During a dharna last week in front of the Rail Bhavan, at the famous Raisina Hills, newly elected Delhi Chief Minister (CM) Arvind Kejriwal proclaimed himself to be an ‘anarchist’. Threatening to disrupt even the Republic Day celebrations in the high security area he said, ‘Today I will spread disorder in the home minister's house.’
Kejriwal’s statement during his chaotic two-day dharna sums up the nature of the newly formed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s one month tenure in the Delhi government. If anything, AAP’s governance in Delhi has been marked by anarchy, cynicism, political gimmickry and excessive symbolism. So much so that the party has earned a new name for itself from some commentators – Arajak Aadmi Party.
The first few days of the debutant party in power were quite promising. VIP privileges were shunned, huge government bungalows were discarded, red beaconed cars were substituted for normal ones and the ministers even used public transport to travel. The party garnered praise and support from the aam aadmi. But slowly, the symbolism went too far. Three weeks of valuable time was lost by the Chief Minister’s Office to simply find the ‘right’ house for Kejriwal who had earlier decided to refuse government accommodation. The CM and his ministers' refusal of the high level Z security resulted in a huge loss of time again. This sort of excessive symbolism took the focus away from many of the core issues including discussion on the newly formed government’s policies, plan of action and vision. The Jan Lokpal Bill, which the party had promised to implement within three weeks of coming into power during its campaign, got lost somewhere although the chief minister has vowed to bring it in the assembly in the first week of February in what is being seen as yet another symbolism when he sought to hold the assembly at the open Ram Leela maidan instead of the closed assembly hall . The government was merely focused on making populist decisions sidelining all other important and relevant issues.
What’s more worrying is that just one month into its tenure, the party, in the name of ‘revamping’ Indian politics has started showing authoritarian tendencies with little respect for the existing system and rule of law. Law Minister Somnath Bharati’s midnight ‘vigilante’ raid was a perfect example. The same party which a couple of months ago promised to cleanse dirty old politics and uphold the rule of law now seems to be following in the footsteps of its predecessors. What followed the raid saga was a show of a bizarre anarchism, political amateurism and brashness. While Kejriwal might claim that his dharna was a great success and victory of people, it did nothing but anger the AAP’s prime voters - the middle class, whose lives were severely disturbed. The CM should realize that agitations and protests are not a solution to all problems and hitting out at the central government at every available opportunity is merely going to take the focus away from governance.
The AAP functionaries, however, do not seem to be in a mood to learn from the drama. Instead, it goes on back foot at every opportunity and defends its actions vehemently. First, they put the entire blame on the violence happening against women in the city on the Delhi Police trying to clear its name. At a time when the Chief Minister should have owned the moral responsibility for what happened in the state of which he is elected boss. Kejriwal put the blame on the Delhi police. In the second instance, when Bharti was criticized for the raid, instead of looking into the matter, Kejriwal and the team blamed the media (the same media which the party often thanked earlier) for planting anti – AAP stories. The party’s image as a result has been severely dented. The party’s image took a further beating following racist and stinging remarks from another of its key leader like Kumar Vishwas.
Just as the seeds of destruction in the Janata government in the seventies were sown in the very first week of its coming to power with an overwhelming victory over Ms. Indira Gandhi's Congress-I, the AAP is also showing the signs of an early doom. If the party, with the Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal leading from the front, doesn’t mend its ways before it is too late the AAP is certain to end up like any other aam party -- far from its dream of changing the dynamics of Indian politics for the larger good of the aam aadmi. AAP must wake up to the ground reality to keep its kasam (promise) of giving a good governance instead of banking on arajakata (anarchy) in the most important city of the South Asian powerhouse.