If AAP Is No Longer ‘Different’, Then What Is It?

With AAP plagued by controversies, its ‘party-with-a-difference’ tag will be hard to defend, writes Mayank Mishra.

Published
Opinion
4 min read
With AAP plagued by controversies, its ‘party-with-a-difference’ tag will be hard to defend. (Photo: Lijumol Joseph/ <b>The Quint</b>)

In the run-up to the 2015 assembly elections in Delhi, Jama Masjid Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari had appealed to Muslims to vote for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). It took Arvind Kejriwal a few hours to reject the offer, saying that he was opposed to any attempt to “communalise the atmosphere.” His call that aam logon ke support ki zaroorat hai helped him strike an emotional connect with Delhi’s voters.

It was one of many statements/actions that made the AAP and its Chief Kejriwal look different from other parties. That is why people believed the party when it came out with a list of 12 points which, it claimed, made the AAP different from other parties.

No Central High Command?

The very first point in the list says “there is no central high command in Aam Aadmi Party. The party structure follows a bottom to top approach where the council members elect the Executive Body and also holds the power to recall it.”

Anyone who has followed the evolution of AAP after it assumed power in Delhi with a record majority would find it tough to believe that claim today. From the way founding members like Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan were shown the door, to picking and choosing loyalists for important positions – we have seen the making of a highly entrenched “central high command” in AAP. Or so it seems.



Congress workers stage a demonstration against the Aam Aadmi Party  as  Arvind Kejriwal arrives in Ludhiana on 8 September 2016. (Photo: IANS)
Congress workers stage a demonstration against the Aam Aadmi Party as Arvind Kejriwal arrives in Ludhiana on 8 September 2016. (Photo: IANS)

No Donors’ List On Website

The AAP still claims superiority because of its so-called transparency in financial transactions. It claims “this party will function with full financial transparency. Every single rupee collected by donations to run this people’s party will be publicly declared on the party’s website and all expenditures will also be declared on the website.” However, when you open the AAP’s website and click on the link that takes you to the donor’s list, the page says “Under Construction. New Version coming soon.”

Ours is the only party that takes immediate action if any credible evidence comes to light. Regarding list of donors not published every day, all I can say is that we are as transparent as we used to be.
Ashutosh, AAP Leader
Screenshot of the donors list  on the AAP’s website. (Photo Courtesy: <a href="http://aamaadmiparty.org/donation-list">aamaadmiparty.org</a>)
Screenshot of the donors list on the AAP’s website. (Photo Courtesy: aamaadmiparty.org)

Less Credible Claim

However, there are many more items in the “how are we different” list that look less credible now because of a number of cases coming to light involving AAP members and legislators in recent months. The party claims that no one will have to “buy an election ticket in our party”. Yet another claim is related to the entry of criminals, goons and the corrupt in the party and it says a “thorough screening process” will ensure that such elements do not enter its fold.

Snapshot

Not Quite So Different

  • AAP has a 12-point list on how it is different from others.
  • Many of them look less credible in the light of recent developments.
  • Dilution of “we are different” plank may demotivate the rank and file.
  • Donations may be impacted, volunteer base diminish.

A Few Samplers

A party MLA is charged with domestic violence and attempted murder.

There is a case of fake degree against another legislator.

A former minister lost his job when allegations of corruption surfaced.

The party’s Punjab convener was sacked after an allegation of taking bribes to offer party tickets emerged.

Do these “we are different” claims look credible when cases continue to pile up against AAP MLAs? The fact that they don’t has got many party leaders and sympathisers worried. “Our USP was our difference from others. If that is gone or there is a perception of some dilution, we will look like any other party. And that will hurt,” one party functionary said. What seems like differences of opinion is perhaps a result of that anxiety, he added.

Disillusionment Among Volunteers

The AAP was the outcome of a desire among a section of people to have an alternative political space, say political commentators. The fact that it met with instant success and managed to attract a large number of dedicated loyalists, some within the party and many more outside, clearly points to that. This dedicated group of followers and sympathisers ensured a steady flow of donations to the party. They were a formidable and dedicated social media army. They are the ones who supplied volunteers during electoral campaigns.

If the idea of a genuine alternative political vision loses its sheen, the motivation level is bound to come down. A less energised rank and file, low on motivational dose of a particular brand of idealism, is not a desirable outcome for the AAP. More so at a time when the party is set to enter the electoral fray in Punjab and Goa, where it senses an opportunity.

Also Read: Kejriwal, Mr Clean Version 3.0, and the Myth of a Graft-Free India

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