By Dr Munish Raizada
India Against Corruption (IAC) – the anti-corruption movement- that preceded the formation of Aam Aadmi Party saw millions of Indians take long sabbaticals from their jobs and occupy the streets, demanding a corruption free India. When the Aam Aadmi Party came into being, it aimed at filling a vacuum. A vacuum created due to non existence of honest political parties in the country. AAP was an outcome of relentless efforts put in by millions of unpaid volunteers over several months. When the party achieved a historic clean sweep in Delhi in February this year, it looked all set to take forward its indigenous brand of clean politics all over the country and live up to its hype. The journey started with a dream, but mutations have already started becoming visible under the leadership of Arvind Kejriwal.
Events of the past few months including Arvind Kejriwal’s open support to JD(U) despite disagreement from many party members has raised pertinent questions over the values of the party which it held so dear during its earlier days. An official show cause notice to the internal pressure group allegedly formed by the party volunteers, Lokpal.us, further shows that the voices of dissent, no matter how well intentioned they may be, are losing their place inside the party. Though the party takes pride in stating absence of a ‘central high command’ in the Aam Aadmi Party, it has been well recognised that opinions of a few matter a lot more than others. The dissolution of the Maharashtra unit is another example of high handedness and it was followed by the resignation of saner voices like Mayank Gandhi, from the National Executive, as a mark of protest.
In such a scenario, the upcoming AAP National Council meeting on 23rd November has assumed great significance. The build up to this critical meeting has been shady to say the least. The National Council is the highest policy making body of the party and has pivotal roles like electing the National Executive and amending the constitution.
Only a few selected members have been given an invitation to attend this National Council meeting. Since the party’s constitution only requires a 33 per cent attendance as the quorum for the meeting, it is a highly calculative step taken to serve the purpose of the leadership. Additionally, the constitution requires a minimum of 21-day period for the party to circulate the agenda of the NC meeting, thereby giving the members enough time to prepare their inputs. But curiously, with less than a week to go, no specific agenda about the meeting has been circulated to the members.
The previous meeting of the National Council was a dark day in the history of the party with bouncers being deployed at the venue. The meeting saw Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav being kicked out of the party unceremoniously. It was far from what the volunteers, the people who helped build the party, expected to witness. Another reason which makes this upcoming meeting so crucial is that the three-year terms of the National Executive is coming to an end in the next few days. The constitution also clearly states that “No member will hold the same post as an office bearer for more than two consecutive terms of three years each”. Keeping this in mind, the National Council must take this as an opportunity to groom the next set of leaders by giving them important posts in the party. A large army of able leaders is essential to keep the movement well and alive.
AAP has been a party of many firsts. From being the first party to openly display its donor list on its website to being the first party to organise mohalla sabhas to ask for suggestions on how to run the government, the AAP has lived up to its expectations in many areas. Now with the party losing ground among its well wishers, it may be an ideal time to telecast the live recording of the National Council meeting so that there are no speculations afterwards, as it happened the last time.
This would only strengthen the trust of the volunteers in the party.
Despite all the anomalies, the party volunteers stand united behind Arvind Kejriwal. It is now up to the leadership to respond to the faceless and voiceless volunteers and steer the party back to the values from where it emerged. The National Council meeting gives a chance to show that the dream of a corruption free India is still at the heart of the AAP.