OPINION
Kejriwal fails to draw lessons; gets a rap
- VIPIN PUBBY*
Kejriwal fails to draw lessons; gets a rap



IT WAS JUST a year ago that the Aam Aadmi Party was making a serious bid to wrest power in Punjab and use it as a stepping stone for providing a national alternative to the Bharatiya Janata Party. It had to settle for the role of the main opposition party after the Congress led by Capt Amarinder Singh wrested power in the state.

Barely a year into its role, with one of its legislators elected Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, the party is finding itself in deep crisis. Although a split in the party is unlikely, partly due to the anti-defection laws, the open dissension and airing of resentment by top leaders has dented its credibility.

The inept handling of the situation in the wake of an unconditional apology tendered by Party supremo Arvind Kejriwal to former Punjab minister Bikram Singh Majithia, which triggered the crisis, could have been avoided if the state unit leaders had been kept in the loop. The indications are that they were deliberately kept in the dark and not taken into confidence before the apology was tendered in the court. Perhaps the fear was that they would oppose any such move.

One of the main planks on which AAP had campaigned for the elections was eradication of drug menace and to expose the alleged nexus between politicians and drug peddlers. Majithia, brother-in-law of the then deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, somehow got to be projected as the mascot of this unholy nexus.
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Kejriwal, as is his wont, had been making wild allegations against anyone coming in his path. No wonder he is facing no less than 33 cases of defamation across 21 states of the country and has been spending considerable time in appearing in courts to defend himself.
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Majithia, who belongs to a rich landlord family, has been denying any involvement but AAP as well as the Congress kept targeting him. The only ‘link’ between him and drug mafia that was sought to be projected as ‘evidence’ was that he was named by a former DSP and drug smuggler, Bhola, during his interrogation. He retaliated with filing a series of defamation cases against their leaders as well as media organisations.

Kejriwal, as is his wont, had been making wild allegations against anyone coming in his path. No wonder he is facing no less than 33 cases of defamation across 21 states of the country and has been spending considerable time in appearing in courts to defend himself.

That’s the argument he advanced to the 10 party MLAs who attended a meeting with him in the wake of the open revolt against his decision to apologise to Majithia. By that time, however, much damage had been caused to the credibility of the party with senior leaders like the Leader of Opposition, Sukhpal Singh Khaira and journalist-turned-politician Kanwar Sandhu criticising the move. Even the state unit chief Bhagwant Mann and co-president Aman Arora tendered resignation from their posts.

Although some of the MLAs had indicated a possible breaking away from the party, it is not likely due to the amended anti-defection law which does not allow a split in legislature parties. It allows merger but given the circumstances, the party MLAs can’t afford to merge either with the Congress or the SAD-BJP combine. Even the possible merger with Lok Insaf Party of Bains brothers is ruled out as that party is restricted to Ludhiana. Besides with just about one year of the five-year term completed, none of the legislators would like to resign and face an uncertain election again.

While efforts are underway to mend fences, it is clear that the state unit of the party would demand and extract more autonomy for it from the Centre. It is undoubtedly a genuine demand but Kejriwal hasn’t been learning lessons from his past blunders.

Besides his action of throwing out top leaders like Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and others, his inept handling of the Punjab campaign was certainly the major cause for a comparatively poor result for the party in the state. He first expelled one of the foremost state leader, Sucha Singh Chottepur, and then imposed a central team to select candidates who made several blunders while selecting candidates. The party had to pay a heavy price due to its failure to repose faith in local leadership and providing it autonomy to take vital decision.
 

It is a lesson he should have taken much earlier from political rival, the Congress party. Like that party, his refusal to grant autonomy to state units and backing local leadership, has caused much damage to AAP.
 
 

 

 

 *(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career. This article was also published by lokmarg.com and is being reproduced here with the due permission of the author. - Ed) 

 

  

 

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