One month of AAP: hits and misses

Kejriwal’s nascent government has changed the way politics is done in India – often in a way that has surprised itself too

jasleen

Jasleen Kaur | January 29, 2014



Over a lakh people had gathered at the Ramlila ground on December 28 last year to witness Arvind Kejriwal take oath as the chief minister of Delhi. The new government raised hopes among people by promising a change in the system. A month later, things haven't changed as much as the new party promised they would.

From asking citizens to conduct sting operations against the corrupt to holding a dharna against the centre, through its unconventional style of governance, Kejriwal and his ministers have kept some of its promises, but they remained in limelight for many wrong reasons as well.

Keeping his pre-poll bijli-paani promise, the Delhi chief minister announced a 50 percent tariff cut for usage up to 400 units through Rs 220 crore subsidies and also ordered an audit of discoms (that is, power distribution companies). The government also announced 20 kilolitres of free water a month to homes with meter connections. But consumers will be charged 10 percent more if they exceed the limit.

The party stood by their pledge to banish the VIP culture and shunned its most blatant symbols like big bungalows, heavy security and vehicles with beacons. They announced a school helpline for parents, conducted surprise checks on schools and hospitals and invited public suggestions on email. They also ordered to use portable cabins and unused buses as night shelters for the homeless. The anti-graft helpline asked callers to report and conduct sting operations against corrupt officials.

The AAP also started a nationwide membership drive "Main Bhi Aam Aadmi" to see the response before the Lok Sabha elections. The party claims it has gained one crore members.

While these were some of the hit points of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in the national capital, the list of the misses is equally long: Kejriwal is facing a strong criticism for not sacking his law minister Somnath Bharti over his midnight raid on an alleged sex and drugs ring in his constituency that targeted African nationals; seven Ugandan women have filed complaints alleging they were attacked and molested by men led by Bharti.

The chief minister's 33-hour protest against Delhi police outside Rail Bhawan has been widely perceived as an act of arrogance and unusual defiance by a constitutional authority, by the critics and media; he ended the protest, which he described as a fight for women's safety, after a promise of action against police officers that had refused to make arrests on the orders of his ministers Somnath Bharti and Rakhi Birla.

The government scrapped foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, shutting the doors to global retail chains like Walmart and Tesco. And a move to conduct regular "Janata Durbars" or public hearings with ministers also backfired due to mismanagement.

It was not just the external criticism that the party faced. It also faced anger from some of its own party members. One of AAP’s MLAs, Vinod Kumar Binny, embarrassed the party by going public with his resentment at what he called the Kejriwal government's failures. The party accused him of sulking over a cabinet berth and expelled him.

The party has also admitted that many of its newfound members through its nationwide drive could be fake. Donations to AAP from the NRI community have also dropped – a sign of disillusionment with the party.

One month is a very short time in a democracy to judge a year-old party; but one thing is for sure that AAP has definitely changed the way politics functions in India. It has not just shortened the distance between the government and the citizen, but has also forced some of the old players to change their strategies and follow their footsteps to reach the aam aadmi.

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