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Why is AAP still there in Delhi


The full-blown midnight drama played out at the residence of the Delhi Chief Minister comes as a sharp reality check in the face of the three-year anniversary celebrations by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in February this year. The self-congratulations – abetted by some sections of the media – of AAP’s controversial three-year track record, even as the population of Delhi faced deteriorating environmental, educational and health quality, shows that we have made the lowest common denominator our standard of judgement.
Simply because the AAP happened to achieve the infrastructural addition of some 8000 classrooms and Mr. Sisodia has been regularly giving sermons on education – a disguised form of aggressive assertion through media advertising – does not mean that the state of education has improved. Or, we don’t need a Lancet report lauding the AAP’s ‘mohalla clinics’ to tell us that they simply represent an increasing numbers game without any regard to actual health quality. If the latter were the real concern, AAP would not be facing graft charges for their ‘mohalla clinics’ overcharging the government lakhs of rupees per month, and, deploying unqualified staff to attend to patients at these clinics.
All these instances, coupled with the worsening of Delhi’s air quality to the point of an emergency situation, and the endless controversies that have been created by AAP since 2015, have come to a head with the latest incident involving the physical assault on Delhi Chief Secretary, Anshu Prakash. It is unlikely that AAP will be able to go scot-free from the repercussions of this incident. Except for denials, casteist and communal references about its MLAs being framed and further verbal abuse, AAP has no other evidence on its side. Two pieces of critical evidence already back the Chief Secretary, the medical report confirming that Mr. Prakash was indeed assaulted and the arbitrary midnight timing of the meeting by AAP.
The fact that Arvind Kejriwal had issued the autocratic ‘firmaan’ summoning Mr. Prakash at midnight – ostensibly to discuss approvals for AAP’s advertising campaigns – raises suspicions right from the beginning. Only an emergency meeting can be called at this time. Not only this, but AAP itself later gave contradictory statements that exposed it. Giving mixed accounts, some of its ministers stated that the meeting was actually called in relation to food and processing issues – a lie that was exposed when it turned out that the Food minister himself was not present at the meeting. In fact, according to Mr. Prakash, besides Kejriwal and Sisodia, 11 MLAs of AAP were seated by the time he reached. After this, they locked the door and made him sit between Amanatullah Khan and another MLA (both now in judicial custody) and then pointedly bullied him about advertising approvals hold-up. When Mr. Prakash refused to be bullied, they hit him and threatened to confine him and falsely implicate him in SC/ST Atrocities charges – not surprising since AAP is an expert at using caste and religious minorities discrimination as an excuse every time one of its MLAs is caught in a bind.
Whats more – one of the AAP members, after telling the police that he was not present when the midnight drama unfolded, later confessed that he had, indeed, seen Mr. Prakash being roughed up. From the sequence of events and despite conflicting accounts, it is clear that AAP is in the wrong and is now issuing useless denials. While Mr. Prakash did not contradict himself even once, various AAP ministers have said different things at different points of time.
So, even before the police investigation concludes, the outcome seems a foregone conclusion. Nothing better could be expected from this government and the latest mishap fits in well with this government’s pattern of numerous other controversies.
This incident is going to have far-reaching implications and lead to the final undoing of AAP, irrespective of whatever ‘popular mandate’ it received in 2015.
Outwardly, the entire bureaucracy – right across the country – is up in arms against AAP and Delhi bureaucrats refuse to work with it, unless the communication is written or recorded, most likely dealing a blow to the government. The attack on the Chief Secretary is an attack on the professional class, which even the people of Delhi value, and for which the AAP has, for a change, not been able to pin the blame on the central government. AAP has badly exposed its ingrained ways of hooliganism, even to the most skeptical and there is little or no room for maneuvering in this case. Inwardly, the latest incident and the furor it has generated show that the time of AAP is finally up, even in a politically cynical city like Delhi.
The irony of Delhi is that its political standard of judgement has fallen very low. The reason the Chief Minister has not resigned till now is only because of the luck of the circumstances of governing the national capital. Since the majority of the important administrative powers are with the Centre and any mishap in law and order will not be put on the Delhi government’s head, the latter has been held accountable only on delivering on basic services and utilities. Given the large middle class and well-off status of most of the voting population AAP’s policies have not pinched the people too hard. It has got by by making issues like corruption and air quality pivotal to people’s expectations and misleading them into believing that the government is performing on delivery of other utilities.
The entrenched public system of low expectations and wide tolerance for high-level corruption has allowed the AAP to survive in Delhi up until now. But in any other state – where elections are fought on important political and ideological issues, where a plethora of community, caste and tribe differences create a complex and unique polity – and where the state government is accountable on all counts, rather than limiting itself to working on a few areas like public utilities while the Centre, bureaucracy and municipal corporations are obligated to take care of the rest, a formation like AAP could never survive. The results have been visible in all states where it contested by-polls – as it should not have under the CM himself – and lost. Its infantile and essentially perverse political sense became evident when it sympathized with the Khalistan cause in Punjab and proclaimed the Batla house encounters to be fake. Laughably, only Delhi can provide a new-born party the luxury to hop into other states leaving behind all the so-called ‘governance’ matters because, frankly, there is nothing to govern, as the real administration is carried by the LG-led bureaucracy, answerable to the Centre.
Ironically, contrary to what most people think, thanks to the unique status of Delhi, AAP had the luxury of getting away with a lot of serious office-of-profit controversies, hooliganism, graft charges and much more in the last three years – and that too without doing any work and painting itself as a victim whenever it could – which is not possible anywhere else in the country, and where, by now, the government would have been forced to resign. Yet, that the AAP is still on a strong defensive trajectory and harbouring unmitigated pan-India ambitions – with zero knowledge of India’s diversity and complexity – shows that far from hounding the AAP, the Centre and the depoliticized ‘aam aadmi’ of Delhi have actually treated it with kid gloves. With such a mind-bogglingly poor track record and not a single credible achievement to boast of, no other party could have survived, outside of Delhi.
At a time when elections all over the country are signaling that people want to break the old order and embrace new, radical changes, Delhi and its ruling AAP, continue to be an odd exception. Unless a new political awakening replaces this governance by former technocrats and incompetent do-gooders, Delhi itself risks becoming irrelevant.

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