Ground Zero

Common Dissent

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The writing is on the wall. Perhaps, Kejriwal is too busy to find time to read it.

The writing is on the wall.

A sizable number of people wait day long outside Arvind Kejriwal’s residence. It’s a normal scene every day. They carry with them petitions even though he is no more the chief minister. Some of them who wait for hours are the founding members of Aam Adami Party (AAP). They think they know Kejriwal well enough that the latter will meet them at a short notice. They have not seen Kejriwal for months. Some of them have gathered to invite him for a local function. There is no way they can meet him.

Kejriwal’s man Friday, Bibhav Kumar has hard time dealing with the expectant and hopeful workers who mob him every time he walks out of the house. He guides them to meet someone else in the party who in turn will help fix a meeting with Kejriwal sometime in the future. They are not willing to wait for days, if not weeks. He tries in vain to explain: its election time and Kejriwal is busy dealing with weightier issues.

Some of the expectant visitors lose cool. They complain: It is no more a party of aam aadami because Kejriwal only meets khas aadami. They feel the party is infiltrated by the politicians, especially after the grand success in the Delhi assembly elections. These politicians are opportunists. They see AAP as a short cut to power. And thousands who struggled for last few years, during the Jan Lokpal movement, and then as the AAP party workers and volunteers, the real backbone of the party, now feel marginalized and ignored within the party they made from the scratch.

Bibhav listens to them passively without betraying any emotion. He is polite but firm: you can’t meet him now.

The anger became potent on a Sunday morning a couple of days ago. It was on the cards. An ardent supporter, Ashwini Upadhyay—member of AAP's National Council—became a dissenter. He leads a group of two dozen men outside Kejriwal’s house to sloganeering. He was livid that he was not allowed to meet Kejriwal who was just about leave for a rally. His protests bore fruit. Kejriwal walked out of the house, met him to pacify.

He complained that he was not satisfied with the way tickets are being distributed for the upcoming general elections. There is no transparency in the way it’s done. The party members are not consulted. The party’s political philosophy of swaraj (self rule) is no more the guiding principal. It is become an oligopoly where very few run the party and, is therefore, no different from the Congress or the BJP. Upadhyay had some frank talk with Kejriwal.

The party’s Lok Sabha ticket for Chandi Chowk is gone to the journalist Ashutosh while that of New Delhi constituency ticket is gone to another investigative journalist Ashish Khaitan. The East Delhi candidate is Rajmohan Gandhi. All of them are new comers to the party. They are just being "parachuted down" in these constituencies without having participated in the creation of the party, complain Upadhyay. The party policy of a mandatory cooling period of at least six months before a new comer is giving the larger responsibility within the party, which effectively translates into a ticket to contest election, is ignored to favour some khas aadmi is the popular sentiment amongst some disgruntled party members.

One of them—a 38-year-old Sagar Bhandari, a resident of Shalimar Bagh—earlier last week, smeared ink on AAP leader Yogendra Yadav’s face while he was attending a function at Jantar Mantar, Delhi. Yadav is considered number two in the party, only next to Kejriwal. Bhandari was thrashed by AAP volunteers following which he was taken away by police to Parliament Street police station. This was a repeat of an incident that happened last year where an alleged BJP supporter Nachiketa threw black ink on Kejriwal during a press conference in New Delhi.

Yadav did not wipe clean ink off his face. He didn’t press charges against Bhandari, either. “I am not ashamed of the ink,” he told the members of the media present there. “This time they have attacked us from behind. Next time they will attack us from the front,” Yadav added. Kejriwal downplayed the incident saying that such things happen when you walk the path of honesty.

These are ominous signs for Kejriwal and Yadav. The disgruntled voices within the party are getting stronger and coming to the fore. There is popular dissent brewing and these incidents are early signs of it.

“Kejriwal is given hope to us. We are here to change how the polity is practiced in this country. We are not here to win elections. I still have faith in Kejriwal. But I don’t understand lot of things happening in the party. I think Kejriwal should communicate better within the party. We are spreading thin. It would be a tragedy if AAP as the political movement fails in order to win few seats in the Parliament,” says an emotionally charged up engineer who volunteered in the Delhi Assembly elections for four months and worked closely with Kejriwal.

The writing is on the wall. Perhaps, Kejriwal is too busy to find time to read it.