AAP: The movement that mutated

The fact of the matter is that Delhi today, whatever it is, is not due to the AAP, it is despite them

AshutoshUpdated: Monday, December 05, 2022, 10:59 PM IST
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Arvind Kejriwal | File

The Aam Aadmi Party was a movement to begin with but now it has transformed into a political party. For a party which vowed to change the political system, it has finally been changed by the same political system. It no longer represents the aspirations of the past party to change the future. It now lives in the present.

The AAP is a classic example that if leadership is not committed to the larger good, ideology is not a guiding force and is surrounded by the people who can’t look in the eyes of the leader and tell him or her the bitter truth, then the party becomes a den of self-seekers. It is amazing the way AAP has mutated. The Assembly elections whose results are awaited, is witness to AAP’s magical decline. The party which was seen to be surreal, too good to be true, the same party is now like any other party, competing for the same space, fast losing its identity. The only ‘new’ thing about AAP today is that it is the newest party which has not been tried enough by the voters.

No doubt it is this newness of AAP which has enthralled a section of voters in Gujarat. It is AAP’s presence which has added some spice to a most unexciting election held in the recent past. It is too early to predict how many seats AAP will win but it can be said that if AAP manages to get around 20% or more votes then it will be interesting to watch if it can repeat the Punjab experience in 2027 in Gujarat. But in Delhi AAP is an old horse. It is in the government since 2013 when for the first time it formed the government with the support of the Congress. Since then it has won two more elections. In 2015, when elections had to be held due to the resignation of the AAP government after 49 days, it won 67 seats out of 70. It was an unprecedented historic mandate that the people had given. The government started well, focussing majorly on education and health but partly due to Mr Kejriwal’s confrontational attitude and partly due to less faith in the bureaucratic system, the AAP Government lost its track and involved itself in avoidable confrontations with the centre and unnecessary controversies.

Copying the Modi model of campaigning, AAP went to town about the Delhi model of governance. It tried to create a perception about an alternate model of development — instead of building roads, highways and physical infrastructure, it was investing into the future generation. Since education has not been on the agenda of any Government in the past, the idea clicked with people. There is no denying the fact that in last few years a definite improvement has been seen in Delhi’s government schools but this improvement is not so big that it will make a paradigm shift in the education sector. But it is presented as revolutionary, a never before done act.

Had the AAP leadership been more patient, less confrontational and less narcissistic, then Delhi would have been a much better city. If one drives down on Delhi roads for a few hours, one will realise that the city has gone from bad to worse; it is more chaotic and dangerous, infrastructure is on the verge of collapse, pollution has broken all records. So much money was spent to promote mohalla clinics as a revolutionary idea but during pandemic this lie was exposed. People were running from pillar to post, oxygen supply was abysmal, beds were far less than projected and medicines were in short supply. It is only thanks to the private initiatives that many lives were saved.

Delhi is the national capital. Three layers of governance are in operation. Without the harmony and coordination between the three, the city can’t function. Mr Kejriwal is the elected Chief Minister and the face of the city Government. He can complain about the non-cooperation from the Centre and also from the municipal administration but if Delhi has to become a world class city then he has to evolve a system. Unfortunately, in the last seven years, AAP has spent more time fighting with the Modi government at the centre and MCD at the local level. Delhi Government bureaucrats who initially were in awe of Kejriwal and were willing to walk the extra mile with him, are today the biggest adversaries of AAP government.

If the AAP leadership had been more accommodating of alternate and critical views of bureaucrats, more democratic in policy formulation and implementation and more respectful of officers, and if it had developed a transparent system of governance, then Delhi would have emerged as a far better global city. But if MLAs are accused of beating the Chief Secretary at the CM’s residence and in his presence then one can understand the rot which has set in.

The fact of the matter is that Delhi today, whatever it is, is not due to the AAP, it is despite them. In mid 1980s when I came to Delhi, it was different city; much smaller in size with only some world class infrastructure. Roads were bad, buses were the only public mode of transportation. There were pockets of affluence surrounded by unliveable islands. There was scarcity of water and electricity.

With the economic reforms Delhi grew very fast. Its population grew multiple times. Delhi which was considered to end at AIIMS suddenly grew beyond its borders. NOIDA, Gurugram and Faridabad which were almost non-existent then developed into modern liveable cities. And if there is one person who should be given credit for Delhi’s transformation, it is Sheila Dixit.

She was the chief minister for 15 years. She had the vision to imagine how the city would expand in future and accordingly she laid the network of roads and flyovers and other facilities. She did not let anything come in the way of the expansion of what is today’s one of Delhi’s most prized possession — the Metro. She worked with BJP Government at the Centre for six years but she had the tenacity to get the work done. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the AAP government.

The Delhi Government doesn’t have jurisdiction over law and order, police and land. That is directly governed by the Central Government. Municipal Government has been run by the BJP for the last 15 years. There have been confrontations between all three structures earlier too, but Sheila Dixit had the patience and goodwill to not let the confrontation affect the work. Today, all three are working at cross purposes and it is Delhi that suffers.

On December 7 Delhi will deliver its verdict. The MCD election results will be out. AAP seems to have an edge over the BJP which is suffering from strong anti-incumbency and inept leadership. Despite tall promises and hyper active propaganda, AAP today is facing serious corruption charges. Liquor Policy has exposed many skeletons in AAP’s cupboard. A senior minister is languishing in jail for more than five months. AAP leadership’s affiliation with a few dubious individuals has raised serious questions. It is alleged that such individuals have become the core of the party. Today, it is also accused that their leadership lives in palatial bungalows, moves in big cars, stays in presidential suits of seven star hotels and flies in private planes. Let’s not forget that this was the leadership which had mocked and ridiculed politicians for these very things. They had promised to live in small flats after becoming people’s representatives, availing minimal government facilities, and lead simpleton lives like a common man. Today all that seems to have become a part of memory that is best forgotten.

People in Gujarat and other places still have some hope from them. People still want those innocents faces of Anna movement to change things for them. But if the party does not take remedial measures soon, then it will not take long for hope to turn into despair. Memory has a bad habit. It comes back to haunt.

The writer is Editor, SatyaHindi.com, and author of Hindu Rashtra. He tweets at @ashutosh83B

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