Arvind Kejriwal heard about the surgical strike and immediately sent a congratulatory tweet to the Indian Army, but churlishly, not to the government – even though everyone knows that in our democracy, our armed forces would not do anything without the nod of the government. Thus credit is equally due to the decision-makers, but because the main decision maker is Narendra Modi, he was not congratulated.
Then, as soon as some of the AAP leaders heard about questions that the Pak propaganda had managed to raise, they thought of a master stroke: Modi is going to use the surgical strike to win in Punjab, so let us sow doubts in the minds of the people so that all anti-Modi votes come to us and Punjab can be won. Therefore, in an over-clever video, Kejriwal glorified Modi and the army, but asked them to provide proof of the strikes to retaliate against Pakistan. If the government does not give evidence, it would lose credibility, and AAP can win Punjab. And if it does share evidence, then the government would have played its winning hand now (seven months before Punjab elections) and AAP could neutralise the goodwill of the BJP within that period. Smart political move!
But most intelligent, objective people saw through this charade, and this strategy backfired and how! The video was seen as a challenge to the DGMO’s press conference and a questioning of the army; it was taken up by Pakistan as the “substantiation of Pak propaganda by the CM of the capital of India”; CNN 18 got an expose from the Pak side establishing that there was a surgical strike so the military action was proved without the army having to give classified and strategic information.
For me, most importantly, AAP lost all respect. My colleagues, with whom I have waved the Indian flag and shouted “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” till my voice became hoarse, had traded national interest with votes. For me, national interest in non-negotiable.
My past: The Emergency was a dark period in the history of India. I had jumped into the national fight against it and we won. The nation rejoiced. But it was short-lived – the Janata Party experiment was given support by people overwhelmingly, but the country was betrayed by the limitations of the leaders. The nation was witness to politicians focussing on electoral victories, abandoning all principles. JP was a mute spectator to this degeneration (like Anna Hazare). Good people started going away from politics. And our emergency heroes like Lalu and Mulayam started playing the usual politics and won many elections. I was young, inexperienced and did not have any access to leaders or followers to try and correct them, or even to inform them of the pain that the nation was undergoing. I had no interest in power nor fame, so I stepped back into education and my normal life.
The nation was betrayed.
Today: After many decades, the country was ready for another national movement. The India Against Corruption movement, AAP and the Delhi victory were based on certain principles. Pundits and commentators who said that elections could not be won without compromise and without using money, muscle or divisive agenda had to eat crow. A new revolution of clean money, principles and decency seemed at hand. The nation rejoiced once again. In 2012, many like me had quit their job – hundreds of volunteers, some of them daily-wage earners whose parents were unwell, who had family problems, who sold their land, who took sabbatical from their jobs or studies – all came to serve the nation instead of hand-picked, self-serving, arrogant leaders.
Having won so handsomely in Delhi, the leadership took all the credit and arrogantly thought that they had all the answers to winning elections. Personal ambitions, an end-justifies-means approach, and electoral victory at all costs became the by-line. Political machinations and palace intrigue set in. A new set of principles replaced the earlier one. To our horror, the new principles started becoming real. The compromises began.
Simplicity, humility, decency and the desire for a new political culture was replaced by use of uncouth language against opponents – Narendra Modi, Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, the media. Arrogance in statements and TV debates, travelling in VIP convoys, banners at every street corner with multiple faces, blaming and accusing everyone at the dirtiest level, playing the victim card, having bouncers at internal meetings, and especially using multiple accounts and trolling on social media to discredit old associates. All pretence to simplicity and decency has been abandoned. Everything that we used to despise is now us.
Media management revolves around strong words, doing drama, acting, blaming. Good news or bad news does not matter: one should manipulate the media to get crores’ worth of air and print time. The media is naïve, needs action and controversy. Manipulate it. Many of our erstwhile supporters or people who were looking at AAP with interest have stopped taking us seriously.
And as AAP wants to become the main party to challenge BJP in next general election by making a gat-bandhan (alliance), the strategy is to directly attack Modi for everything, so that Kejriwal appears to be Modi’s main opponent. So calling Modi a “coward and psychopath” gets you tremendous media attention as well as pits you against the PM. This one-point attack may have tremendous strategic advantage, but also some major disadvantages too: you tend to ignore many events and developments that impact the nation because Modi cannot be blamed for them.
Swaraj was one of the first casualty after Delhi elections. It was even removed from the party constitution. No state leaders were allowed to grow. MLAs elected to run Delhi are now traveling across states, lording over the local units. Maharashtra (the best committee and team) was disbanded on October 1, 2015 and is now being managed by someone from Delhi. Same is the case with Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Goa and other states. I went through Arvind’s book to find this new definition of Swaraj, but in vain!
No personality cult was replaced with the new principle – there should be just “one voice in the party”. Any independent voice should not just be removed, but ejected in such a manner that no one would have the guts to speak up. Merit has been replaced by loyalty. A volunteer-based party has a new principle: “Ek jayega toh dus aayenge” (we will find 10 recruits for each person who exits).
Transparency and Participation: When we had the meeting in which Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan were thrown out in March 2015, I had asked that minutes of the meeting be circulated, which was denied. I followed my conscience and wrote a blog. I knew that they will come after me and my political career would be over. I chose to still write the blog. But, little did I realise that they will use go down to the level of using some ugly false personal allegations against me as well as dismiss the entire Maharashtra party to spite me. The minutes of that meeting are still not released.
Clean money is another casualty. When I was in the party, my main pitch to donors was that we displayed even a rupee donated and that we were very prompt on making a Balance Sheet, and an Income and Expenditure Statement. It is alleged that there is a mismatch of around 14 crores between financial statement given to Election Commission and the donation list. Therefore, the donation list has been removed from website for the last 13 weeks. The balance sheet and expense statement has not been displayed since 31st March, 2014. Which means it has been 30 months since accounts have been shown.
Governance in Delhi is in very poor shape. Instead of making flyovers, roads, hospitals and major works – petty works like making one model classroom, installing AC in one school, a few mohalla clinics etc. are highlighted. I have met hundreds of people in Delhi, most of whom were the backbone of the 67-3 victory who are furious and betrayed. MLAs are moving in other states for party work, top leadership is focused on winning elections in Punjab, Goa and Gujarat. From a 54% vote share in the assembly victory, the MCD by-elections vote share was 29%. Delhi is supposed to be the party’s forte and youth the backbone. In spite of using our standard operating procedure of picking some favourable opinion poll and publicizing that we were sweeping the polls – AAP was decimated in last year’s Delhi University elections.
My goal: I will try to raise important issues in the hope that the party will make take note and try to course correct. If this experiment for a new India fails and turns into just electoral victories, the nation will become cynical and it will take decades before our countrymen will trust a new movement or party. I do not see BJP or Congress being able to transform the country.
Unlike many who quit or were removed, I have joined no other party, created no group. I have no personal or political goals (I have quit electoral politics), I have no issues with any individuals. My aim is purely unselfish – keep a check on the party as the country cannot afford another failure.
I meditate, reflect, read and write for spiritual evolution. For nation-building, I am happy doing my bit for the country by developing 15 villages in drought-ridden Beed in Marathwada as a model to be replicated. On an intellectual level, I intend to play the role of a conscience keeper.
It is always nation first, party next and individuals last.