Aam Aadmi Party crisis: Everyone feels betrayed, I feel relief

A default of belief in any politician or party is dangerous for citizen rights.

 |  6-minute read |   30-03-2015
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It is a day of disillusionment for many. The Aam Aadmi Party spelled hope, a new beginning, potential for having a government that is interested in the well-being of people. Happenings over this month have besmirched that mystical aura and broken countless hearts on both sides of the divide. If there is a signature emotion to this disaster unfolding in the Aam Aadmi Party, it would be betrayal. Volunteers feel betrayed by leaders, the Kejriwal camp feels betrayed by the Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan camp and vice versa. As absolutely every last utopian fantasy comes to a grinding halt, I am left with a sense of relief.

The plan seemed to be the same this time around as well. The strategy clearly seemed to be to raise so much hostility that Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan would be forced to resign. It backfired badly when they dug in their heels and refused to be "vanished". Piling on pressure to up the hostility spiralled out of control rather rapidly and became a war of stings, accusations and more. It still ended in their ouster, but in this exit, they managed to blow the lid off the methods of managing dissent within the party.

Whether you support the Kejriwal camp or the Bhushan-Yadav camp, both or neither, it cannot be denied that your stand today is considerably more informed than what it would have been had the matter been left to the party and Kejriwal's preferences. In my view, this is the greatest service of a leader - to empower people to make informed choices. It is unfortunate that the price of the information was so high. Yet it is better than member after member leaving the party and being branded a traitor - which clearly was the game plan for Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav.

It is worth noting at this point that not a shred of proof has been provided to date about the supposed anti-party activities of Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav. The manner in which their dissent has brought AAP to its knees itself demonstrates that if they were indeed working to make AAP lose, they would have succeeded. What appears to have happened is a difference of opinion that escalated into enmity rather than maturity, resulting in a preference to think ill about the other. It is alarming to see in political leaders.

At this point, there still remains little evidence that Prashant Bhushan or Yogendra Yadav acted in an underhanded manner. However, the range of methods used by the reigning leaders of AAP Delhi (who seem to have taken over the party) put paid to any claims of integrity. When methods, perhaps excusable against opponents, are unleashed on fellow team members, supporters of the party are left betrayed. The politics AAP claimed to have arrived to change seems to have consumed them so thoroughly that there seems little point in hoping for something like public interest from them. After all, if the supporters of the author of "swaraj" can use the word in a manner closer to profanity, why would "manifesto" fare any better if it were deemed inconvenient? Or who is to stop them from calling whatever they do a performance and whoever disagrees with them a traitor?

While there is respect for Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav for not abdicating their position and responsibility as leaders with convenient exits, fighting every step of the way so that the party's methods against dissent are no longer secret - whether for good or evil - I confess to feeling an anger for the fact that they knew such a huge problem with a party being promoted as people's messiah, and in their loyalty to the party, they failed to inform the voters, who are now stuck with this government for five years.

If Kejriwal is angry because they tried to make him lose, perhaps the base of my anger is that they did not try to make him lose, which is what it would have amounted to, if they had gone public with these revelations before the elections.

Instead, in their silence, they unwittingly complied with the party's preference of keeping the masses ignorant of their unethical activities before the elections. Merely raising questions within the party was clearly not enough. With each day, there were people sinking in their efforts, time, money and eventually votes on the basis of a carefully perpetuated farce. They were part of the farce when they, and particularly Yogendra Yadav, defended AAP against accusations of lack of internal democracy - knowing full well that the accusations were true. In their protection of the "idea of AAP" or whatever it is that they were doing, they participated in the con AAP pulled on the masses. This is not transparency either. The voice of dissent can be the highest truth when everyone seems to be derailing.

For all their ethics (and I do respect that they kept bringing this up internally), they failed the people with their silence.

Their revealing of these serious fissures, today, while welcome, has only come when the party moved to remove them from their positions. It is unclear how many more years they would continue to "internally" dissent while people continue to be taken for a ride.

It is a rattled set of well wishers out there. Even those willing to defend both Kejriwal and his methods to the end of time cannot call this a good day. The will of their leader prevailed, but the blow to his credibility cannot feel good. In my view, the damage done to the credibility of AAP in this last month is irreversible. From being a party with a clean slate (mostly because it was unused) to being a party so infatuated with its own credibility that it systematically destroyed that credibility, AAP no longer remains a party that can talk about a lot of its claims without being booed off stages.

The next time Kejriwal says that he is a very small man with no aukaat, there are going to be loads of people who go "damn right". Imagine the snickers when an AAP leader tries to talk of democracy or worse "toothless Lokpals". AAP is like the giant who lifted a huge boulder and in a show of great might, flung it with terrible force - on its own foot.

And yet, in my heart, I feel a sense of... relief. I confess to being increasingly uneasy with associating an identity with honesty rather than actions. It serves no good to believe in entities as "good" and "bad", rather than in actions and their impact. For me, politics has always been about people. The impact of parties, leaders and policies on people. I am not in the business of trusting governments or politicians. In my view, people must relentlessly question them and hold them to account, no matter how good they are (let alone the predictably bad ones as they often are). A default of belief in any politician or party is dangerous for citizen rights.

Today, let us just say a lot of people have returned to my "side" of politics - and that is the side of trusting no one and questioning everything.

This cannot be bad.


Vidyut Kale Vidyut Kale @vidyut

She is a blogger and commentator on social and socio-political issues

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