Clash of ideologues
Power struggle or not, it is bound to distract from the challenge of governing a small and compact Delhi with a huge and demanding middle class.
Power corrupts, they say. Barely a few weeks in power in Delhi, serious fissures have surfaced in Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Although power sharing may not be the entire reason behind them, it is certainly a factor in the barely two-years-old party still taking its organizational baby steps.
Power struggle or not, it is bound to distract from the challenge of governing a small and compact Delhi with a huge and demanding middle class. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has a problem of plenty, having to carry along 67 of the 70 legislators, newcomers with extremely short exposure in public life. He obviously cannot satisfy them all. That is one part of his problem-cum-challenge.
AAP’s woes stem from its birth as a mass movement. Led by Anna Hazare, it successfully debuted as an anti-graft front. Kejriwal felt the need to respond to criticism that they were ‘outsiders’ trying to demolish a system. So his group formed AAP, moving away from Hazare. That some who stayed out, like Kiran Bedi, later joined BJP, is a different story. But many from AAP, disillusioned with AAP’s performance in the Lok Sabha polls, joined BJP is not.
The significant thing is that those who broke away from AAP last year and on the eve of the Delhi polls have unanimously accused Kejriwal and his group of coterie rule and lack of democratic functioning. That charge has since got amplified into the current crisis. AAP attracted high profile professionals like father-son lawyers Shanti and Prashant Bhushan, academics Yogendra Yadav and Anand Kumar and journalists who switched careers. Differences were inherent among them and with foot soldiers. Then, Prashant Bhushan attracted ire for demanding a referendum in Kashmir, and Shanti Bhushan praised the BJP. The academics nurse left-of-centre ideas and have little in common with the hands-on, right-of-centre approach of Kejriwal and his flock. The clash was inevitable – more so when Kejriwal formed the government, and wants, as is required of him to retain political muscles, to keep hold on the organisation.
The clash is a combination of personal (Prashant has confessed to there being no conversation with Kejriwal), ideological and in some ways, even idealistic, between those who want to retain the values that brought them together and those who want to work on traditional lines and focus on governance.
The fault lines are not so clear, nor is there a crisis management mechanism, although AAP is perhaps the only party that can boast of an internal Lokayukta in the person of retired Navy chief, Admiral L Ramdas.
The AAP crisis is among debutantes to political life. How they resolve it and whether they employ the traditional route that other parties do would be watched with interest. There is also concern that AAP should survive, emerging from the need for the nation to leave behind family-based political culture.