Promise versus performance

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It is far from easy to live up to one’s promise and potential. The Aam Aadmi Party was founded on a belief in the possibility of changing the system, working outside of it. But over the last couple of years, the party and its maverick leader Arvind Kejriwal have shown themselves unable to deliver on their promise or rise to their potential. From the selection of candidates to the process of decision-making in the party, the AAP is now seen running counter to its own stated philosophy of transparency and accountability in public life. In Punjab, the party appears to have lost the political plot with Kejriwal unwilling to allow an independent regional leadership to emerge. Sucha Singh Chhotepur, who was sacked as the State convenor over allegations of bribery, has demonstrated that he is no pushover by winning the support of a huge section of the AAP. Navjot Singh Sidhu, the cricketer-turned-politician who quit the BJP recently, chose to float an alternative platform, Awaaz-e-Punjab, rather than join with the AAP. Delhi was only a stepping stone for Kejriwal, who wants to project himself as an alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. From his choice of Lok Sabha seat in the 2014 election – he chose to take on Modi in Varanasi – to his frequent Twitter barbs aimed at the Prime Minister, it is clear that he fancies himself as a national level leader. Delhi was no more than a launch pad for his political career; Punjab, the only State where the AAP performed well in the Lok Sabha election, is the next logical step. Whether it is Chhotepur or Sidhu, it is clear no one will be allowed to share the leadership space with Kejriwal in the AAP’s Punjab unit.
But Punjab is not the only cause of problems in the party. In recent months, some of its ministers and MLAs have been caught on the wrong side of the law. The party did defend some of them, alleging, and perhaps not entirely falsely, that the Centre was using the Delhi Police to target the party and its prominent members. Indeed, this became another issue in the AAP’s battle to bring law and order in the national capital region under the State government’s purview. In the latest controversy involving its Women and Child Welfare Minister Sandeep Kumar, the AAP took the high moral ground, and sacked him soon after a video recording of him with a woman in a sexual act was released by a media house. Mr. Kumar was removed from the party as well, as it became clear he had known of the presence of the camera. Evidently, there was more to lose than gain from defending Kumar, who alleged he was targeted as he was a Dalit. Kejriwal seems to have set his sights high, but Punjab will judge him by what he did in Delhi as well. The AAP needs to recover its purpose as a catalyst for political and social change if it is to grow beyond Delhi.

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