Arvind Kejriwal preferred jail to bail in the defamation case against him by Nitin Gadkari not because of any ideological reason. Ultimately he did agree to furnish the bond which he was refusing to do earlier. The questions remains why did he not furnish the bond earlier and then agreed to do it later? Such uncertainty in decision making has become the hallmark of Aam Admi Party.
In the entire controversy the main issue was sidelined. Nobody is asking the question about what happened to the enquiry into the allegation of fake companies being run by Nitin Gadkari which became the basis for case against Arvind. Nitin Gadkari had even at that time threatened the IT department officials and now with BJP government in power it looks unlikely that we’ll even know the truth about Gadkari’s companies. The irony is that the man who was allegedly running fake companies is now a minister and the man who exposed the irregularities had to visit jail. This highlights how difficult the struggle against corruption is in India.
But the main reason why Arvind went to jail is to avoid facing his colleagues. There is tremendous discontent within Aam Admi Party. People are not happy with Arvind’s style of leadership. Like any other political leader he is now surrounded by a coterie of people with vested interest who are misguiding him. On the other hand there are senior experienced people in the party whom he is not consulting. People like Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav, Medha Patkar seem to have been left out of the decision making process. This appears to be the reason why Yogendra Yadav has quit from the Political Affairs Committee of AAP although his resignation has not been accepted yet. Yogendra was brought into the party because of his expertise as a master psephologist and strategist, from his experience of being involved with a small party called Samajwadi Jan Parishad. Yogendra has also given the party a clear vision by drafting all the party documents. But the coterie around Arvind probably feels threatened because of Yogendra’s stature and this is the cause of friction. It is also reported that not all the four MPs elected from AAP in Punjab are happy with Arvind’s style of functioning.
The party may be in trouble because of its method of seeking approval of decisions through SMS. When the going was good Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia could get any decision approved. But now they are not in favour of taking any decision over any large forum. Arvind and Manish claim that 8 member PAC in which the coterie dominates is empowered to take all decisions. Yogendra and Prashant have pressurised them to call a meeting of the 30 member national executive so that decisions could be taken democratically. Arvind is also paying the price for not having built an organisation. The party had adopted an attitude that anybody who wants to join has to take the initiative himself/herself and has to work as any other ordinary worker and they didn’t care if anybody decided to leave. They thought that number of people joining will always be greater than number of people leaving.
It is unbelievable that Medha Patkar was in Varanasi for almost a week campaigning for Arvind Kejriwal but she did not even address a public meeting. Same is the case with eminent people like Yogendra Yadav, Prof. Anand Kumar (former president of students’ and teachers’ union of BHU and now at JNU), documentary film maker Anand Patwardhan, former navy chief Admiral L. Ramdas, etc. None of them addressed a press conference either. Why is Arvind not using the services of such eminent people, most of whom have already joined his party? Is it because he is afraid of losing tight hold over leadership and funds that he now shares with his coterie?
The reason Arvind went to jail was to avoid answering difficult questions posed by his party colleagues, most of whom are unhappy with him. This way he could also gain some of their sympathy. People like Shazia Ilmi, who have been with Arvind since the anti-corruption struggle, have left the party. Arvind has no way to hold them back because in his style of politics there is no dialogue. Similarly there is no mechanism within the party to addresses the discontent among the grassroots workers or volunteers. What to talk of Arvind, no member of the coterie is either accessible to ordinary AAP workers-volunteers or they are too arrogant to talk to. During the elections most AAP candidates from constituencies other than Amethi were not provided any kind of support. The AAP candidate from Hardoi sat on a fast during the campaign to demand support in any form for contesting the election. Neither Arvind or anybody from AAP visited him. He was unable to talk to any of the top leaders over phone. It is not clear why did AAP put up so many candidates if it was not interested in fighting elections seriously from everywhere?
A businessman from Chennai, who runs an auto-part manufacturing unit, was in Varanasi for ten days. He was supporting a team of 21 AAP volunteers from different parts of country on his own taking care of their basic needs. Nobody told him to do it neither did he wait for instructions from anywhere. At the end of the period instead of being satisfied with his contribution he was felling let down. He couldn’t communicate with second rung AAP leadership as he found them to be arrogant. There was no question of being able to talk to Arvind.
Unless Arvind allows space for collective leadership of the party accommodating all the senior social-political activists, because they are the only ones within the party who have any experience of running grassroots organisations or leading people’s movements, a skill which will be very useful in running a party and opens up his decision making process to this larger group where there is scope for democratic debate, the party has no future.