Governance in AAP regime

Harihar Swarup

One wonders if Aam Admi Party is heading towards liquidation? The party, which came to power in Delhi with a bang, has been scattering. Is APP supremo and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who sore by clean politics, really corrupt or false charges have been made against him? Charges are made by those who were removed by Kejriwal from the ministry or suspended from the party on charges of poor performance and corruption. Former minister, Kapil Mishra has alleged that CM had accepted Rs. 2 crore from Minister Satyendra Kumar Jain in his presence. After Mishra was suspended from the party, he leveled fresh charges, alleging that a Rs. 50 crore land deed had been arranged for the family of Kejriwal’s brother-in-law.
Before and after its poor performance in recent elections, APP has been riven by internal differences. A number of APP leaders, including Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, left the party or were expelled and they all did the usual Kejriwal bashing. They had many complaints mostly about lack of internal democracy in the party or Kejriwal’s dictatorial style of functioning. But this is not for the first time that bribery charges have been leveled. APP is a product of anti-corruption movement. Kejriwal offered alternative politics based on clean government. Even his detractors have refused to believe these corruption charges. The issue has been referred to the Delhi police, which on more than one occasion, had played a partisan role. Efforts to provide Delhi with a Lok Pal failed after the Centre returned 14 Bills passed without its prior approval.
Already down after the less-than-expected performance in Punjab, Goa and MCD elections, APP will find it tough to wash the graft stain. Whether the charge sticks or not, political damage has been done with the help from an accommodative media. For Kejriwal it must be a déjà vu moment. He has built a career by hurling accusations at political opponents. Now he has become victim of his own tactics. His critics cannot be blamed for insisting on Kejriwal to prove his innocence. In any case, the Kejriwal aura is gone.
AAP came to power in Delhi with a bang. In 2013, it won 28 out of 70 assembly seats, forming a minority government. In 2015, the party won 67 out of 70 assembly seats. In 2014 Lok Sabha elections in Delhi, the APP did not win any seat, but it performed creditably in a few places. In the election in Varanasi, where Narendra Modi was contesting, despite a relative paucity of funds, the APP came creditable second pushing the Congress to third place.
In Delhi, it came forward with a host of pro-people measures, from mohalla sabhas and clinics to free hospitals care, new schools, increase in the pay of for ad hoc teachers in schools as also new flyovers built below estimates.
The APP did relatively well in the 2017 Punjab election too, getting 22 seats in the assembly with two seats won by its ally the Lok Insaf Party. But in the run up to the election, it alienated two of its four MPs, Dharamvir Gandhi and Harinder Khalsa, the Punjab Convener Sucha Singh Chottepur, and five local conveners. The Punjab media and national papers estimated that 30 AAP activists had left the party and joined the opposition.
For some explicit reason, the APP, under Arvind Kejriwal’s leadership, did not announce a CM candidate, even though the formidable Capt. Amrinder Singh was the Congress choice.
The final performance in Punjab election, despite writing on the wall, was a shock to Kejriwal and the AAP. In Delhi the AAP, became more confrontational, reacting to interventions in the governance by intrusive LGs, with the power sharing issue yet to come before a (delayed) Constitutional Bench of Supreme Court. Meanwhile, more than 20 AAP MLAs have been charged with various cases, the CM’s principal secretary, Rajendra Kumar, arrested from his office and released after months, with major charges against him disproved.
No union territory government has ever been harassed as Delhi government. The APP fought back, but on at least one occasion, bit off more than it can chew. The episode of unsubstantiated corruption charges against Delhi Cricket Association President Arun Jaitley, a former law minister, was self goal. The now Finance Minister Jaitley promptly filed a defamation suit against Kejriwal and four others, asking for Rs 10 crore in damages. Instead of coming to compromise, the AAP choose to be confrontational. They then requested their redoubtable lawyer, Ram Jethmalani to get his Rs. 3 crore-plus fees from the state exchequer, which was not permissible since this was a private suit over a “private wrong”. Even Jaitley was fighting his case at his own cost. Kejriwal appealed to the public to fund the AAP to fight this case. The fact that Jethmalani agreed to fight for free, was played down.
Despite ups and downs, Delhi and Indian secularism need AAP—it must be necessary re-tooling to stick to original promises, with relatively quiet confidence. (IPA)

Friday, 19 May, 2017