AAP embarks on a new, corrosive agitation. But how long will the Congress sustain it?
The sight of Delhi’s chief minister, flanked by his entire cabinet, blockading Rail Bhavan to demand the suspension of three Delhi Police officials and protest the alleged corruption of the entire force, has few parallels in our democracy. Despite heading a state government now, Arvind Kejriwal’s party seems to know only one trick — that of showy, permanent insurrection. When the Aam Aadmi Party entered politics, its presence was welcomed even by those who disagreed with its agenda. It was seen as a bracing new force that, at the very least, would imprint its own priorities in policymaking. But the AAP has continued to behave as though it is a popular reality TV show, sidestepping the processes and institutions of representative government, trying to change laws from the streets. Its ministers have asked citizens to “sting” corrupt officials, and taken on police officers for not raiding homes on the basis of hearsay or unverified complaints. Now, the chief minister has invited policemen to join his dharna against the Union home ministry.
There has been a longstanding argument on who should get charge of Delhi Police. Previous chief ministers have expressed their frustration at not having control over law and order in the state. But whether the force is better off being accountable to MLAs or to MPs is no longer the issue — as it performs unendingly to the crowd and conflates the mob’s passions and prejudices with the people’s will, the AAP’s method is.
But as the AAP’s chief prop and ally, the Congress has blundered too. It is not clear why it chose to facilitate a party that made no secret of its hostility to either the Congress or “the system”. Its official explanation is that it was to save Delhi another election, but it may in fact have been acting to thwart and hold off the BJP. Whatever the reason, the result is that its eight MLAs are constantly chafing against and criticising the government they hold up. The AAP has reiterated its yet unsubstantiated allegations against the previous Congress government. It is now hurling loose accusations at the Union home minister. In an interview to this paper, senior leader P. Chidambaram has admitted that there were divisions within the party on supporting the AAP. The Congress needs to explain — to itself and to the voters — just why it walked into this farcical partnership.