AAP's problems are deeper than Jitender Tomar's fake degree

The Arvind Kejriwal-led party prefers to have a perception of moral high ground and victimhood in hand rather than facts.

 |  6-minute read |   15-06-2015
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The story is familiar. The AAP taking a visible moral stand when faced with problematic actions of its own. This time it is in the Jitender Tomar case.

Jitender Tomar, minister for law in the Aam Aadmi Party's government in Delhi was arrested by the Delhi Police, (presumably acting on the orders of lieutenant-governor Najeeb Jung) for having a fabricated law degree.

While the arrest itself is questionable given that a case with regard to the false degree was already before the high court, the Aam Aadmi Party's robust defence of Tomar is questionable. The AAP leaders and social accounts went to the extent of sharing an image of an RTI response confirming that Tomar's degree was real. Under mounting pressure, Arvind Kejriwal is now "upset" with Tomar over his "fake RTI", anonymous senior party leaders are sharing that Tomar is now believed to have misled the party and so on. The usual game of accusations, denials, face-savers and more.

In my view, Tomar's degree being fake or not is just the tip of the iceberg. It could be either an elaborate con by the BJP to push the AAP in a corner - including planting a fake RTI that gets picked and owned by the AAP supporters grateful to have a defence of their side. It is also possible that Tomar or the AAP media cell created that fabricated RTI.

In a time when political rivals with experience in manipulating media to leverage their advantage are in unchecked power in both Centre and Delhi, anything is possible and "truth" as we perceive it is likely to be whatever media gets authorised to endorse. It is even possible that dissenters within the AAP who no longer believed that the leadership would do the right thing triggered the whole controversy by exposing a problematic candidate. No one can say. That is where the "case is before the court" part comes in and is best left to the court, unless anyone is eager to file independent RTIs and know for themselves.

But the problem is deeper and is not limited to Tomar alone.

All through the existence of the AAP and specially in the last few months, there are persistent allegations and events that point to decision-making in the AAP bypassing process and revolving around the views of one person - Arvind Kejriwal. Of note with regard to this situation with Tomar are the allegations around lack of transparency in candidate selection, inadequate scrutiny of candidates and the perrenial "Kejriwal is the final word".

With the scandalous eviction of Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav from the party, along with several people seen as supporting them, but didn't even have formal accusations made against them, a brief visibility had been given to the issue of problematic candidate selection in the AAP. Volunteers, regardless of which camp they were in were adamant that the AAP would be everything it has promised to be.

The infamous Kejriwal speech that was released with several edits from the meeting spoke of the demands of Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav being met. Other AAP leaders at various points in defending Kejriwal's actions spoke that the AAP would take the allegations seriously and act on them even if the duo were expelled from the party.

In the classic fashion of one who will say whatever it takes to soothe a problem without regard to actual intent, once the outrage lost steam, there is no further news of any action taken to make the AAP compliant with its own constitution.

If indeed, the problem were Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav and that Kejriwal did not have a problem with improving the processes within the party or even simply doing it because he gave his word, the AAP's scrutiny of its leaders would have exposed this problem and Kejriwal could have taken this supposed moral "upset" stand with far greater credibility. Instead, what we see is that like any political party, a cover-up was attempted till it became impossible to sustain, and then the liability is thrown under the bus with the party claiming innocence.

The AAP now wants to expel Tomar, and is referring his case to the Lokpal (or is it Jokepal?). Yet, wasn't the right time to do this when the first question was raised about his degree - that too in an affidavit in a court, no less? Not like some random BJP leader spouting off to the media. But then we have seen before that the Lokpal is little more than a puppet, even when there is a Lokpal of integrity.

The party that came into existence demanding a Lokpal is doing more to show the pitfalls and how a Lokpal can be subverted, rather than how it will improve accountability. When Kejriwal has an opinion, a Lokpal is simply not referred to. When Kejriwal wants a face-saver, a Lokpal is used. All this is irrelevant to the process. We have seen people expelled based on allegations. We have seen people expelled for perceived endorsement of the ones facing accusations, without even formal accusations against them. We have seen a Lokpal prevented from observing critical and controversial proceedings and then simply dismissed. After all this, after defending Tomar, after Tomar's case being in a court of law, with countless reports, RTIs and what-nots floating in the public space, after Kejriwal becoming upset with Tomar, what is the point of even saying that a Lokpal will investigate Tomar? It means nothing. It is merely a face-saver to prove Kejriwal's mythical innocence and moral uprightness in the face of the AAP's previous support to Tomar that has got discredited.

Had anyone in the AAP done an independent RTI to the university instead of taking one supplied by the accused as fact - this is assuming that the AAP was genuinely fooled - the AAP would still have the truth in hand.

What the Tomar situation proves that the AAP prefers to have a perception of moral high ground and victimhood in hand rather than facts. Particularly when it comes to people favoured by the chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Tomar is, after all one chosen for "merit" in Kejriwal's all male cabinet that did not find any women worthy of delivering its manifesto.

In other words, Tomar will be crucified by the AAP, not for a fake degree - which they were willing to defend, but for upsetting the Führer. Just like he had got defended regardless of facts for being Führer's choice. Just like Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav got hounded out because Kejriwal refused to work with them - regardless of any actual wrongs they did - which still have not met any kind of formal process.


Vidyut Kale Vidyut Kale @vidyut

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

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