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The term referendum seems dear to the heart of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Prashant Bhushan. This is the word we have heard most often from him since AAP’s historic victory. First he sought a referendum in Kashmir to ascertain whether the armed forces should be deployed there. His own party, under heavy fire from other political parties, disagreed with him. Not one to be deterred that easily he now wants a referendum to see whether the security forces, which he feels are handmaidens of big corporates, should be removed from Naxal-dominated areas. This has of course set off a flutter in the dovecotes of politics. Now, to express such sentiments if you are a civil society activist protesting at Jantar Mantar is one thing and is acceptable. But now that he is part of a party which is in governance, there are certain areas into which it is best not to go into without understanding all the ramifications.
Mr Bhushan should stick, for the moment, to strengthening the fledgling party before biting off more than he can chew. It is remarks like these that provide fodder to those who oppose AAP and feel that it is hopelessly naïve. We wonder if Mr Bhushan has asked those living in Naxal-dominated areas whether they would feel safer with the removal of the security forces. Has he made this comment after having studied all the facts? We suspect not. There is also no doubt that the security forces are guilty of several human rights violations but then so are the Naxals. It is Panglossian to think that the Naxal problem can be solved by withdrawing the security forces or that the Kashmir problem can be solved by moving the army out. Mr Bhushan’s remarks are irresponsible and serve to highlight his party’s lack of understanding of larger national issues.
There is no constitutional provision for a referendum on such issues and so Mr Bhushan’s remarks are really more for effect than anything else. The only problem is that every time he raises this issue, his own partymen have to run for cover. Not a very effective way of managing both time and resources as the party gets off the blocks in Delhi.