Dear Arvind Kejriwal,
As a journalist who has covered your causes and politics – starting from 2008 (Right to Information campaigns), 2009-10 (Swaraj campaign), then in 2011, the India Against Corruption (IAC) and 2012 onwards, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) since its inception, I’ve seen your journey from an almost earnest activist to what your opponents like to describe you today: A wily politician.
Two reasons prompted me to write this letter: Your pathetic approach towards looking at the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) polls debacle and the attempts by many to write off AAP.
After first blaming EVMs, you finally conceded, supposedly after feedback from your MLAs and other leaders, that it was time to go back to drawing board. But you kept open your claim about how EVMs can be tampered and challenged the Election Commission that you know 10 ways of hacking an EVM.
I hope it does not fall flat as have been your tall claims of corruption involving leaders from the Congress and the BJP during 2011 and 2012. “Shoot and scoot” was what you were called then. You will again be labelled the same if you are not able to prove what you claim about EVMs.
All this makes me wonder … where has that earnest activist gone? It was in May 2010, I covered one of your public meetings at Indore.
Introduced as an RTI activist, you went on to explain how getting information using the RTI Act did not suffice and time had come for action. ‘Swaraj’ was a concept you were propagating – it was all about empowerment of local mohalla committees or gram sabhas.
You also sang a poem by Dushyant Kumar: “Ho gai hai peer parvat si”. Towards the end, you said this particular line was your favourite: Sirf humgama khada karna mera maqsad nahi, saari koshish hai ki ye surat badalni chahiye ( I don’t intend to just create a ruckus but feel that there is a need to change the situation).
Naïve optimism is what I said earlier. And all this was indeed reflected in the AAP’s manifesto for the 2013 Delhi assembly elections. Many were surprised to find elements such as Swaraj, the idea of devolving power to people. The possibility that people can themselves decide how tax-payers’ money can be spent in their respective areas was a thrilling, innovative idea and the response was a spectacular 28 seats.
The manifesto then had promised how AAP was not here “to merely fight elections, it is here to change the rules of the game. It is here to rewrite the politics of this country, it is here to transform the relationship between the government and the people, it is here to make the government truly ‘of the people’.” But more than three years down the line, first after a small 49-day stint and then this February 2015 onwards rule, no such thing has happened. I am not even talking about the leaders thrown out of AAP for differing with you. Why to talk of devolving power to people?
A keen reading of the manifestos of 2015 assembly polls and more recently, of the MCD polls, are proof enough that you had deviated from the original promise. You have already mentioned, albeit unwillingly, to go back to drawing board. The MCD polls drubbing should not be considered as a parameter for AAP’s longevity. That your candidates won 48 seats is proof enough that there are ample people who still have faith in you.
Remember the adage: A capacity to win elections is one thing and capacity to govern as promised is another.
So, instead of crying hoarse on EVMs, why not go back to sincerely following and acting upon what the party had set out to do?
Why not go back to the 2013 manifesto even now, with three more years for your term to end?
I don’t even want to use terms such as alternative politics but something that you once believed and made people believe.
Nivedita Khandekar is an independent journalist based in Delhi.
The views expressed are personal