When the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) emerged on the Indian political horizon, the country was stirred by the prospect of young and dynamic leaders cleansing the system.
Although it began as an apolitical movement, I concurred with Arvind Kejriwal’s view that to cleanse politics, one must enter politics. For this reason, I have been telling the Naxals to move from bullet to ballot.
I was happy to see many young people participate in the last assembly elections in Jharkhand.
The coterie culture of established political parties has left the common man with little scope for participation in the system other than casting votes. The new party created high hopes in millions of Indians who were tired of corruption and criminalisation of politics.
Many signed up for membership of AAP, yearning to see a better India. Its people-to-people connection and sincerity of purpose made Delhi vote for it in a big way.
It was good that, subsequently, AAP formed the government with the Congress’ support. People expected the new government to take on corrupt leaders.
If the AAP government had fallen because of its positive action against corruption, it would have scored high on integrity. But the party was ill-advised to resign so that it could get out of Delhi and sweep the nation.
By doing this, Kejriwal showed himself to be no different from other politicians — the hidden ambition and agenda came to the forefront.
Cheap publicity stunts, self-contradiction, over-ambition and autocracy tarnished the positive image of AAP and soon many respectable people became disillusioned and left the party.
Now Kejriwal says that he is okay with a fractured mandate in this election and mid-term polls in two years’ time. This indicates a very callous attitude towards the nation’s economy and security.
He visited Gujarat for four days and hurled criticism without any basis at the state’s development. I have travelled through the length and breadth of Gujarat over the years. In the 1990s and early 2000s, to see a tree in Saurashtra was a rarity.
It was so drought-prone that people had to sell their cattle often. But today there is greenery everywhere. Electricity supply was scarce — hardly two hours a day. Today there is water and electricity in almost every village and the per capita income has risen.
While Gujarat may not be 100% corruption-free, I have no hesitation in saying that it is much better than what it used to be. Instead of being honest with facts, Kejriwal has chosen to put down BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on flimsy grounds.
If AAP is voted for a role in national politics and if Kejriwal does what he did in Delhi, it will be an absolute disaster for the country.
India cannot afford to take such a risk when the country is on a ventilator with most economic parameters vulnerably placed. We need a stable government at the Centre to put our economy back on track and spur development.
In a hurry to jump on the national scene, AAP has compromised all principles that gave birth to it.
AAP should have proved its mettle in Delhi and taken time to build up its cadre in other parts of the country. It should have gone to villages and contested panchayat and municipality elections and taken time to build a strong and committed cadre, trained in governance.
It could have forced other parties to rethink their strategy of giving tickets to criminals and corrupt people. With a strong foundation, it would have been a boon to the nation. But with so many contradictions, AAP has squandered its agenda of political reform.
When Kejriwal captured people’s imagination with his sharp activism during the anti-corruption movement, he was primed to give an alternative to Indian politics.
But after his recent antics, there is a sense of being let down even among those who were once his staunch supporters. He came to give the country a choice, but has left the country choiceless.
(Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a spiritual leader. The views expressed by the author are personal.)