, a political rival in Punjab, has left the state unit in the lurch and brought it close to a split. Already, Bhagwant Mann, a member of Parliament, has resigned from the post of state unit president and the Lok Insaaf Party has announced it will end its alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party.
At every turn, the party has scrambled to cope with Kejriwal’s whims. It paid the political cost for Kejriwal’s indiscriminate naming and shaming of political rivals. Now it must undertake damage control in Punjab, where he has undermined the local party leadership. It is unfortunate that the party should be bogged down by these internal politics. So far as its governance record in Delhi goes, the party has largely kept its electoral promises: lower electricity bills, free citizens from the water mafia in parts of the city, open mohalla clinics that dispense cheap basic healthcare. These quieter achievements have been obscured by Kejriwal’s public spats and apologies. The Aam Aadmi Party must set its house in order, because Indian politics still needs that alternative.
The Big Story
Neerja Chowdhury points out the four mistakes made by Kejriwal.
Ajaz Ashraj on why Kejriwal should resign as Delhi chief minister to reinvent the Aam Aadmi Party.
- In the Indian Express, Geetanjoy Sahu argues that the Forest Rights Act is not an obstacle to growth and that its non-implementation could be politically counter-productive.
- In the Telegraph, Manini Chaterjee writes the Uttar Pradesh bye-elections were not a flash in the pan.
- In the Hindu, K Venkateshwarlu reflects on the reasons behind the BJP-Telegu Desam Party split in Andhra Pradesh.
Shoaib Daniyal speaks to Muslims in riot-scarred Uttar Pradesh:
“The feeling that the police are discriminating against Muslims, extends to beyond traffic violations. ‘Tell me, why doesn’t the police so much as touch Dharmendra from Baghpat?’ Garhi Daulat resident Khursheed Ali Hasan asked rhetorically, referring to an alleged gangster. In most encounters, he said, the police shoot people in the leg. ‘But whenever a Muslim badmash is shot, it is right here,’ he claimed, pointing to his chest.
On February 5, a Garhi Daulat resident named Akbar was killed by the police, accusing him of being involved in criminal extortion. In the first 11 months of the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, the police have been involved in over 1,100 armed confrontations with alleged criminals, killing at least 34 people. Most of these ‘encounters’, as they are called, were carried out in Meerut and Saharanpur divisions, where three out of every four alleged criminals killed was a Muslim.”