AAP’s ‘Janata Darbar’ idea dropped for good

Himanshu Kapoor

Gujarat, Bihar, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Kerala and some more, these are states which also hold darbars for grievance redressal. But interestingly none of the governments in these states have ever made any big claims about it. Reason for that? They are not very effective. If we take the example of former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, who held similar darbars, where people queued up outside his residence with their complaints, he would listen to them for a few minutes and then pass on their complaints to some babu. It only leaves the complainant more frustrated than he actually was with the issue itself as, in case, he has to travel from a far-flung area and right to the CM’s door just to have his complaint handed over to a clerk who will then take his own time to look into it. If this becomes the case with the AAP government in Delhi then it could easily upset the very middle class consolidation that brought it to power in the first place.

Frankly, with these darbars if Kejriwal was thinking that every petitioner’s problem could be solved by personally hearing him out, then the sheer magnitude of complaints would have been such that he wouldn’t have been able to look even into a small percentage of it. And with the backlog, people would have raised fingers at him and there is a strong possibility that they could have called him inefficient and incompetent and might turn against him. But the chaos that prevailed at the Delhi government’s first janata darbar seems to have had a sobering effect on Arvind Kejriwal’s unorthodox style of politics. And he announced that there will be no such darbars anymore, instead the party will be visiting different parts of the city every Saturday to meet Delhiites and redress their problems. Some would feel that for the AAP this could be a better way to deal with complaints, than holding darbars which could suffice centuries back, and are unlikely to yield the desired result in current times. Seeing what happened during its first holding, the party timely dropped the idea.

AAP could not have anticipated what it saw on Saturday morning – a flood of people – some 7,000 strong thronged the Delhi government’s first darbar. And half an hour into the event, the situation spun out of control. While its purpose was that people could interact directly with the Cabinet Ministers and put forward their issues, the Mughal-era styled darbar itself became an issue with much chaos and mismanagement. People who were determined to meet their CM brought down barricades, jostled with an outnumbered police force. The CM in question was forced to beat a retreat in order to avoid a stampede-like situation and then later apologised for the poor management from the rooftop of the Delhi Secretariat.

The party can ill afford to fail with the Lok Sabha polls right around the corner. And on the other hand it will have to repay people’s trust, which helped the rookie party attain the unthinkable and made Arvind Kejriwal the CM of Delhi. So instead for turning the whole system upside down, the AAP party should working on repairing the system that already exists while also devising more channels for the public to have their complaints heard. Kejriwal’s announcement of usage of technology for hearing complaints sounds more promising than what the party did last weekend.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party government came to power in Delhi by sensing people’s nerve and remained true to its word on delivering on polls promises made to the ‘aam aadmi’, be it by offering free water, reducing electricity tariff or by spurning all trappings of a VIP in a city which is status conscious. The party even launched an anti-corruption helpline number to trap the corrupt which got an overwhelming response and also helped catch two constables who were allegedly extorting money. What more could the Delhiites have asked from a CM who promised to change the system and while doing so, changing it fast.

But coming up with ineffective measures and then rolling them back will only give the ever-so-ready opposition a chance to trap the inexperienced Delhi government and target it for its failures in the upcoming General Elections thereby hurting its poll prospects. However, the party is relatively new and might not be discarded by its enthusiastic backers so fast. And if Kejriwal wants to drum up massive support for the AAP party for the LS polls then he needs to come up with better and more practical system with the use of technology like – helplines, emails and text messages to redress people’s complaints— instead of having them jostle with each other for a minute with him.