Why India's political elite can't accept AAP's grassroots politics
Arvind Kejriwal and his party have faced many challenges, but they are here to stay.
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Ever since 2013, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been, as far as the political class is concerned, the new kid on the block. Its initial success in 2013 was seen as a voters' lapse, a bad judgement of the electorate which should have chosen the more experienced and settled political parties like the Congress and the BJP. This triangular contest has continued since then.
The established political class just can’t accept the AAP style of politics. The systematic building of mohalla clinics, linking these clinics to hospitals, the revamping of government schools, a host of measures for the poor, including free and cheap potable water, subsidised electricity, more systematic mosquito eradication, anti-drug campaigns and a host of other measures.
The mainstream parties despite their longevity failed to seize the potential of these and other measures. They and the Delhi administration took the opportunity of AAP not having a stable majority in the Delhi Assembly to postpone the Assembly elections towards the end of 2015.
Despite this gambit, the AAP came to power with 67 Assembly seats out of 70 - with the BJP getting only three seats and the Congress none. This, the Opposition found horrible. Triangular politics became even more vicious and outlandish. The established political class’s dictum became "when in doubt attack the AAP". This vitriol was poured against the AAP because in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 in Varanasi, where Narendra Modi was the candidate, the AAP came second and the Congress a poor third.
The AAP had become a threat to the political establishment. After this, the anti-AAP campaign became a torrent of abuse, slander, administrative intervention and even extra-judicial attacks on the AAP. Arvind Kejriwal was pilloried for staging a dharna near the Republic Day parade. Didn’t Mahatma Gandhi stop the collection of precious salt at the end of the Dandi March? Didn’t he intervene, or near, into a host of events in South Africa and India? Did anyone, excluding the Sangh Parivar, claim that what he was doing was anti-national?
And did Kejriwal actually disrupt Republic Day celebrations? Clearly, Kejriwal’s stated intention was to demonstrate without disruption. But the mass of the media never forgave him.
It is instructive to remember that, unlike the Press Council, the electronic media is virtually uncontrolled, or to put it differently, carefully primed to attack forces inimical to the interests of the media channels and their owners.
In the past few days, on an “attack” channel, I heard the participants, including the anchor, referring to Kejriwal as a “Maovadi” and a "Talibani".
My objections were heeded in the first case, but ignored in the second. Tragically, the media believes that anything goes, if it suits the interests of the channel, its owners and supporters. Thus, the term “fake” news.
The role of the police cannot be understated. After the confusion and altercation with the chief secretary and the IAS Association, the Delhi Police searched Kejriwal’s residence. Could it have done so in the case of a Union minister? The CM is the head of the Delhi government.
Unfortunately, this has become commonplace. For example, after a political debate in JNU in February 2016, three students, including Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya were arrested and accused of treason. The courts threw the case out. But even after two years, the chargesheet against these students has not been submitted. Or when months later, Kanhaiya was beaten up by lawyers in the presence of the police, police commissioner BS Bassi denied any violence. But the doctors of Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital found injuries on Kanhaiya’s body.
This is what politicians have done to the police - the politicisation of the police, generally at the behest of politicians and powerful interests. The several police actions against the AAP and idealistic students and youth, obviously goes against the grain of the ideals of the freedom struggle, and the Constitution. This is what the major political parties and vested interests have come to.
Will matters improve when passions cool? Highly likely.
The mixture of political partisanship, an attack-media, a hostile Union government, an administration under pressure, are not matters and influences that can just wither away. But it should be remembered that administrators also work under difficult circumstances. Kejriwal will remember how a senior IAS officer advising him was picked up by the Delhi Police. Different actions for different people.
The AAP has a tough ask. But he and the AAP have faced many challenges. They are here to stay, backed by a huge mass of supporters.