Reply from AAP to “A common man’s letter to Arvind Kejriwal”

On February 17, 2015, I had sent a letter to Arvind Kejriwal by email from proactiveindian@rediffmail.com to contact@aamaadmiparty.org
Click here to read the text of my letter.

On March 14, 2015, I received the following reply by email:

Dear Sir,

We apologize for the delay in replying.
Thank you for writing to us and reminding us of the possible pitfalls. We assure you that your mail will be given a deep consideration, and we will guard ourselves against the corrupting effects of power. We will take all caution to prevent AAP from degenerating into yet another political party.

Our historic journey begins now. We request you to join us and together let us work hard for a better tomorrow for our nation.

Warm Regards,

Dona Rose Thomas
Team AAP

My thoughts about the reply:

1. AAP must be receiving dozens, maybe hundreds of communications every day. It appears they have created the organization to reply to each communication.

2. From the contents of the reply, it is clear that my email, or a significant portion, has been read by the signatory.

3. AAP’s email has been signed by a party functionary, and no attempt has been made to give the impression that my email has been read by Arvind Kejriwal himself.

4. I hope that the assurance given in the reply is sincere, and that the reply is not merely a well-worded PR exercise. I am making this observation because the recent events in AAP have made me wonder whether AAP is, below an impressive exterior, just like any other political party.

Advertisements

A common man’s letter to Arvind Kejriwal

Dear Shri Kejriwal,

Congratulations on AAP’s spectacular victory in the Delhi Assembly elections! This victory has given all common people in India the hope that they can work collectively to change things for the better.

The whole country seems to be hailing AAP as the inventor of ‘alternative politics’. Most people are either unaware or have forgotten that the AAP today closely resembles the BJP when it was founded in 1980. Then, the BJP worker was a volunteer who worked during the day to earn his/her living, and worked for the party outside office hours and on holidays. There were no leaders. Everybody was a party worker, and some were elected office-bearers. All of them were “common men/women”. People joined the BJP to work for the nation and for the party, never for personal gain. They gave the party their time, energy and money, often at the cost of their personal and family commitments, and expected nothing in return. They led simple lives. To give an example, around 50,000 delegates attended the BJP’s first annual session in Mumbai in December 1980. Delegates from outside Mumbai either stayed with their relatives or with friends, or were accommodated in tents at the session venue in Bandra, Mumbai. Nobody, not even the seniormost office-bearers like Mr. A. B. Vajpayee and Mr. L. K. Advani, stayed at posh hotels. Sounds familiar?

However, by 2004, the BJP had become a clone of the post-Independence Congress. Whatever faults can be found with the Congress can also be found with the BJP: corruption, crony capitalism, VIP culture, High Command culture, dynastic politics, etc., etc.

I am sure the Congress in 1947 was also like today’s AAP.

The Congress and the BJP transformed the way they did because, to quote Lord Acton, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I would go a step further and state that a political party and its members start becoming corrupt when power becomes approachable.

I sincerely appeal to you to remain constantly aware that whatever happened to the Congress and to the BJP can very easily happen to the AAP. One of your immediate and topmost priorities should be to create a set of mechanisms to ensure that power does not corrupt the AAP.

I am sure you, Dr. Yogendra Yadav, Prof. Ajit Jha, Prof. Anand Kumar and other political analysts in the AAP are eminently capable of identifying all risk factors, and that organisational experts in the AAP would be able to create mechanisms to prevent these risk factors from entering the party.

However, I would like to submit the following points for your kind consideration:

1. I hope you understand that corruption starts from the top. If the top leadership, or people close to the top leadership, is perceived to have zero tolerance to corruption, crony capitalism, ostentatiousness, etc., the party and its workers are less likely to become corrupt. However, if the top leadership is perceived to selectively turn a blind eye to corruption, the rank and file of the party gets a signal that corruption is acceptable, provided it is within limits.
For example, no free rides on private jets or helicopters under any circumstances. Also, every substantial donation must be proactively and stringently vetted. Sorry to say this, but when somebody donates Rs. 50 lakhs to you, please ask that person why (s)he is making such a huge donation and ensure that AAP is not compromising itself in any way by accepting such a huge donation. The fact that a donation of Rs. 50 lakhs was made by cheque and was accompanied by a PAN Card photocopy is not enough. AAP must make sure that the donor has earned the money by legal and ethical means, and that the donation is being made without any strings attached.

2a. Be extremely selective while admitting members. The current process allows anybody to join the AAP. Please have a screening process. I would suggest that membership be offered only to those who are recommended by existing office-bearers and/or active members. This may slow down the membership drive, but it will reduce the chances of opportunists joining the party.
2b. Set higher standards for election candidates than for members. ‘Winnability’ is extremely important, but it is less important than ‘cleanliness’.
2c. Set even higher standards for office-bearers and for ministers.
2d. Be extremely selective about alliances, electoral understandings, endorsements, outside support, etc.

3a. Be aggressive in your efforts, but be patient about results. There is a very heavy price to be paid for shortcuts. Be prepared for the fact that your noble goals may not be fully achieved during your lifetime. Please develop a second line of leadership, and create a process of continuous leadership development.
3b. Please develop the organisation in a state before you contest elections there. Elections can be won in Arvind Kejriwal’s name, but Arvind Kejriwal will not be part of the state’s government.

4. Avoid populism. Freebies win elections, but they also make the Aam Aadmi lazy. Remember the words of Rosalynn Carter: “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”

I apologise for having taken up much of your valuable time, and I thank you for having patiently read this communication.

Your admirer and well-wisher,

Proactive Indian

(Sent by email from proactiveindian@rediffmail.com to contact@aamaadmiparty.org)

Can’t our politicians read the writing on the wall, or are they refusing to read it?

Manish Tewari: “People wanted to teach BJP and its arrogance a lesson, they decided AAP is instrument of their choice rather Congress.”

Mamata Banerjee: “This is a victory for the people and a big defeat for the arrogant and those who are doing political vendetta & spreading hate among people.”

Nitish Kumar: “Delhi election results indeed is a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Delhi is the heart of the country so it reflects the mood of the country.”

Derek O’Brien: “A thrilling Tuesday for AAP & everyone of us who supported them, tight slap on BJP’s divisive politics.”

Vaiko (V. Gopalsamy, Founder, MDMK, Tamil Nadu): “People have staged a silent democratic revolution. They have taught a lesson to the Hindutva forces and the Modi government which has been supporting them.”

These are a few reactions from prominent anti-BJP politicians. All of them are celebrating AAP’s victory as BJP’s defeat, claiming that the fact that BJP’s vote-share dropped by 14% from the 2014 Lok Sabha elections shows that the Indian voter is disillusioned with the BJP government, and hoping that BJP will be defeated by them in assembly elections in the near future.

What they are unable or unwilling to realise is that AAP has won a positive vote from the people of Delhi. In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, quite a few Delhi voters had declared, “Modi for PM, Kejriwal for CM.” This probably explains the 14% swing from the BJP to the AAP.

The best explanation I’ve come across so far is from Deelip Mhaske, who had unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election as an AAP candidate from Jalna in Maharashtra: “We as alert citizens are able to create alternatives to traditional politics. This has to be the win of alternative politics over traditional politics. …. Every political party will learn a lesson — that Indians need action. No more will we blindly trust politicians, and we the ‘People of India’ are ready to take politics in our hands. …..

AAP’s win will change Indian politics forever. It will generate tremendous synergy among other social activists across India to be part of politics. Once good people join politics, naturally politics will change. A change in politics and political leaders will bring new ideas and transparent ways for governance.”

The people of India want results. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the people of Delhi voted for Narendra Modi because they thought he can deliver results as India’s PM. In the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections, they voted for Arvind Kejriwal because they thought he can deliver results as Delhi’s CM. The verdicts in both these elections are wake-up calls for all politicians and political parties, giving a clear message:Deliver or be voted out!

Can’t our politicians read the writing on the wall, or are they refusing to read it?

Be the change

Politician-bashing is at its peak these days, with Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP making all kinds of allegations against all politicians, insinuating that all politicians are corrupt. Many of us are happy to agree with these insinuations. After all, by pronouncing politicians (and bureaucrats, officials and policemen) guilty of corruption and other sins, we give ourselves the status of ‘poor victims’.

My question is: how good are we, the people of India?
1. Have I always paid Income Tax in full, declaring all my income?
2. Have I never bought/used smuggled goods?
3. Have I never bribed a policeman or a government servant?
4. Have I never spoken on my cellphone while driving?
5. Have I never engaged child labour?
6. Have I never used official facilities (car, telephone, etc.) for personal use?

I have listed 6 questions, but there are many more. We should ask ourselves these questions. If we can answer YES to all these questions, we have the right to criticise politicians (and bureaucrats, officials and policemen). If not, it’s high time we all try to change ourselves.

While almost all, if not all of us have indulged in small and big acts of corruption, most of us will claim that we did not do so voluntarily, but only because the system (to use Rahul Gandhi’s favourite punching bag!) forced us to do so. Is that true? I don’t think so.

I believe we voluntarily indulge in small and big acts of corruption because:
a. We have an aversion for hard work. Hence, we always look for shortcuts.
b. We believe that the end justifies the means.
c. Our society respects wealth, irrespective of the manner in which it was acquired.

Politicians (and bureaucrats, officials and policemen) are only the face of the problems facing India. The body of these problems is we, the people of India. Democracy is “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. If people are good, government (politicians, bureaucrats, officials and policemen) will be good. If people are bad, government (politicians, bureaucrats, officials and policemen) will be bad.

If we want the country to change for the better, each one of us must change for the better. If we change, politicians, bureaucrats, officials and policemen will change. If we do not change, politicians, bureaucrats, officials and policemen will not change. Change has to begin with us.

As Gandhiji had said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Zero tolerance is the only solution

Shock and outrage has been expressed at the use of pepper spray by a Member of Parliament inside the Lok Sabha on Thursday. Indian Express reports that senior politicians have used expressions like ‘big blot on our parliamentary democracy’, shame, disgraceful, unbelievable, and ‘insult to democracy’. An editorial in The Hindu comments that “nothing can be as shameful and disgraceful”, and further states that “Another member has been accused of brandishing a knife, but he has denied it, claiming what he was holding was a microphone, probably one wrenched from its fixture.”

I fail to understand how anybody could be even mildly surprised by this incident. What happened is nothing new. It is only slightly worse than what we’ve been seeing over the last few years in legislatures and outside.

Frankly, the politicians are all shedding crocodile tears. The Congress party is outraged because their own MPs have dared to openly challenge the party leadership. The BJP and other non-Congress parties are delighted to see the acute discomfort of the Congress leadership.

If any MP belonging to any party had done the same things while confronting his political opponents, his party leadership would either have justified his actions, or would have criticised him feebly in public but rewarded him suitably at a later date. In any case, no action would have been taken against him.

In December 2012, Sanjay Nirupam made personal attacks on TV actress-turned-politician Smriti Irani during a debate on television. No action was taken against him by his party.

In July 2013, Union Minister Beni Prasad Verma had said that Mulayam Singh Yadav was “not even fit to sweep the Prime Minister’s residence.” No action was taken against him by his party.

On January 17, 2014, Mani Shankar Aiyar made a derogatory remark regarding Narendra Modi’s humble origins as the son of a tea stall owner. No action was taken against him by his party.

Not only did Somnath Bharti’s party not take any action against him for his midnight raid, his action was justified by them. The AAP’s supporters keep claiming, maybe rightly so, that the party has good intentions, but they must remember that the end does not justify the means.

If our political leaders are sincere about improving the behaviour of their party members, they must show zero tolerance towards such behaviour, irrespective of the seniority and/or grassroots level support enjoyed by the offending member.