AAP was able to instil the fantasy of idealism in politics, only to, unfortunately, squander it in the pursuit of absolute power, argues SALEM LEPCHA
April 2011, the atmosphere was charged with a critical frustration of one and all against the rampant corruption of vested interests, and Anna Hazare came to the helm of the movement against corruption. Reaching a crescendo with the unearthing of 2G scam, Commonwealth financial impropriety and Coalgate saga, the movement fuelled the already simmering anger and resentment among the people. The term ‘policy paralysis’ found a place in the grammar of planning (a euphemism to government’s yawning failure and anomaly in its policy implementation). In such an unfortunate setting, the AAP against corruption was born in 2013. It wasn’t like any other political outfit but was more a movement; was bold and determined. The party came as a breath of fresh air to the nation’s political environment vitiated by corruption and vices of all shades. It brought about a new era in politics in post-Independence India.AAP was about hope, about the possibility of decency in politics. It was averse to the idea of VIP culture and so wanted its end. Lot of what it bandied about and aspired to achieve had a resounding resonance with middle classes. The party became their voice and face and that pretty much explains its meteoric rise.
Born of an environment saturated with an anti-corruption wave and shaped by antecedents who only had a ring side view of politics it had a certain ‘party with a difference’ edge to it. People voted for it not so much out of loyalty, but more due to the fact that AAP presented itself as a new alternative; a new parallel that had a same goal of public service but followed an entirely and morally superior and at times peculiar approach. The party was able to instil a fantasy of idealism in politics. It upended the presumption that politics was not for the honest and the upright. An easy surmise that followed hence was that a ‘political salvation’ was not just a word but was in the process of becoming a reality. It shook the Congress, a grand old party of India, and intimidated BJP, the party in power in the Centre.
However, all this hope and zeal sputtered away gradually due to the internecine squabble in the AAP between one camp headed by Prashant Bhusan and Yogendra Yadav (both founder member) and the other led by Arvind Kejriwal. The ideals of incorruptibility and high moral standards that the AAP exemplified which it claimed would pass the litmus test of constraints of politics and human frailties seem to have come to naught with that episode of the internal bickering in the party. With passing days, more and more skeletons tumbled out from the AAP cupboard if reports in the media are anything to go by. The latest one being the case of Delhi’s Law Minister who has been accused of forging a law degree! (so much for the much vaunted screening test that every prospective candidates of AAP was supposed to have been subjected to before being given the party ticket). As if all these are not enough, an FIR has been lodged by a junior engineer against Jarnail Singh, an AAP MLA of manhandling the engineer. The ambiguities in the party are there to see for all of us. The question of double standards that they charged their opponents with have ricocheted and landed on their face. Ouch!
As much as it is a sore development for those besotted to the aspiration and hope that AAP exuded it is a matter of concern for the AAP’s power coterie for it may shorn them off of image unblemished by the trade of politics (or so it appears). The party may lose its sheen of novelty due to the mishandling of the entire episode giving out wrong impressions to the public at large. The idea of clean, alternative politics that AAP so much wanted to usher in by what they called ‘vyvastha parivartan’ in India’s political landscape stands seriously jeopardised. This unfortunate turn of event may not necessarily translate into a total alienation of the supporters but the damage has been done. AAP is no longer a political holy cow that had certain aura of uprightness and promised an ethical disposition hovering above their more mainstreamed opponents. It appears that a huge gap that was there between AAP and other parties is shrinking. The wobbly and miry bog of the political arena has apparently found yet another helpless staggering prey to be devoured. Sadly it is succeeding.
As one who followed the journey of AAP closely, I am really piqued by curiosity. What could have led to such a misfortune? A dubious impression that surfaced in the public domain verily points to power struggle. Judging by the fracture that emerged within the party due to questions of authority and power, it is safe to assume that such events don’t send a healthy signal to the public in general and the citizens of Delhi in particular. Adding to this is the silence of Arvind Kejriwal that has made the whole affair murkier and this certainly is not helping the party at all. A party with a difference seems to be giving way to a party that is no different. Is Kejriwal succumbing to the syndrome of absolute power-corruption causality?
This brings me to Lord Acton, a British historian in the late ninetieth century who had once opined famously, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Has the unprecedented mandate accorded to AAP in Delhi’s assembly election succeeded in bringing Arvind Kejriwal within the tempting yet dicey idea of a ‘craving for absolute power’? Has the humble and self-effacing Kejriwal really turned into the ‘Hitler’ of his party as some of his critics say? Were the two dissidents ousted from the party as a move to cement Arvind’s hold on the party? I wish to think otherwise but my hunch points in the opposite direction. The manner in which the entire episode played out only points to the inevitable fact that the relevance of Lord Acton’s maxim would be proved right yet again. Undeniably, a sad chapter not just for Delhi but for politics in the entire nation, for truly, the failure of AAP to live up to what it could have stood for would not just be the failure of one party but the failure of all those faceless, voiceless people suffering silently with a stoical virtue against the tyranny of traditional politics. Will AAP be able to salvage itself from this pit and regain that lost image of propriety and measure up to the standards it had set? Looks uncertain at least in the foreseeable future but I hope that time will prove me wrong.
[The writer is a post graduate in Geography and is currently preparing for civil services]