AAP Politics: Nasty, Brutish and chaotic
Just a couple of months ago, we had put Arvind Kejriwal on the cover, calling him—using cricketing parlance—a googly man, who had outwitted the BJP. Although we had expressed strong reservations about Kejriwal and his politics earlier, we thought he represented the zeitgeist or the spirit of our times as a leader who would deliver governance without being weighed down by the ideological baggage of the past.
At least this is how the Aam Aadmi Party’s sizeable mandate was interpreted. What was also added as a reason for this famous victory was the coming together of the minorities and sections of the liberal intelligentsia that was feeling uncomfortable with the way Christians were being sought to be reconverted or the campaign against ‘love jihad’, which really meant preventing Muslim boys from marrying Hindu girls.
For a few weeks, the chatterati on TV had begun to see AAP as the party that would replace the Congress in different states; after all, it had all the social constituencies that had been bringing the grand old party to power plus those who considered AAP the junior partner of the BJP and had no reservations about voting for it.
But, in the space of a few weeks, the party and its supremo appear transformed. Surely this has nothing to do with the vigorous Ayurvedic massages that Kejriwal had in Bengaluru. A few days after his return, he triggered what we have called a right-wing coup—overthrowing those who were broadly identified as being close to the Left. It did not really mean that these worthies were leftist, despite sociologist Yogendra Yadav’s salt and pepper beard, kurta-pajama, tousled hair and cotton jhola.
Prashant Bhushan, a Supreme Court lawyer and perhaps purveyor of all lost causes, cannot be identified with the organised Left either. Both these gentlemen, along with Prof Anand Kumar of JNU, were unceremoniously dumped in a National Council meeting that was choreographed to be nasty, brutish and chaotic. Bhushan’s father, former law minister Shanti Bhushan, was also pushed around at the meeting and he actually felt at some stage that he might not escape with his life.
It was a one-sided meeting at which only Kejriwal spoke and the rest were chased out after a hurriedly taken vote revealed that the majority was opposed to Bhushan and Yadav and wanted them thrown out.
Different versions of the meeting have been presented to confuse the media as well as the legion of supporters that followed the deliberations outside the venue, on TV and in the social media. As any spin doctor will tell you, the more the narratives the greater the confusion about what amounts to the truth. Mostly, the one that is in power wins these slanging matches.
First, Kejriwal and his supporters released redacted TV footage in which everyone was blocked out. AAP is a noisy collection of partymen wearing white Nehru caps for whom throwing each other’s headgear comes easy. Expectedly, there was a howl of protest about the partial reality that was shown on video. Bhushan wrote a long letter in which he proved that Kejriwal was inadequate, dictatorial and had no commitment to the party’s stated values. The letter is a scathing chargesheet that tries to show how Kejriwal had taken the people of Delhi for a ride.
Why did Kejriwal dump Bhushan, Yadav and Kumar and choose to surround himself with relative mediocrity? Does he have an inferiority complex when it comes to dealing with people who are articulate, bright and who could steal his thunder? Even young and articulate Atishi Marlena, a Rhodes scholar who helped draft the AAP manifesto, was removed as spokesperson.
Or is there more to it? Is Kejriwal trying to buy peace with Narendra Modi and all the corporate houses that were riled by the public interest litigation (PIL) that Bhushan had been filing against them? Was Bhushan becoming inconvenient? He drops a gentle hint in his long letter about the cases that he had pursued, including the 2G scam, the gas deal and scores of other corruption cases. The face-off within the AAP has got nasty. We have to wait and see whether Kejriwal’s brute majority can withstand the charge of Bhushan’s next PIL!