The AAP Purge: Lessons and Challenges

With the expulsion of Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Anand Kumar and Ajit Jha, the political churning within AAP has now acquired a decisive turn. The dissenters were first voted out of the Political Affairs Committee, then they were dropped from the National Executive Committee and finally following the April 14 parallel programme, they have been expelled from the party on charges of ‘anti-party activities’. No action has yet been taken against the elected representatives who had sided with Yadav and Bhushan – notably Dharamveer Gandhi, party MP from Patiala, and Pankaj Pushkar, party MLA from Timarpur, Delhi, except that Dharamveer Gandhi has been eased out of his position as the leader of the party’s parliamentary wing.

While portraying the systematic marginalisation and eventual expulsion of the dissenting voices as a complete mockery and murder of inner-party democracy and brazen violation of the proclaimed principles of AAP, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan and their comrades are still trying to reach out to AAP members and supporters to create pressure within the party. While Bhushan has hit out against the dictatorial tendency of Arvind Kejriwal, Yadav would like to blame what he calls ‘AAP Delhi’ for the turn of events. The attendance at the ‘Swaraj Samvad’ convened by the dissenters on April 14 was quite impressive even though given the massive majority in Delhi Assembly there is little ripple in the Delhi unit of AAP, at least as of now. The extreme act of expelling the dissenting leaders from the party is perhaps aimed at limiting their damage potential.

There can be no denying the fact that both Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan played a key role in giving AAP the kind of appeal it initially had among the progressive intelligentsia. While Bhushan brought to it the credibility of challenging corporate corruption, Yadav tapped the socialist base and together they helped AAP emerge as what Yadav had described as the natural political home of social movements. It was Yadav who saw in AAP the potential to change the rules of the game of politics. Buoyed with the success of the AAP in its debut election in Delhi, Yadav had gone on to formulate the big bang thesis about the launch of political parties and to achieve this scale he sought to project AAP as a ideology-defying formation where Left and Right could merge seamlessly in an ecstatic celebration of democracy. Ironically, the dissenters have now been dubbed leftwing by AAP standards and all talks of ‘founding principles’ and transparency have been dumped as utopian fantasy!

AAP may choose to define its ideology in whatever terms it may like, but it cannot wish away the reality of the overwhelmingly neoliberal capitalist environment which has launched an all-out onslaught on natural resources and the livelihood and liberties of the people. Worldwide, we can see a growing convergence of people’s movements against this neo-liberal offensive, propelling a resurgence of Left and progressive politics in large parts of the world. If AAP chooses to consolidate itself by purging socialists and other Left-leaning activists, it only indicates AAP’s desperation to stabilise itself as a party of governance in the national capital compatible with the neoliberal paradigm. It is therefore no surprise that the purge of socialists within AAP coincides with signs of retreat on the promises made to contract workers and common citizens on issues of basic rights and civic amenities and the shocking insensitivity displayed by AAP leaders to the tragic suicide committed by a farmer at the Delhi AAP rally against land acquisition.

For socialists, social movement activists and citizens looking for a clean democratic and egalitarian politics in Delhi and beyond, it is clearly a moment of reckoning and stock-taking. The ongoing metamorphosis of AAP clearly shows the absurdity of a dream of quick-fix political solution to the people’s plight without the process of sustained movement and tested commitment to the cause of the people. With AAP evolving as yet another rightwing party of governance, the time is ripe for dialogue and cooperation between the Left and disillusioned AAP activists. Be it the question of holding the AAP government accountable to its promises made to the people of Delhi or the larger agenda of resisting the corporate-communal offensive being spearheaded by the Modi government at the Centre, it is time for all those feeling let down by the souring of the AAP dream to once again rise in action and come forward for broader unity in the people’s cause.

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