By M.R. Narayan Swamy
From the happenings of recent weeks, it will be tempting to deduce that Arvind Kejriwal is a Stalinist who, like all autocrats, hates democracy and dissension and loves yes-men. That’s what Prashant Bhushan will want us to believe. But the stormy story of the Aam Aadmi Party’s internal crisis is far more complicated than such a black-and-white narrative.
The most curious case in the entire episode is that of Prashant Bhushan, who now finds himself virtually out of a party that he and Yogendra Yadav helped Kejriwal to set up amid trying circumstances in 2012.
When the Mahabharata for Delhi’s assembly was on, Prashant Bhushan’s father, Shanti Bhushan, yet another co-founder of AAP, shockingly trashed Kejriwal, the party’s best-known face.
Shanti Bhushan had declared that his first two choices as Delhi’s chief minister would be Kiran Bedi of BJP and Ajay Maken of Congress (in that order) — while Kejriwal would be his last option.
The electorate didn’t agree. That, of course, is another story.
But when the campaign for the make-or-break Delhi election was on, Prashant Bhushan was conspicuously absent. At one point it wasn’t clear to even journalists if he was still in the AAP or not.
For an articulate lawyer who was so silent during those crucial days, he became hyper active within days after Kejriwal, virtually rising from the dead, became the chief minister of Delhi.
Along with Yadav, Prashant Bhushan suddenly began denouncing what he said was the lack of internal democracy in the AAP. As he came under fire from Kejriwal supporters, he became more and more bitter.
Even if we assume that all the allegations hurled by Yadav and Bhushan against Kejriwal are true, it defies logic why they were not ready to give the chief minister even six months of peace.
Whether one likes it or not, the fact is no one in Delhi voted for Manish Sisodia or the Bhushans or Yadav. It was Kejriwal who defeated Narendra Modi.
The AAP had made electoral history. No institution (AAP included) or individual is perfect. But Kejriwal should have been given a grace period before taking up issues related to the party, that too publicly.
Sadly, Prashant Bhushan and Yadav turned out to be the counterparts of those in the BJP who have tripped Modi with their loud talk on Love Jihad, Ghar Wapsi as well as verbal and other attacks on minorities.
Modi paid a price for this in Delhi. The AAP may or may not pay a similar in the elections it may contest in the months and years to come.
From his revelations at the National Executive in Delhi on Saturday, it is evident that Kejriwal chose to keep quiet all through the elections. But the volcano burst once the battle got over.
Kejriwal had only one choice before him: Lead a Perfect Party to the liking of Prashant Bhushan and Yadav or aim for a Perfect Victory in Delhi so that the AAP rises from the ashes. He opted for the latter.
Kejriwal, however, has not come out of this mess unscathed. Rightly or wrongly, he is being seen as one who cannot tolerate dissent and who won’t accept people who think differently.
Booting out Bhushan or Yadav is one thing but easting out former Indian Navy chief L. Ramdas, the AAP Lokpal, without even the courtesy of letting him know that he is being replaced is another matter.
If the AAP has to do alternate politics, it cannot treat every dissident as a foe. If Kejriwal is ready, as he said at Ramlila Maidan, to consult Kiran Bedi and Ajay Maken for the sake of Delhi, surely he must be more considerate to Ramdas. Courtesy is a two-way traffic.
(M.R. Narayan Swamy is Executive Editor at IANS. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org)