Binny & Co has hurt AAP where it hurts most: its core idea

Having built up AAP as almost an anti-party party in public imagination, intra-party rancour and wrangling would hurt AAP more than its founder-members are willing to accept at the moment

shantanu

Shantanu Datta | January 16, 2014


Loose cannons: Vinod Kumar Binny (centre) and Kumar Vishwas (left).
Loose cannons: Vinod Kumar Binny (centre) and Kumar Vishwas (left).

It was a bright and sunny winter morning, just over a fortnight ago, when Arvind Kejriwal, fresh after taking oath as the new chief minister of Delhi, told thousands of people gathered at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi, and beamed nationally by all TV stations: We had to form a party to get rid of arrogant, power-hungry and corrupt politicians, and I hope no one else has to form a party to weed us out.

Like the winter fog that has enveloped the national capital region over the last few days, the new chief minister’s blood pressure and anxiety levels must have shot through the roof in these days as his worst fears seem to be coming true. The “revolution” that Kejriwal spoke of on December 28 (“I want to thank God for the success of our revolution”) seems to be coming unstuck at a time it should have attained newer heights, with renowned personalities joining his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) just as fast as ordinary citizens are signing up to stand by the ‘jhaadoo’, or broom.

While Vinod Kumar Binny, the former Congressman who became MLA by trouncing AK Walia, finance minister in the previous Sheila Dikshit cabinet, in his backyard (east Delhi’s Laxmi Nagar), is the obvious source of inflammation for the nascent party, signs are bad, if not ominous, for AAP on other fronts as well. First, Kejriwal’s much-vaunted janta darbar came a cropper –ironically by the single crucial factor that has helped the AAP surge: the crowd – and then there were protests more than once outside the Delhi Secretariat by people and organisations that claim to have supported the party and now critiquing it for purported failure to implement its promises.

Senior AAP leader Prashant Bhushan’s open-mouth surgery on the army’s role in Jammu and Kashmir was a mini-heart attack for the party, as was new joinee Mallika Sarabhai’s verbal assault on another senior leader Kumar Vishwas’s views on minorities and women and what Sarabhai, the stridently anti-Modi/BJP social activist who contested as an independent in the last Lok Sabha polls in Gujarat, calls a “pro-Modi” stance. Then there’s fellow new joinee Capt Gopinath’s opposition to the party’s negation of FDI in retail (another new comrade former banker Meera Sanyal’s views on the FDI issue is not known yet), and AAP’s cup of woes seems to be full, if not running over.

While it’s normal, in fact, welcome in a ‘regular’ party for members and leaders to air different, indeed contrarian or divergent views for the sake of greater intra-party democracy, AAP’s case is different. For, Kejriwal and Yogendra Yadav’s, and indeed all stakeholders’ – including that of the most important element, the aam aadmi’s – emphasis from day one has been that AAP is unlike a traditional political party. In fact, it’s a unique selling proposition, so to speak, has been the party’s anti-party stance in a way.
And in that lies the biggest loss of face for AAP, or the “revolution” that Kejriwal spoke of on December 28, which now seems farther than the calendar page that has gone off the wall – along with the calendar.

Along similar lines, the academic in Yadav can well rebut Binny’s second outburst (he had earlier wrangled for a cabinet berth before making up with Kejriwal) point by well-meaning point, and leave some extra points on his own, but it won’t take away from Binny’s charge that Kejriwal and the AAP government in Delhi is failing to fulfil its promises. For, it’s a charge – its foundation be damned – that has found buyers not only among the hyperactive pro-Modi infantry on social media but even among many foot soldiers and sympathisers of AAP who braved the Delhi heat, rains, muck, chill, fog and the heat and muck of online scorn, cynicism and even slander to add voice and muscle to the party.

As Yadav made it clear in his press address on Thursday (January 17), "We are hurt by Binny-bhai's statements. There is scope for disagreement and dissent in AAP, but it shouldn't be made public. There is no choice for the party but to take disciplinary action against Binny and issue a show-cause notice to him.”

While the rest of the ‘action’ is in line with any mainstream party, the interesting word here is the “hurt” Yadav issued. And that hurt is not just emotional but political as well.

 

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