By Nishad Sanzagiri
The Aam Aadmi Party should stop playing ‘Aam Aadmi’ Politics
It is all over national and international news: Arvind Kejriwal, the founder of the popular Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), resigned from his post as Chief Minister of Delhi as a result of the state assembly blocking an anti-corruption bill (Jan Lokpal), ending his short term of 49 days.
Kejriwal had earlier mentioned that, if the bill wasn’t passed in the state assembly, then he’d resign. It can be said, then, that at least Kejriwal did one thing no one else could: He united Congress (the ruling party) and BJP (the opposition) on one issue — himself. The fact that all this happened on Valentine’s Day is another affair (pun intended).
The Aam Aadmi Party (literally translated as the Common Man Party), which was formally formed in late 2012, was borne out of the ‘India Against Corruption’ movement. Styling itself as a revolution of the masses, the party’s political logo is a broom – a symbol rooted in its anti-corruption propaganda.
There’s one thing about AAP coming to power (in Delhi) that has always bothered me, though. Being a protester and being a government official is not the same. They are two different things which require completely different mentalities. While he was the Chief Minister, it seemed like Kejriwal spent more time outside than he did in his office. As BBC’s South Asia Correspondent Andrew North put: “It was all about leaving symbolic markers.”
Right from the huge public meeting (Janata Darbar) that Kejriwal organised to hear people’s grievances — which was halted as a result of the huge inflow of people, and ended in “chaos” — to the sit-down protests (Dharna) on Rail Bhawan; the self-proclaimed “anarchist” has done what a protester would do, not a Chief Minister.
Talking about the sit-down protests in particular, it’s important to make your points heard , but it’s also important to not incite the public against a particular section of the society and to make vast generalisations. Kejriwal wanted the Delhi Police to be under his government’s control — a sentiment shared by his predecessor Sheila Dikshit (following the brutal Delhi gang-rape incident of December 16, 2012) — and it was for this reason, that he organised the Dharna.
Policemen, who were on duty at the Dharna (many of whom were protecting Kejriwal himself), had to bear insults from AAP supporters who later took to pelting stones at the forces. As one Sub-Inspector, who had to face the wrath of the AAP supporters said: “They forget that we’re also Aam Aadmi (the common man). I am just trying to do my job, follow my orders.”
Moving on to the actual things that Kejriwal did while in office for 49 days: For starters, subsidising the cost of water for those households in the capital that have metered connection. But surely Kejriwal would have known — or should have known — that the majority of the population in Delhi, or more importantly, the majority of the poor population in Delhi, don’t have metered connections. So what’s the use of subsidising the cost of water for just one section of the population, especially when that section is not the most vulnerable, thereby forcing the rest of the population (including the most vulnerable) to cover up the cost for the government?
Many people would say, then, that at least Kejriwal did something. At least he brought some change. Yes, maybe he did do something, but mind you, a similar thing happened after Indira Gandhi’s emergency rule in 1977, when the Indian population, tired of Congress’ rule, voted the Janata Party in power in the hope that it would bring over some change. The Janata Party’s win was the first time that a non-Congress government was formed since India’s independence. But that change turned out to be so bad and so ill managed that in the next elections Indira Gandhi was voted back in. Guess the idiom “a known devil is better than an unknown angel” works far better in the case of India than any other country.
The last thing India needs is a party that gives it a lot of hope in the beginning, only to later not materialise those words and protests into actual legislations.
The main point I’m trying to bring home is that Kejriwal needs to stop playing the protester with a utopian-yet-mismanaged agenda. It’s been said that, in India, it’s difficult for a common man to reach all the way to the top, especially in politics, where dynastic politics is seen to be the norm. But right now, the issue is not about electing a common man to the throne — it’s seeing whether the common man can uphold the dignity and decorum that the post demands. When you get elected, there’s a different kind of politics you have to play — you can’t protest from the throne.
So in a way it might be a good sign that Kejriwal has resigned. But then again, he is going to contest the national elections, isn’t he?
The author has no affiliation with any political party — neither the ruling Congress, nor the opposition BJP. He is just another ‘common man’; tired of the current state of Indian politics.