Aam Aadmi Party needs to learn its lessons fast!

One cannot help wondering at times if the Aam Aadmi Party has forgotten that it is in power and running a government in Delhi. Going by the activities and the style adopted by some of the AAP MLAs, ministers and the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal himself, one gets an impression that they are still in the mould of street corner activists rather than elected representatives and are yet to shed the tag of being protesters.

To be fair to the party, it has been in power for a very short time and maybe one shouldn’t be judging them so early. However, the flip side of the coin is that they have called it upon themselves. It is said that the AAP leaders, including its convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, simply love the cameras and the spotlight. Maybe, they are of the view that to occupy the mind-space of the people and to project themselves as the best thing that has happened to India after Independence, they have to be in the news at all times.

And probably this quest to be in the news prompted Kejriwal to take to the streets, hold a dharna outside the Rail Bhavan in the national capital, just a few days before the Republic Day and hold the city to ransom, to demand the suspension of few Delhi Police officials. However, he withdrew his protest the second day, taking the high moral ground, saying that it was the victory of the people because the LG promised that his concerns would be looked into.

But, from whatever angle one looks at, one can safely say that Kejriwal did not back off because he got what he wanted. In fact, far from it. Getting some police officers to go on leave is hardly a ‘victory’. The Delhi CM backed off because he drew severe flak from all quarters for adopting an ‘anarchist’ and a ‘vigilante’ form of governance. It is also being said that the AAP was given a window and a face-saver by the Congress, and AAP probably had no choice but to climb down.

Moreover, Kejriwal and his men were being accused of enacting the whole drama with an eye on the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. There is a point in that. They probably believe that if the Lokpal movement could get them 28 seats in the Delhi polls, then if they continue to be in the agitation mode, they may also win enough seats in the General Elections to either come to power via the Third Front or be the kingmaker, and in the process become a major national player. Another theory doing the rounds was that they wanted the Congress to withdraw support in Delhi so that they could go to the people projecting themselves as martyrs. To be ambitious is fine but shouldn’t a party, which is barely a year old, first prove that it is capable of governing a state well and then lay its claim on ruling the country? Who knows, with the hurry that AAP seems to be in, it may just trip at the crucial moment and never recover from there.

Arvind Kejriwal needs to answer as to who will govern Delhi if its CM spreads ‘anarchy’ and is out on the streets, just to score brownie points? In a democracy, everyone has the right to protest and press for his or her demands, but shouldn’t it be the last resort? Shouldn’t an elected representative first adopt the path of dialogue and debate? Plus, how prudent is it to compromise the security of the national capital just ahead of the Republic Day? And does it augur well for a CM to say that what is the point of celebrating Republic Day when women are unsafe? Nobody is denying that women’s safety is imperative, but occasions like Independence Day and Republic Day are a celebration of the immense sacrifices made by our forefathers to attain freedom and give us a Constitution.

What may prove to be self-destructive for AAP is their high-handedness and their self-righteous approach. Winning more seats than expected in Delhi seems to have made them arrogant to the point that they feel they can run amok. What else explains Law Minster Somnath Bharti leading his men on a midnight raid on Ugandan women in a flat in South Delhi’s Khirki Extension and asking the police to raid them as he suspected them of being prostitutes? The whole drama was caught on camera, including the refusal of the police to do so without a search warrant. The Law Minister seems to have forgotten that the law in our country does not permit random search and seizure, more so if it involves women in the dead of the night.

On the other hand, the AAP government once again clashed with the police when its leader and Women and Child Welfare Minister Rakhi Birla intervened in a dowry case in which a woman was burned in Sagarpur in West Delhi. However, Kejriwal stoutly defended his ministers and said that they were not going to sit at home. He also asked for the suspension of SHOs concerned in all three cases, including the recent rape of a Danish women, and when these demands were not met, he went ahead and sat on a dharna; some would say just to protect his ministers and also just because of an ego-clash. The concept of `Swaraj` and `Mohalla Sabhas` are all very well, but it cannot justify vigilantism at any cost. Along with the right intention, the method also has to be right and no political party can forget the fact that rule of law is supreme in India.

Additionally, the language used by some of AAP leaders including Kejriwal smacks of superciliousness and conceit. Somnath Bharti saying that he wanted to spit on the face of senior lawyer Harish Salve and BJP leader Arun Jaitley just because they criticised the methods of AAP is sheer arrogance. The AAP leaders seem to have adopted the tone and tenor of intolerance for those who are not with them and do not support them.

Nobody is denying the fact that there is lot of resentment against the corrupt system prevalent in the country and there is also a lot of disgust against the political class. However, this cannot be an excuse to turn governance into mobocracy. Nobody is also denying the fact that police reforms need to be taken up on an urgent basis but the channel to do it has to be right.

At the same time, the concept of participatory democracy is a welcome step and every citizen should be a stakeholder in governance, but that cannot give licence to members of any political party to make their own rules as AAP volunteers increasingly seem to be doing. Also, the mob cannot be right and rational at all times, and a political party which says that it will always do what the people say is treading a dangerous path.

India has seen enough movements and enough crusaders in the past but only few of them have survived. This time around Kejriwal and his men scored a self-goal by staging a dharna outside the Rail Bhavan. But if they intend to play long innings in the national politics, then they need to learn their lessons fast. Otherwise they may end up being consigned to the annals of history as being just another rabble-rouser.