Six years of AAP: 2019 will define party’s national ambitionshttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/aam-aadmi-party-arvind-kejriwal-six-years-5464310/

Six years of AAP: 2019 will define party’s national ambitions

With its inception on the premise of bringing a 'revolution' for the aam aadmi (common man), the AAP, in its first elections in the national capital in 2013, was able to form the government with outside support from the Congress.

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With Arvind Kejriwal at its helm, the AAP has fought four assembly polls, made its mark in Delhi, courted controversies, and had fallouts with bureaucracy, putting it prominently on the political map of the country. (File Photo)

Born out of the widely-popular ‘anti-corruption movement’ led by social activist Anna Hazare, the Aam Aadmi Party on Monday completed six years since its inception on November 26, 2012.

With Arvind Kejriwal at its helm, the AAP has fought four assembly polls in three states against bigwigs like the Congress and the BJP, twice formed the government in Delhi, fell out with the Centre and bureaucracy, putting it prominently on the political map of the country.

Origins

In 2011, Kejriwal was at the forefront of the ‘anti-corruption movement’ seeking the appointment of a Jan Lokpal (an autonomous body) to probe corruption cases. The protests which later became the undoing of the UPA government saw the group led by Kejriwal split with Anna Hazare’s team to join electoral politics.

With its inception on the premise of bringing a ‘revolution’ for the aam aadmi (common man), the AAP, in its first elections in the national capital in 2013, was able to form the government with outside support from the Congress. Kejriwal resigned and called for fresh elections after his party was unable to pass Lok Pal Bill in Delhi Assembly. Despite burning its hands in the 2014 general elections, the AAP won a historic mandate, with 67 out of 70 seats.

Decline in popularity

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But the popularity of AAP started to wane shortly thereafter, with many ‘faces’ of the party parting ways. Co-founders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav were expelled from the party by the disciplinary action committee for “violation of code and conduct of the party” and “gross indiscipline”.

Shazia Ilmi too quit the party, later joining the BJP. Poet-turned-politician Kumar Vishwas, once a confidant of the CM, has been isolated by the party leadership.

A survey by Pew Research Centre, a US-based fact-tank, states that in 2015, the “favourable view” for Kejriwal among Indians was 60 per cent, but fell to 39 per cent in 2017.

Elections in Punjab (2015) and Goa (2017) made a dent in AAP’s national ambitions after the party failed to make a mark. But more than its electoral hits and misses, the AAP has stayed in news over public fallouts with the Delhi bureaucracy.

Delhi Power Tussle

Kejriwal had several highly publicised spats with then Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung over governance and administrative affairs, and the tussle with the Office of L-G did not stop even when Anil Baijal took over. Kejriwal had accused Baijal of taking decisions of an elected government and delaying work by sitting on files, at the behest of the Centre. The ruling party has alleged that the Delhi Police which works under the LG vis-a-vis the centre, and the bureaucracy, is working against the state government.

In a relief for the Delhi government, the Supreme Court, in its July 5 order, said the Delhi Lieutenant Governor cannot act independently and must take the aid and advise of the Council of Ministers.

In February this year, then Delhi chief secretary Anshu Prakash filed a complaint against AAP MLAs claiming that he had been assaulted in a meeting held at the Chief Minister’s residence in the intervening night of 19-20. Following the incident, the Delhi government and its bureaucrats were embroiled in a bitter tussle. The government had accused the IAS officers of boycotting meetings with the state ministers. The IAS officers had even suspended all forms of communication, except written, with the ministers of the elected government.

Hits and misses

The Aam Aadmi Party’s initiative on mohalla clinics found a word of praise from former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who hailed Kerjiwal’s “vision” in expanding primary healthcare services in Delhi, and said, “this is exactly what we expect Prime Minister Modi will continue to do…”

The Delhi government’s ‘odd-even’ scheme to tackle pollution also invited an equal measure of praise and criticism. The car-rationing scheme for when air quality touches emergency levels, was termed as ‘theatrics’ by the BJP, and the National Green Tribunal rapped the government for not doing “enough”.

The Kejriwal led government has also placed its bets in the education sector, constructing and upgrading public schools, directing 191 private sector schools to roll back school fee hike. To woo the public in Haryana, Kejriwal had said: “the Aam Aadmi Party will be the catalyst to change”. “We are not saying this without proof. In Delhi, private schools arbitrarily hiked their fee but we ordered them to roll back the hike. In the last 3 years, we have not let them increase their fees.”

Road Ahead

Senior party leaders Ashutosh and Ashish Khetan recently left the party. While the former was allegedly miffed with the party as he was not nominated to Rajya Sabha, the latter said he was leaving to pursue a legal career.

But when things were looking bleak, the party began consolidating its forces and reaching out to disgruntled MLAs ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.  Asim Ahmed Khan, the former environment minister who was removed from the post in 2015 by CM Arvind Kejriwal on allegations of corruption, has been seen in party events and protests over the past three months.

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AAP’s Timarpur MLA, Pankaj Pushkar, who had spoken against the party in 2015 for removing Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan from membership, has also been seen participating in party events. But the party will not be a part of a grand alliance in 2019. State in-charge Sanjay Singh said the party “have never been into the politics of coalition”.