AAP Rajya Sabha nominations: How Arvind Kejriwal breached the trust of Dilliwalas
Given the Delhi chief minister's history of suppressing dissent, it is evident that Kumar Vishwas’ days in the party are numbered.
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The Aam Aadmi Party has recently named Sanjay Singh, Sushil Gupta and ND Gupta as its three nominees for the Rajya Sabha elections scheduled on January 16. Since the party has 67 MLAs in the 70-member Delhi Assembly, the election of these candidates looks almost certain. However, in picking these candidates, the AAP overlooked senior leaders such as Kumar Vishwas and Ashutosh.
While the tussle between Vishwas and Arvind Kejriwal has been going on for some time, the Delhi chief minister, according to Vishwas, been ignoring messages and phone calls for nearly a month. But it didn’t prevent Vishwas from publicly making a claim on one of the Rajya Sabha seats. He even rallied his supporters in the party to pressurise Kejriwal, but to no avail. Reacting to the party’s decision to ignore him for the Rajya Sabha, a dejected Vishwas said, “Whatever the name of those Guptas, congratulations to Kejriwal and them for loyal work to AAP. They will now sit where Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Indira Gandhi and other stalwarts sat. I have to say, I have never felt more disappointed with this party. They couldn't have been more blatant about their shady dealings.”
Image: PTI photo
Now that Vishwas has declared as open war against Kejriwal, it is clear that the party brass has its job cut out to thwart any attempts of mutiny within the party. But given Kejriwal’s history of suppressing dissent in the party, it looks quite evident that Vishwas’ days in the AAP are numbered.
Arvind Kejriwal had called himself “an insignificant man” when he shocked the political pundits by defeating Sheila Dixit in the 2013 Assembly elections. Interestingly, An Insignificant Man is also the name of an award-winning documentary film by Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla that tells the story of the anti-corruption movement in India which led to the formation of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The documentary takes us through the early, tempestuous days of the AAP when the party functioned more like a group of activists rather than a political outfit. Early in the film, we get to see a zealous-looking Kejriwal emphasising upon the importance of internal democracy in a party. He also talks about the need for decentralisation of power in a democracy. Kejriwal is seen as a figure of hope for the common man. Here is a man who quit the Indian Revenue Service to serve the country and its people, taking the fight to the politicians and the bureaucracy he once served.
Sadly, the last couple of years have been an eye-opener for all those who saw hope in Kejriwal. He became the chief minister of Delhi for the second time in 2015 with his party securing a landslide victory. Since then his party has lost Assembly elections in Punjab as well as the municipal elections in Delhi. Also, the party lost all 29 seats it contested in the recently concluded Gujarat Assembly elections. Over the past couple of years, Kejriwal has been in news mostly for his tussles with the lieutenant governor of Delhi and for trying to suppress internal democracy in the AAP.
In April 2015, when the party sacked founder members Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan for “anti-party” activities, it was quite evident that they had paid the price for raising their voice against Kejriwal’s dictatorial style of functioning, which has become more obvious because of the snubbing of Kumar Vishwas and Ashutosh.
Now, the Rajya Sabha nominations presented Arvind Kejriwal with a great opportunity to silence all those who questioned his autocratic style of running the Aam Aadmi Party. Most of his old colleagues who have parted ways with him have complained that despite all his claims of internal democracy in the party, when it comes to ticket distribution, Arvind Kejriwal likes to exercise complete control.
There is sequence in An Insignificant Man which suggests that right from the early days of AAP, Kejriwal has been quite reluctant to entertain any interference while exercising his choice of candidates.
In the documentary when a volunteer reminds him about his democratic stand, Kejriwal condescendingly inquires, “Are you saying only their [volunteers] votes decide the final candidate? What if I don’t agree with your choice of candidate? Can I then choose not to campaign for the candidate?”
For Rajya Sabha nominations, Kejriwal has once again demonstrated his autocratic behaviour by choosing two outside candidates, overlooking senior names in the party. While ND Gupta is a chartered accountant, Sushil Gupta is a Delhi-based businessman who fought the 2013 Delhi Assembly election on a Congress ticket. Sadly, both the candidates seem to lack mass following as well as political pedigree.
The Congress and the BJP have accused Kejriwal of corruption for the dubious selection of candidates for the Rajya Sabha. Regardless of their claims, it is quite evident that Kejriwal and the party have chosen rubber stamp candidates instead of those truly capable of representing the issues of the people of Delhi in Parliament. It is well-documented that Delhi’s demand for full statehood has been falling on deaf ears with the Centre unwilling to relent its control on the executive power.
For the past two years, the Delhi LG and the CM have been at loggerheads and it has severely affected the functioning of the state. Now, strong representation in Rajya Sabha would have certainly given weight to the state’s cause.
By choosing rubber stamp candidates, Kejriwal has not only demonstrated his insecurity, but has also breached the trust of the people of Delhi who gave him and his party a massive mandate in the 2015 Assembly elections.