Kejriwal, AAP & Liberals' Criticism – Let Me Defend the Defensible
AAP’s brand of inclusive politics, based on humanism, is the antithesis of what RSS believes or, indeed, exists for.
The pronouncements of so many people in the media (both traditional and social) today suggest that they do not realise the irony of living in a country where the behemoth that rules India does not even hold legislative power in five of its seven biggest cities (each with its own local language).
The most diverse country in the world is blessed with “liberals” who believe that their “correct” values (borrowed entirely from western education) are homogeneously applicable right through India.
Their delusion extends to how they believe politicians should conduct themselves, in a space where falsehood and criminality has been institutionalised, for an audience that responds much more to the emotional triggers of fake news and bias confirmation than stolid fact. Nothing else explains the indignation to many aspects regarding Arvind Kejriwal and AAP.
Here are some of those indignant statements, countered by an observer.
AAP Has No Ideology
A slogan that was apparently emanating from AAP supporters on counting day was “Jai shri kaam!” While a version of “work is worship” was also the motto at the Auschwitz concentration camp, it is worth considering two other key aspects about AAP to judge why this goes some distance in defining them.
Honesty has been AAP’s flagship cry right from its inception. Unlike every other political party who allowed that word to escape their collective lips, AAP actually acted upon that as a mission.
They brought corruption down to such an extent that the saved money was used to give free electricity and water to people, and also make metro travel free for women (bizarrely called “freebies” by the opposition). Without raising taxes, his government was able to provide these services, the last one being life-changing for many families.
Secondly, the core focus at AAP on healthcare and education as the “Delhi Model” (a departure from the “Gujarat Model”, that was about roads/ infrastructure and business-friendliness) demonstrates the humanist core in AAP that sees the greater good of people as its primary reason of existence.
Putting the ordinary citizen (of all religions and castes) at the centre of their existence is its primary leitmotif.
So, Work + Honesty + Humanism is a pretty good equation to draw the foundation of AAP’s “ideology”.
It is possible to extrapolate their positions on most issues from this. But in this age of social justice warriors, some people would have you believe that trying to find fresh solutions to every difficult situation with a compassionate outlook is inferior to ideological grandstanding, and the bias confirmation and force-fitting that often accompanies that.
AAP Is the B-Team of the RSS
Anyone who witnessed the long-drawn-out struggles that AAP had with the central government till the Supreme Court intervened and still believes this might need a sixth sense as the five he or she possesses aren’t really helping.
For starters, these people need to understand that the RSS worldview is that of Hindu domination, an isolationist mindset where all non-Hindus are second-class citizens. Even if laws have to be changed and history has to be rewritten towards that end, they will do it.
The current BJP dispensation is carrying out the RSS agenda more than ever before in India.
But AAP’s brand of inclusive politics, based on humanism, is the antithesis of what RSS believes or, indeed, exists for. The evidence is so overwhelming that it is laughable this even needs to be stressed on.
AAP Is Playing the Same Religious Card as BJP
Firstly, BJP is blatantly polarising society on the basis of religion – this is not even under discussion anymore. AAP has never ever even remotely hinted at that kind of mindset. Secondly, the aggressive militant brand of “Hindutva” that BJP has put forth implies that they speak for all Hindus.
The unprecedented level of fake news mongering and brainwashing going on in its name can only be countered by first attacking BJP’s exclusive association with Hinduism.
That is why Kejriwal’s chanting of Hanuman Chalisa was politically smart, and morally unimpeachable. He was not “pandering”, as many “liberal” worthies have squeaked, but asserting the right to his own religion (whether it was spontaneous or not is actually irrelevant, even though Kejriwal has clearly stated in the past that religion is a private affair and not to be used by the State).
AAP volunteers and cadre shouting out “Jai Bajrang Bali!” as a response to aggressive Hindu-themed heckling from BJP cadre is exactly that as well. Forty percent of the Delhi electorate is upper caste Hindus, so it is a huge thing that Hindus routed BJP in these assembly elections.
In fact, if Kejriwal and AAP are able to delink Hinduism from a reawakened narrow-minded hatred under the brand-name of Hindutva, which has actually been Modi’s biggest contribution to India, that would be AAP’s biggest contribution, when all else have failed so far.
The inclusion of “deshbhakti” has been a similar source of outrage for many people. Manish Sisodia actually elaborately spoke about this in an interview where he explained why the idea of “patriotism” itself needs to be rescued from what it has become; instead of hyper-nationalism, it needs to be about one’s duties as a citizen.
That Hinduism and patriotism invoke such visceral responses from “liberals” tells you how much the notion of what those ideas stand for today need rescuing before it is too late.
Kejriwal Supported the Abrogation of Article 370, Which Makes Him Anti-Liberal
There are many Indians who believe that Article 370 should be removed but Kashmiris should be treated with love and understanding, not the horrific kind of violence that has been unleashed upon them for three decades (while equally addressing the concerns of the Kashmiri Pandits).
This has been Kejriwal’s personal view for a long time, so he is only being consistent when he stated that, whether right or wrong.
However, he also said he hoped this would pave the way for peace and development in the state and not violence, and stayed away from speaking against the government – this was his election mode, which he stuck to right till the end. At a time when every small utterance can result in a controversy with the dispensation just looking to create polarisation, this was his strategy (which yielded dividends).
Again, if you account for the humanism that constitutes his big picture, it is absolutely obvious that his approach would not be to subjugate Kashmiris. When he is not currently in a position to translate his beliefs to action, why would he risk alienating some of his Hindu base and jeopardising the very path that might slowly put him there, from where he could actually make a concrete difference?
That’s what people with nothing to lose do.
Kejriwal Showed Grave Insensitivity by Not Showing up at JNU and Shaheen Bagh
As stated above, he actually displayed great prudence by not being lured into situations where he could be further accused of “anti-national” appeasement (which has caused him damage before).
Low attention spans and high emotion do not mix well with factual explanations. Furthermore, his presence in both places would have fulfilled nothing – he has no power to change anything, as he has repeatedly argued.
AAP voted against CAA in parliament, which is the most he could do. Also, at JNU, there was a mob ostensibly waiting for him near the gate with the lights off (which attacked Yogendra Yadav) – any ensuing violence would have enabled BJP to postpone the Delhi elections. This is quite apparent if you reconstruct the events from that day.
And as far as Shaheen Bagh goes, the women there have publicly stated that they do not feel upset or slighted in the least about Kejriwal not coming there, so why is the “liberal” set hyperventilating on their behalf?
Is the idea that Kejriwal may not want to virtue-signal like them unpalatable?
As far as his comment about being able to clear Shaheen Bagh in two hours if he had the power (including the police) is concerned, he already had clarified that he supports the protesters, but also that since citizens are being inconvenienced, there needs to be an amicable solution found.
Saying that he did not have the police under him in this context gave the wrong impression perhaps (which he needs to be careful about) because absolutely nothing indicates that he intended to use any kind of force.
That has simply not been AAP’s way of dealing with any problem in their entire lifespan. It is not out of place to invoke their humanism here.
By Demanding Sharjeel Imam’s Arrest, Kejriwal Showed He Does Not Believe in Freedom of Speech
Kejriwal did not demand Imam’s arrest; he dared the dispensation to do so instead of blaming him for shielding Imam, which they were doing.
Now, Google it – the number of times Kejriwal has dared this same dispensation to arrest AAP members, even him, when they were being accused of something wrong. It’s just that BJP gleefully acted on it this time, which led to howls of Kejriwal not supporting “free speech”.
If he feels Imam said something wrong, now that the elections are over, he would do well to address this issue in coming days.
But all those who believe he does not support freedom of speech should watch “An Insignificant Man” – a very well-made documentary on him (the biggest largest crowdfunded film ever in India). It's a film that Kejriwal did not even vet before it began playing in festivals around the world, even though he knew the film presented a “neutral” point-of-view.
Is there any other politician who would be fine with that?
AAP Is Autocratic and Unable to Create Alternative Leadership
There were two distinct camps in AAP when the churning happened in 2015. The first, which included Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, was virulently opposed to compromising in AAP’s process of being the difference in politics.
They were deeply distressed about the choice of certain candidates for their “winnability”. (Another dissident Mayank Gandhi’s bitter book AAP and down spends 276 pages revolving around the singular grouse of “compromising” and literally nothing else).
The second, that included Arvind Kejriwal and most of AAP’s current cadre, believed that the rules in politics were not made by them, and they have to survive first, in order to change the rules. Winning elections was critical to this, otherwise they would simply perish.
Now, after five years of looking at what AAP has accomplished (both work-wise and electorally, which was a consequence), and what little progress Yadav’s party has made electorally, who would you say had the better grasp of the bigger picture?
And as far as alternative leadership goes, ask yourself what the anguished cries in social media meant when Atishi and Manish Sisodia were behind for a while on counting day. Or how delighted the youth are to see the likes of Raghav Chadha and Sourabh Bhardwaj win their seats.
AAP Spent Public Funds on PR, So They Are No Different From Any Other Party
A political party that crowdfunds its own elections and finds the biased mainstream media ignoring the stellar work they did (its only claim for re-election) is essentially doomed in India.
Unless it uses some of the money it saved through its anti-corruption measures towards letting people know what they did, so that they can continue their unique work.
Some people’s cognitive abilities lead them to believe this is wrong.
This is the tragedy of India. After years of bemoaning the abysmal quality of politicians, the proliferation of dynasts and a political system that demands corruption, when a sincere option emerges so emphatically, bringing with it a politics of deed and not mere talk, Kejriwal does not even earn the benefit of doubt for the most trivial things (like how Twitter exploded last week, accusing him of misogyny because he asked women to speak to their husbands before they voted; even though it was clear that he was asking women to lead the way – reports have stated that the female vote dominated his re-election).
According to the BBC sometime back, Kejriwal was the most attacked leader in Indian politics, both physically and verbally.
Despite leading a 8-year-old party to two of the most astonishing election victories in independent India’s history, being not just the most educated politician in India today who is anywhere close to power but using that education emphatically for greater good, quantifiably doing more discernible work on multiple fronts in a single term than any political party in 73 years (and still repeatedly stressing that there is a long way to go), and getting emphatic stamps of local and international approval from independent authorities, people still focus on the promises he did not keep or the work AAP did not do.
It’s rather like downgrading Kishore Kumar for not singing Kya Hua Tera Wada or The Beatles for not writing Like a Rolling Stone.
Fact is, just like how Bernie Sanders is considered by many to be the only democrat likely to beat Donald Trump in the forthcoming elections, Arvind Kejriwal today is only leader in India who can actually seriously challenge Modi in a presidential-type election.
He has come a long way from 2014, though it is not clear what could put him in that position. Franchising the AAP model to win another state might have done so (avoiding the mistakes made in Punjab and Goa), but it is a tall order to create the same set of circumstances anywhere else. In an era of coalition politics, perhaps India’s real hope now is that Kejriwal could become a “compromise candidate”, which would truly be ironic.
A particularly evocative analogy about voting in elections likens it to not choosing the perfect life partner, but public transport. Even if there isn’t a bus going directly to your destination, you take the one going closest.
And when it’s a dark night ahead, with fake signs to mislead, the weather stormy for the short term, with highway dacoity at an all-time high, you sure as hell can’t afford to not hop on.
(Jaideep Varma is a writer and film director. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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