AAP’s brush with controversies can be seen in the allegations put over the party, and they in turn, tell how the party is evolving (or devolving with time).

During its foundation years, the party was basically embroiled in ideological and financial controversies.

The ideological rifts made many activist brethren of India Against Corruption, the umbrella outfit to organize the 2011 anti-corruption movement, to walk away from the group of Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav. Many like Captain Gopinath or Anjali Damania or Mayank Gandhi left the party on ideological plank only. Some other like Kiran Bedi or Shazia Ilmi who were there together in the movement chose to migrate to different political ideologies.

Along with these ideological contradictions, the allegations of financial impropriety had a continued run – basically about financial mismanagement and laundering of IAC funds and about AAP’s sources of political funding.

With the formation of the first AAP government in Delhi, the party saw the minor controversies like Rakhi Bidlan antics but there were effectively taken care of by AAP’s populist anti-VIP measures.

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Delhi’s Social Justice and Women and Child Development minister Sandeep Kumar is the second senior Aam Aadmi Party leader the party has purged in the recent days after the party’s Punjab chief Sucha Singh Chottepur.

Chhotepur was removed as AAP’s Punjab convener after a video clip surfaced showing him accepting money for allotting tickets. Sandeep Kumar was sacked after a CD surfaced allegedly showing him in compromising position with a woman.

On their parts, both have tried to play the victim card. Chhotepur has said he will not leave AAP on his own as the purported clip is a conspiracy to defame him. Sandeep Kumar has said that he is not in the clip and he is being targeted because he is Dalit.

Well, whatever be the truth, something that will only come out after a thorough probe. The important thing is the message that such acts convey – that AAP is losing fast on its ‘zero tolerance’ for corruption promise.

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AAP: FROM 2012 TO 2016

There is no doubt that the Aam Aadmi Party has seen a meteoric rise in its electoral and political stature in India in a very short span of time. The party had its formal inauguration in November 2012. That makes it even less than four year old.

The AAP owes its genesis to Anna Hazare lead anti-corruption movement of 2011 that was hugely successful. It has galvanized people from the cross sections of society, spread across the nation, especially its urban centres.

There were differences and many activists of the ‘India Against Corruption’ combine that had spearheaded the movement, chose to dissociate from the decision to form a political outfit. Even Anna Hazare was not sure and was non-committal. His approval came very late.

But people saw a point here – in voices of those activists who were of the opinion that a political extension was the next logical step to cleanse the political system. Between May 2011, when the anti-corruption movement was at peak, and November 2012, when the AAP was formally launched, the existing political system had effectively worked to blunt the edge of the movement which was seeing a clear roadblock ahead.

There was no surety on when India would see a massive mobilization next. It could again have been a long round based on apolitical principles of civic society movements before people would feel motivated enough to come to a platform to raise their voice against the existing system. It was added by the inherent flaws in ‘India Against Corruption’ itself. Its activists had started speaking in different voices sending confusing signals to supporters as well as to people who felt proud in taking a principled stand for the movement.

So, there was nothing wrong if some activists thought to fast-track the process of cleaning the system – by adopting political means to fight the existing system – by going political to take on the politicians who had become too routine for voters.

And it was quite an impressive victory.

After its inception in 2012, almost a year after, in December 2013, it emerged as the second largest party in the Delhi assembly polls and went on to form the government with Congress’ support. The government could survive only for 49 days before Arvind Kejriwal, the AAP’s chief architect and Delhi’s chief minister, pulled the plug, shielding behind his Jan Lokpal Bill, that the Congress led central government then had refused to allow.

People went by it since Jan Lokpal was the demand around which the 2011 anti-corruption movement was weaved. But the alternate view was always there that buoyed by his prospects, Arvind Kejriwal thought to exploit his chances on a larger national canvas by going big in the 2014 General Elections. His party fought it nationally but it proved to be an extremely bad miscalculation. His party had a humiliating defeat with record number for forfeitures.

But 2014-15 again proved to a momentous year. Arvind Kejriwal successfully campaigned in 2014, making Delhiites believe that he had not deserted during his first term. His apology act worked and worked miraculously, giving his party an absolute majority of 67 seats in the 70 member Delhi assembly in the February 2015 polls.

But that is the midpoint where the AAP’s fall from grace starts.

Emboldened by the absolute majority, the party decided to shed some of it so common man style tags by comfortably accepting bungalows and big sized official vehicles. During the first tenure, the party had made a big issue of it, asking for flats and simple cars. People thought it was an exercise aimed at concentrating efforts to do some real good ground level politics like checking corruption, making roads better, making Delhi’s power supply round the clock, streamlining its public transportation system and working on Delhi safer for its people.

But when a wave of routine political acts started that were clearly anti-common man, the alternate view, that Kejriwal had deserted Delhi in February 2014 for selfish political motives and that he had just used the 2011 anti-corruption movement to further his political interests, started getting upper hand – and since then it has seen a flurry of developments that put AAP in clear dock.
Its Delhi government sent a proposal for massive salary increase in Delhi’s legislators. It appointed several AAP leaders on positions that were paid from the fund that could have been used for the larger public good. The case where it appointed 21 AAP leaders parliamentary secretaries , fully paid from the public fund, is being heard by the Election Commission of India for violating norms. Delhi had 7 ministers. One was jailed for faking his degrees and educational qualification. One was jailed for accepting bribe. One was jailed for involvement in a sex scandal. Several other MLAs have been embroiled in this or that controversy that a conscious voter would certainly detest. Clearly, there is a difference between hooliganism and anarchy and the acts of the AAP MLAs clearly fall in hooliganism category. Transport Minister Gopal Rai had to resign because of corruption allegations.

Then there are other controversies like the AAP turning into Arvind Kejriwal’s personal fiefdom. Every voice that speaks against Kejriwal, is either expelled from the party, like we saw in case of Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, two AAP’s founding members, or is crushed and silenced, like we saw in case of Dharamvira Gandhi and Harinder Singh Khalsa, two AAP MPs from Punjab, who have literally been shunted out for speaking against Kejriwal.

And as the party is looking a political spread beyond Delhi, especially in Punjab and Goa, it is dealing with controversies from those places as well because it has sought an organic route to grow in these two states, hijacking leaders and workers from other parties. Many AAP Punjab leaders, who were earlier in other parties, are facing corruption allegations. The party that had made system cleansing its founding principle had to sack its Punjab chief for taking cash for allotting tickets. Then there are allegations of sex scandals from Punjab involving AAP leaders which are doing rounds. And even in Delhi, Sandeep Kumar, the Women and Child Welfare minister, was not the first one facing allegations of criminal acts against women. Another MLA Amanatullah was arrested on allegations of threatening and eve-teasing by a woman. Another Delhi lawmaker and former minister, Somnath Bharti, was sent to jail in a domestic violence case.

Delhi is 18 months old for the AAP and it government is deeply entrenched in controversies associated with the party. Punjab’s battle has got in full throttle and is throwing its share of muck in the cauldron. Let’s see what Goa has to offer as its electoral battle hots up.



The article originally appeared on DailyO.

After Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is eyeing Punjab and Goa, the two states where polls are slated within the next six months. The party would want to approach the voters of these two states with the image that gave it a resounding victory in the February 2015 Delhi Assembly polls, in which it won 67 out of the 70 seats.

At that time, the Arvind Kejriwal-led party could successfully present itself as a viable alternative to the BJP and Congress, the two main political parties of Delhi before the advent of the AAP – a party rooted in an anti-corruption movement, with claims that it is a humble party of the common people and for the common people.

But the first 18 months since February 2015, when the second AAP government in Delhi was sworn in, have seen a flurry of controversies.

Its MLAs and ministers have been accused of impropriety, immorality and corruption. Now no one in the AAP talks of making sting videos of corrupt officials. Kejriwal and his party leaders have stopped harping on their anti-VIP stance.

They have comfortably settled down in the lavish bungalows allotted to them while during the first term of the AAP government in 2013-’14, it was a big issue and Kejriwal had refused to accept a bungalow as his official residence. The AAP leaders and ministers have been alleged of having fake degrees, of taking bribes and high-handedness in public life.

So much for the AAP going to the Punjab and Goa voters with a clean image.

Punjab has seen successive governments of the Congress and the BJP-SAD combine. The state has politicians with serious corruption and criminal charges against them. Corruption and political patronage of the drug menace in the state are the major election issues this time around.

Goa has the same story – state governments alternating between the Congress and the BJP. Goa, too, has politicians and ministers with serious criminal and corruption charges against them. Corruption and drug abuse are major electoral issues here too.

The AAP sees a chance in both these states. It would stand to gain if it could make the people of these states believe that it is a viable alternative to the Congress and BJP as it did in Delhi.

And so, the party will look to effect a course correction. The party has a strong position on corruption and impropriety and the recent purges should be seen in this context.

Delhi’s social justice and women and child development minister Sandeep Kumar is the second senior AAP leader the party has purged in the recent days after the party’s Punjab chief Sucha Singh Chhotepur. Chhotepur was removed as the AAP’s Punjab convener last week after a video clip surfaced showing him accepting money for allotting tickets.

Kumar was sacked on August 31 after a CD surfaced allegedly showing him in compromising position with a woman.

Both Chhotepur and Kumar have tried to play the victim card. Chhotepur said he would not leave the AAP on his own as the clip was a conspiracy to defame him. Kumar said he was not in the clip and he was being targeted because he was a Dalit.

Truth will only come out after a thorough probe but Kejriwal has taken a hard line, saying that Kumar has betrayed “the AAP movement”. This is how the Delhi CM reacted on Twitter after he came to know of the allegations against Kumar:


The important thing is the message such acts by the party chief convey – messages that the AAP would like to drive home, something that the party tries to do after every such incident, as it did after the sacking another cabinet minister of Delhi, Asim Ahmed Khan, on corruption allegations in October 2015. That message is: the AAP follows zero intolerance to corruption as a founding policy and dares others to do so.

Our political culture has been that parties seldom act on corruption allegations on their leaders, even if several court cases are lodged against them. People facing allegations of corruption, rape and murder are made ministers. A conscious voter never likes it, whether he is from the lower stratum of the society or from the elite class. The same consciousness of the voters handed the AAP its massive victory in Delhi.

The AAP is trying to send the same message to the voters in Punjab and Goa as well because the party knows the advantage that it has – the controversies associated with it in Delhi can easily be played down when seen in comparison with controversies associated with the Congress and BJP leaders in Goa, and the Congress and SAD-BJP leaders in Punjab.