Swaraj India: Unfair to dismiss Yogendra Yadav’s party as old wine in a new bottle

Over 18 months after launching Swaraj Abhiyan, as the party leaders shifted gears to electoral politics, they felt the need to explain why.

Written by Sweta Dutta | New Delhi | Updated: October 5, 2016 12:01 pm
swaraj abhiyan, swaraj india, yogendra yadav, aam aadmi party, arvind kejriwal, prashant bhushan, yogendra yadav party, AAP Swaraj Abhiyan leaders Prashant Bhushan, Shanti Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav during a press conference after the launch of their new political patry ‘Swaraj India’ in New Delhi (PTI Photo by Shahbaz Khan)

Eighteen months after expelled Aam Aadmi Party leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan formed a socio-political organization, the Swaraj Abhiyan, the duo launched a full-fledged political party Sunday to enter electoral politics offering what the AAP had claimed it would provide – alternative politics. While Yadav has taken over the reins of the political party, Swaraj India, Bhushan was appointed national president of the non-electoral Swaraj Abhiyan that will continue to run campaigns, both their roles neatly cut out.

Even as the two leaders have despised the media for calling Swaraj Abhiyan, a splinter group of AAP and have insisted that the new formation will carve a niche of its own, the essence of its vision and constitution is closely on the lines of AAP’s political structure. The promises of rooting out corruption, ensuring democracy and transparency within the party have a ring of familiarity and so do the faces of the top executive members of the new political party that essentially comprises former AAP leaders like Ajit Jha and Anand Kumar.

It would, however, be unfair to dismiss the new party as old wine in a new bottle as Swaraj India experiments with some ideas that are unheard of in the Indian political pitch. At a time when most political parties in the country have resisted the idea of being brought under the purview of the Right to Information Act, Swaraj India has voluntarily decided to come under the Act and has announced a Public Information Officer for the purpose.

Stung by what the expelled AAP leaders called ‘personality cult’ in their former organization, the leaders of Swaraj India have at least pledged to prioritize internal democracy in the party.

“At a time when political parties are afflicted by the malaise of ‘personality cult’ and centralization of power, Swaraj India has decided that the party shall be governed by collective leadership through an organizational model of ‘Presidium’ as the highest decision making body… At a time when all national parties are governed by Delhi durbar, the Constitution of Swaraj India has with deliberate care created a federal structure for decentralized decision making, where the state units and districts units will have adequate say and authority… Swaraj India has decided that its candidate selection process will be one step forward in use of transparent and innovative methods based on participatory mechanisms such as primaries, decision of members etc,” an official statement read.

“Swaraj India has decided that apart from motions that can cause to the fall of a government, the legislators of the party will not be subject to ‘whip.’ This arises out of conviction and belief that parliament and assemblies should allow pure debate, discussion and dissent in the true spirit of democracy and freedom of speech. We have decided that there will be freedom of expression within the party at all levels and dissent will be accorded respect and space.”

Over 18 months after launching Swaraj Abhiyan, as the party leaders shifted gears to electoral politics, they felt the need to explain why. In a detailed statement, a day after the launch of the party, it explained why there was a need to form a party. “Today, the founding values of our republic are under threat. Democracy, Diversity and Dialogue is under attack, ironically by the ones who are entrusted to safeguard these values. The very idea of India is under a challenge. Sadly, there is no political force that has the vision and the will to take on this challenge. Swaraj India takes up the challenge to fill up this vacuum,” the statement read.

Though there was no announcement of its future plans, it is learnt that the party is preparing for the upcoming municipal polls. As a first step, it has been running a campaign against the Delhi government’s excise policy and has held several public meetings across the Capital so far demanding the closure of liquor vends in residential areas. It is expected to intensify its campaign in the coming months and to take up other civic issues ahead of the polls. Though Yadav has travelled extensively in Bundelkhand and Marathwada rallying in support of drought-hit farmers and has made several tours to Punjab to feel the pulse of the electorate ahead of the big ticket assembly polls in the state, Swaraj India is unlikely to make any big moves right now. Despite open support from two of AAP’s suspended Members of Parliament in Punjab, Yadav and his party colleagues do not feel they stand a good chance to sweep the upcoming elections and will choose to stay on the fringes till they are sure of bigger gains.