What Next for AAP? Lal Battis? VIP Culture Embraced

Published: April 06, 2015 19:33 IST

(Ishwari Bajpai is Senior Advisor at NDTV; he has been a journalist for 30 years, and has covered the elections since 1984.)

It's a slippery slope and the Aam Aadmi Party seems to be in freefall. Sunday's example, tweeted by Congress leader Ajay Maken, of VVIP entry and VIP parking at Talkatora Stadium in Delhi for the launch of AAP's anti-corruption helpline was perhaps the clearest sign of the more things change, the more they remain the same. AAP seems to have become just another party.

Sure it may still have and implement an agenda that is different, more radical and/or populist than the BJP or Congress, but the patterns of behaviour are just like the rest.

The saga of ousting and killing internal democracy, with the expulsion of Prashant Bhusan and Yogendra Yadav represents one side of AAP turning into just another Indian political party. One leader, one voice, and so say all of us. Besides the agenda, what is the difference between Kejriwal, Mulayam and Jayalalitha and their parties? Each is his or her own opposition, and the party is full of fawning yes men. To buy off any further possibility of dissidence, 21 MLAs have been made parliamentary secretaries. This is like in the old days when coalitions with small majorities used to create a jumbo-size ministry to keep everyone in line.

We should have seen it coming. The signals were there; we just did not pay attention.

This time they wasted little time and pretence in finding humble housing for the people's representatives. Mr Kejriwal grabbed a five-bedroom bungalow with offices on a large plot in Civil Lines. His number two, Deputy Chief Minster Manish Sisodia, first found himself a nice bungalow which Sheila Dikshit had occupied as Chief Minister, and then turned on the press, "Media does not allow the government to function. It starts following and irritating us the moment we leave from our houses." And so the government banned the press from the secretariat. A bit arrogant don't you think, considering AAP has many times admitted that their biggest ally in coming to power has been the press.

As they roared back to power in February, you could have been fooled into thinking nothing had changed, the people's party were back and Delhi would have another jamboree at the Ramlila Ground. Yes, but not quite the same. No one, sorry, no one of importance, came to the swearing-in by Metro. Apparently, been there done that. Now it seemed the AAP was saying, "We are here for 5 years, we don't really have to go through these motions."

And yet, it was Mr Kejriwal who warned at the Ramlila swearing-in," With such a big success, arrogance finds its way in... We all will have to be very careful. We will have to keep checking ourselves. ....We should not become arrogant after winning 67 out of 70 sets in the assembly this time. He also promised a stop to "VIP culture".

Apparently, he did not quite mean that, as his colleague said Adarsh Shastri yesterday in response to the Maken accusation of falling into the trappings of VIP culture. "We do not endorse VIP culture, but certain things are required for the smooth and efficient working of the government," he said. True, next they will need Lal Battis and police escorts as Delhi's notorious traffic stops them from reaching those important meetings that they need to attend.

It's hard to escape the system which will try its best to co-opt you. The system wants differentiation, because that is the source of its prestige - the house, the car with the red light, the office, the multiple assistants that accompany politicians and bureaucrats.

Yesterday at Talkatora Stadium was just that - the system keeping in place the symbols of power. If AAP does not want to be overtaken by such a culture, it will have to be very watchful and very open to criticism. Neither, unfortunately, has been on display since it came to power.

In all probability, AAP is now just another political party and will behave as one - it must be willing to be judged like one.

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