AAP’s huge mandate is its problem

It is not the LG, not the multiplicity of power, nor the bureaucracy. As the Arvind Kejriwal-led government has faltered on governance and has failed to keep its promises, it has to find scapegoats

Photo courtesy: PTI
Photo courtesy: PTI

S Khurram Raza

On June 4, 2011, all roads in Delhi led to the Ramlila Maidan. Every news channel had just one news. The protest by Anna Hazare and company caught the nation’s imagination. Some were calling it the ‘Second Freedom Movement’ and some were making bizarre comparisons of Anna to Gandhi. But one thing was clear that like the JP Andolan or the VP Singh crusade against alleged corruption in Bofors Deal, this movement of India Against Corruption was bound to bring in change.

It was meticulously micromanaged by forces like the RSS. From Anna Hazare to Baba Ramdev, from Arvind Kejriwal to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, everyone was up in arms against the Congress-led UPA government.

The biggest gainer was Arvind Kejriwal who created Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in 2012. The name, symbol and slogan of the party were catchy for the voters who were desperate to see change. In 2013, AAP fought its first electoral battle in Delhi and came out with flying colours, winning 28 seats out of 70.

After the Ramlila Maidan protest, this was the second time that demonstrated that Kejriwal was keen on having power. The first was when he made the political party despite having said earlier that they would not fight elections. AAP aligned with the very Congress against which it had crusaded. The alliance didn’t work and introduction of Lok Pal Bill in the Assembly became the bone of contention and Kejriwal sacrificed the government taking a high moral ground.

From here, started his differences with the then Delhi LG Najeeb Jung. In the 2015 elections when elections were held for the Delhi Assembly, the AAP created history by winning 67 seats out of 70. This huge mandate came with a big challenge for Kejriwal. This was the first loss for BJP after the 2014 general elections when Modi stormed to power. For political reasons, best known to Kejriwal, he himself fought in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections but was blown away by the Modi wave. The first challenge for the Kejriwal-led AAP government was to fulfil the tall promises with little or rather zero experience of governance.

The second challenge was to keep the flock together and fulfil their ambitions and aspirations. The government started with levelling corruption charges against former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and power companies. But AAP failed to substantiate its allegations. Its many promises, ranging from making guest teachers permanent to installation of CCTVs saw no light of the day. Then the fissures started surfacing in the party and stalwarts like Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan were shown the door. Then minister after minister were dropped on corruption or other charges.

Asim Ahmad Khan was dropped from the cabinet on corruption charges, Jitender Singh Tomar was dropped when he was arrested for making false claims about educational qualifications, Sandeep Kumar was dropped when his sex video went viral. Kapil Mishra was dropped for reasons not known in the public domain. The principal secretary of the Chief Minister, Rajendra Prasad, was taken into custody by the CBI on corruption charges. Then the party suffered electoral defeats in states like Punjab and Goa, considered to be strongholds of the party.

The other issue that created tension for the party was issue of 21 parliamentary secretaries who faced the sword of disqualification. The party also lost bye-elections, MCD elections and DUSU elections. AAP did make a difference in the lives of common men by offering 50 per cent subsidy in power bills and 100 per cent subsidy in water bills. In the fields of education and health, some work was done as well but overall governance suffered as the government faced fund crunch as finances were diverted towards subsidising power and water.

The issue in Delhi is not multiplicity of authority, nor bureaucracy, nor the LG’s power. The issue is that of the brute majority which AAP got in 2015. This historic mandate turned the elected representatives arrogant. The mandate went into their heads and they started doubting the competency of others. When the political masters started feeling the pressure of governance because of the huge aspirations of the volunteers, who worked day and night for them, they had to find scapegoats.

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