In trying to be the voice of the aam aadmi, it legitimises dominant, conservative values
For those of us who believe that politics need not just be about power, my experience with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been deeply disappointing. This is not to take away from the impressive achievements of its talented leadership which proved that an election can be fought and won without the large-scale play of black money. The enthusiasm of the party’s cadre, and the hope it has ignited amid the all-pervasive cynicism with the present political options is worthy of appreciation.
In fact, it is precisely because of the many hopes and aspirations that the AAP has inspired that I feel compelled to point out the responsibilities that its leadership should face up to.
When the AAP talks about change and accountability, the logic must first be to be accountable for its own actions. And what is the change that the AAP wants to bring about?
That is why I wanted the national council of the party to apologise to the Ugandan women who were humiliated in an act of shameful vigilantism by AAP leaders on the night of January 15-16. I wanted delegates to get a clear message about what must not pass off as acceptable public conduct.
What Somnath Bharti did was vigilantism. It showed the kind of change that the AAP wants to bring about. On the same night several homeless people died on the streets of Delhi for lack of shelter. The party has a responsibility to be accountable for the loss of life. The humiliation of the African women calls for an apology.
Out of tune
I was silenced and heckled for saying that a mob led by ministers targeting a helpless group of women and humiliating it was not in tune with the song on insaniyat (humanitarianism)
The party owes an apology to the women for the humiliation caused to them, and it owes an explanation for why government buildings were not converted into night shelters.
The AAP leadership is shy of talking about its ideology. The fact is that its priorities are a clear reflection of its ideology. When the homeless are allowed to perish it shows the party’s ideology.
When Kejriwal says fighting corruption is an answer to communalism, he is expressing his understanding of how politics is to be conducted.
When the party attacks Ugandan women in Khirki Extension because the majority of the people in the neighbourhood, especially the local women, seem to want them humiliated, he is practising the politics of pandering to local prejudice in exchange for political support.
When Yogendra Yadav signals party volunteers in a meeting to heckle this writer, it reflects on the politics that the AAP wants to practice but does not want to talk about.
What it really means is that the AAP will choose to address every issue with the most populist position that prevails.
Empower the mohalla sabhas, they say. Give power to the people. This also means that the majority prejudices be allowed to prevail with scant protection to the minorities. The khap panchayats in Haryana are described as ‘cultural’ organisations.
That women in Haryana have been deprived of their constitutional rights by these khap panchayats is in tune with the ideology of the AAP. It is only shy of admitting it.
How are they different?
Have the AAP leaders read and understood BR Ambedkar’s critique of village society? Do they know what this kind of crass majoritarianism can mean for women, the minorities, people with ambiguous sexuality, single women?
How is the AAP’s ideology any different from that of the Shiv Sena or the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena?
The AAP leadership maintains its ambivalence: It neither apologises to the African women of Khirki Extension nor openly says, in the manner that organisations such as the Ram Sene in Karnataka would, that the AAP is against women who dress different, act different, imbibe alcohol or generally do not adhere to the dominant notion of how a woman should behave.
Can ambiguity hide ideological intolerance? There are a lot of people in the AAP who have simplistic notions like technology will transform society, or that corruption is the root of all evil. If corruption is removed all evil will be cleansed from society. It views corruption in terms of exchange of money, of bribes.
But there are a few others in the party who understand exactly what the corruption of policy and ideology means.
What was exhibited in Khirki Extension by Somnath Bharti and his mob was, in fact, a corrupt ideology that is based on dominant prejudices and hatred of the ‘other’. It was followed by an even more disturbing statement by Kejriwal to the effect that drugs and prostitution lead to rape.
If he does not understand that rape has little to do with prostitution and even less with drugs, he could have consulted any of the others in the party who do. But he chose not to. Because the strategic calculation here is that we must empathise and reflect the dominant prejudice and worldview.
The masses are always right. They have the weight of votes. That is why khap panchayats are to be celebrated. And that is why Somnath Bharti has to be defended. There are general elections coming, in Haryana and then, nationwide, which must be fought and won at all cost.
The ideology is now visible in the actions and working of the AAP.
(As told to Poornima Joshi)
Bhaduri is a former diplomat and founder-member of the Aam Aadmi Party. She has since resigned from the party.