Surajit Dasgupta, a former journalist, was Aam Aadmi Party’s founding member and was also part of its National Council. However, he quit AAP much before the Delhi Assembly polls that were held in December 2013 due to certain differences over the working of the party. In an interview with Manisha Singh of Zee Media Corp, he spoke about the contradictions within the AAP, the reasons why he resigned from the party and also what he thinks of Arvind Kejriwal. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
Why did you join Aam Aadmi Party in the first place? And what were some of the pertinent issues over which you disagreed with the party due to which you subsequently left AAP?
As an individual since 2010 and as a part of the organisation Youth for Democracy (Y4D) since early 2011, I had been fighting for the cause of vyawastha parivartan (systemic change). One of the patrons of Y4D was KN Govindacharya, who had come out of his RSS shell and from a past in BJP in 2004 to float his own organisation, Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan. While Team Anna was reluctant to share their stage with him, every now and then they would meet him privately, steal ideas from him and mouth them from their own platform as if the ideas were originally theirs. We were sure they did not have the foggiest idea about how to implement them.
Second, we were disconcerted by the fact that while the section of society that had poured into the streets for the Jan Lokpal movement was overwhelmingly right-of-centre, leftists were making a lateral entry into the party as policy makers. Y4D`s president and vice-president, namely senior journalist Sudesh Verma and I, along with all our followers and workers joined the Aam Aadmi Party in the second week of October 2012 to keep the movement rightist.
Right from the beginning, we noticed a near-total absence of internal democracy in the new party. At the national convention held on 24 November 2012 where the party constitution was adopted, 23 individuals were imposed on us as members of the national executive and six of them were declared as political affairs committee members. There was no election held for the purpose.
As the party progressed, members of the NC as well as the think-tank of the cadre found several decisions taken by the party leadership wrong or misplaced. They were decisions like dubbing the Batla House encounter as fake, parading clerics of different religions on stage to garner votes of their respective communities, not allowing competition in the market by disallowing FDI in retail etc.
What kept me in the party was Kejriwal`s repeated assurance in public speeches throughout 2013 that he was neither a leftist nor a rightist, and that he would take the best solution from any political philosophy as deemed feasible. The manifesto released on 20 November 2013 proved he had been bluffing all along. The document was downright populist and socialist. I studied it thoroughly overnight and resigned from all ranks held in the party (founder member and member of the NC) in the morning of November 21.
You resigned from the Aam Aadmi Party even before the Delhi Assembly elections. You have clarified that a sting operation CD featuring AAP leaders showing them accepting funds without proper verification was not the reason for doing so. You stand by it?
Yes. But I have something to add. While I had resigned in the morning of November 21 last year and news of some sting operation was telecast not before late afternoon that day, the contents of the sting only vindicated the reason for my resignation — lack of internal democracy. Those caught by the sting came across as careless and ready to compromise on scruples even though they did not quite look like criminals on camera.
You have been AAP’s founding member and also a National Council member. You have said that the party does not believe in decentralization in its organisation and concentrates power at the top? Can you elaborate?
Apart from the examples given above, incidents leading up to the national convention prove the point. Activists and supporters of the Jan Lokpal movement from all over the country were converging at the office of the proposed party in large numbers. They were given menial jobs like registering the details of walk-in supporters and advisers in a log book, attending phone calls, looking for guest houses for the visitors who would join us between November 24-26 etc. None of the known faces of the movement were part of this exercise, while none of those given menial jobs to attend to was made part of any serious political exercise.
Finally on 24 November we found out that the structure was kept minimal with only three office bearers - The national convener, secretary and treasurer. These three, along with the 23 members of the NE as well as the six members of the PAC, were short-listed behind closed doors by Kejriwal`s coterie and Yadav. This was clearly a bid to keep power concentrated to a few on top, an antithesis of decentralisation.
You have said that the AAP is like any other political party in the country? How?
Other than the examples of communalism and dubious methodology of candidate selection, one may try an experiment with the AAP`s supreme leader. Befriend him and get close enough to him as an adviser. Convince him that a certain action or speech has the potential to fetch massive votes for the party. Even if the proposal is downright unethical, Kejriwal will accept it.
Now with cases like Kejriwal`s plagiarism and undervalued declaration of assets, Manish Sisodia`s misappropriation of funds for his NGO Kabir, Somnath Bharti`s racism, high-handedness and past as a spammer of pornographic websites, etc (other than the high-command`s act of distribution of election tickets to dodgy characters), even corruption is not a factor that differentiates the AAP from other political parties.
What do you think of AAP convener and its most famous face, Arvind Kejriwal?
Kejriwal loves being the centre of attraction. He is also known for manipulating facts for political convenience. This includes claiming that he was an IT commissioner while he was actually a deputy IT commissioner, and turning the Ambanis into a pop hate figure while Mukesh Ambani`s company has only 10% access to India`s oil reserves and the price demanded by it is in accordance with the recommendations of the C Rangarajan Committee instituted by former Petroleum Minister Jaipal Reddy and not his successor Veerappa Moily.
Kejriwal also suppresses the fact that one of the last executive decisions he took was clearing Rs 372 crore subsidy to Anil Ambani while he did not provide for the amount that would relieve the thousands of fellow agitators who agreed, on his appeal, to default on payment of their electricity bills. The latest is the claim that Transparency International (India) reported that the number of cases of corruption in Delhi had declined during the AAP rule while the said agency denied they had undertaken any such survey or study.
Your comment on the way and the issue on which Arvind Kejriwal resigned as Delhi CM?
I had predicted during the days when the AAP was not sure whether it should form the Delhi Government that the only thing they would do, whether in or out of government, was create spectacles on the streets. That is exactly what they did. After stepping into the corridors of power, Kejriwal and company realised governance was beyond them (as has been reported by bureaucrats working under them recently); they also realised fulfilling the electoral promises they had made was impossible. They tried to deflect public attention from their incompetence and agitating temporary employees of DTC and temporary teachers by staging a dharna (sit-in) near Rail Bhavan.
How in your opinion will AAP fare in 2014 Lok Sabha polls?
It will have a limited effect. It may get a few seats in Delhi. It is getting media attention disproportionate to its wherewithal. This coverage may have some effect in other cities where it may not win seats but can garner enough votes to deny victory to some candidates who could win in its absence. It will fail to make a mark in the villages.