The rate at which the fledgling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is springing surprises is both baffling and bemusing. Even the birth of the party took place amid some unpleasantness because AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal had at that time fallen out with his mentor, Anna Hazare, and Indian Against Corruption colleague Kiran Bedi.
Now comes the exit of academic Yogendra Yadav and advocate Prashant Bhushan from the party’s highest decision-making body, the political affairs committee, after the culmination of a power struggle. Mr Yadav and Mr Bhushan are highly reputed and experienced in their own fields, and their presence could have bolstered the image of the party. Instead what has happened is an unseemly development that gives every indication that behind the democratic garb of AAP there will be a hierarchy that will determine the contours of politics in the coming years. Worse, this has come within three weeks of its stupendous victory in Delhi.
When probed, AAP does reveal some characteristics that show the party to be in the rough and tumble of a transition, and very fast at that. When AAP had formed the government in December 2013 with Congress support, it was behaving more like a mass organisation, with the tendency to take to the streets as its insignia. However, after its poor showing in the Lok Sabha polls, it went into a phase of sullen silence on various things that agitated the minds of its foremost leaders. When the land acquisition law was taken up for diluting some of its provisions, the party was not being able to make much of a case for or against it. This only goes to show the party took electoral defeats with as much despondency as other parties do, thereby proving that power was after all important. And now that power has returned to the party, another round of trouble has started because institutional arrangements for sharing its spoils are not yet in place. Hence the factionalism.
It would be a tragedy and letting down the people of Delhi a second time if the party forgot its original resolutions, which endeared it to the electorate. Apart from corruption, AAP had a standard complaint against other parties, including the Left ones, that they were too hierarchical and undemocratic, which left little scope for initiatives to emerge from below and hence the people’s voice went unheard. To preclude such possibilities the party named itself the Aam Aadmi Party. But the charges and counter-charges made by the two factions only undermine the faith that it is a party with a difference. Both Mr Kejriwal and Messrs Yadav and Bhushan would do well to remember that and bury the hatchet.