Ever since it first flashed on Delhi’s political scene, a showy staginess has been intrinsic to the politics of the AAP. Even so, the latest postures of the party and its leader breach the red lines of political conduct in a federal polity. Earlier this week, Arvind Kejriwal released a video message where he claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is so “frustrated that he could get me killed”. In a previous attack, Kejriwal had described the PM as a “coward” and a “psychopath”. There is, of course, no love lost between the AAP and the BJP, and their respective governments, after the former trounced the latter in the February 2015 assembly election. It is also true that the complex power equation between Delhi government and the Centre is tilted heavily in the latter’s favour and the Centre has wantonly exercised its authority on the state. Delhi Police, which reports to the Centre, has arrested 11 AAP MLAs in the past few months, many on apparently flimsy charges. The AAP has also alleged that the CBI raids at the CM’s office and the arrest of his principal secretary, and largescale transfers of Delhi officers earlier, were the Centre’s attempt to unsettle its government in Delhi.
Nevertheless the AAP’s penchant to play victim and resort to theatricality, particularly on social media, undermines its own case. Its leadership and cadre appear to inhabit a space and time that precedes its grand electoral success. The party refuses to recognise the reality that it is no more an outlier but a part of the establishment. The apocalyptic rhetoric it deploys to attract attention may have worked in the past when it was trying to transform an inchoate movement into a new party. But that phase is long over. The people expect the AAP to show the responsibility and restraint of a party in government and its leaders must negotiate the demands of political competition more intelligently, without stooping to name-calling.
Federal democracy calls for nuanced positions and team work. It is about the state government and the Centre searching for a common ground to co-exist and work together. Delhi is growing at a fast pace and the two governments need to work closely if its governance needs are to be met. The battles waged by these two parties have exhausted the administration and are affecting the delivery of public goods and services. Delhi’s citizens are being made to bear the burden of the AAP-BJP confrontation.