Updated: March 4, 2015 7:15:36 pm
A defining snapshot of the unfurling crisis in the Aam Aadmi Party is made up of the recording by a member of the party, now a personal aide to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, of a telephonic conversation with a journalist (at the time with The Hindu, now with The Indian Express), without her knowledge. That recording, which is being used as a weapon in the factional squabble that has been bared within the AAP, is not incidental. It is a central feature of the AAP’s patented sting politics. And it raises troubling questions that have to do with its blurring and crossing of lines, and the lack of judgement shown by the party leadership vis a vis the trade-offs involved. Even during the tenure of the AAP’s previous shortlived government, the party’s promotion of citizen vigilantism in the name of nabbing the allegedly corrupt may have proved to be a popular gimmick but it had raised thorny issues of consent, privacy, entrapment, accountability and the definition of public purpose. These questions were never convincingly addressed, much less answered by the party, which then went on to stage a stunning comeback and whose chief has once again exhorted the people to go out, make a “setting” and sting. Now that it has been revealed, however, that the party uses the sting operation to quell the dissent within, the shield of public purpose — or the fig leaf — has also fallen off. What stands exposed is not at all a pretty sight.
When the AAP’s national executive meets, it would have much to discuss and debate. The party has defined itself as a gamechanger, as a force of alternative politics that aims to transform the way political things are done in this country. Its unprecedented mandate in Delhi shows that it has, at least in Delhi, managed to win the trust of the people for its ability to deliver on its promises. It has certainly made a new and important beginning in laying down and largely adhering to high standards of transparency in political finance. But the question is this: Could the AAP be jeopardising its hard-won political capital, and its credibility as a party of government, with its preference for the illiberal short cut, and seeming aversion to institutionalising accountable structures and evolving patient processes?
At the national executive, the question will also be one of internal democracy and nature of decision-making — issues that have been raised by the AAP’s senior leaders, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan. Can the AAP frame robust party structures to handle the differences and disagreements within? Can it give a shape to its original idea of itself as an open and energetic space for multiple, even contending, points of view? The AAP’s future will depend on whether and in what manner it addresses those questions
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