Book Review: AAP & DOWN

Review :

Mayank Gandhi with Shrey Shah have bared the insider’s view of Delhi’s ruling political party, i.e., Aam Admi Party. The book is a true to fact  presentation of the Party from Cradle to the Present.

Mayank being one of the pioneers and staunch supporter of the Party from its early stage,  takes “Drishta’s view” from being enamoured by genuine simple living and high ideals of Arvind Kejriwal in initial stages to slow and gradual abandoning of principles & downward slideshow. The style of writing is lucid and simple. Quoting an anecdote, Mayank shares an episode where  in one of his speeches, he said ,’Let me reveal the name of those who contributed to the tremendous growth of the movement’. Everyone expected the names such as Anna or Arvind but he in satirical twist named Kapil, Sibal, followed with Congress MP, Manoj Tewari who insulted Anna. That had all present  rolling in laughter.

Mayank, himself a social worker who had adopted, along with others, fifteen villages for social upliftment, was initially impressed with Arvind’s approach and dedication for social causes. Under constant entreaties from Arvind, he took up the task of leading India Against Corruption, movement in Mumbai and totally emmersed himself in the Movement and the Lokpal Bill.

However as is with all relationship, once the starry-eyed phase of initial interactions grew to more intense day to day dealings  the true colours of Arvind Kejriwal personality were revealed, most striking was the Opportunist streak in him. Arvind would use people and later discard them when their utility was over. For instance, though he believed that the presence of  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Baba Ramdev and Swami Agnivesh added the saffron hue to the movement that would make sections of country suspicious but was reluctant to end association with them abruptly as he wanted to reach out to their followers in large numbers.

Mayank had worked with Anna Hazare on many occasion and suggested to Arvind to make him the face of the movement as he was clean and had a reputation for battling dishonesty. Arvind was excited at the suggestion and promptly agreed. Mayank also teamed up Jaiprakash , a brilliant IAS officer from Andhra Pradesh, who had seen the system from within at all  levels. He stressed that the best way to put pressure on government was to stay out of the system and develop external pressure points.

Anna had an indomitable spirit and strength of character and  had fought many fights in the past under his organization ‘Bhrastachar Virodhi Jan Andolan’. Mayank along with others formed a ‘Core Circle’ in Mumbai, comprising of 35 people, who took strategic decision via face-to-face meeting. This Circle gave a lot of fillip & coherance to the Movement. The Movement intensified by Anna’s fast in April, 2011. Lakhs of BJP and RSS members began to support IAC. Many leaders started associating and wished to align all pronouncements with respective ideologies some like Kiran Bedi and representations from Art of Living were disapproving of any resolution against BJP.  As Movement grew, new faces were inducted to broaden support, Medha patkar was convinced by Anna to join the Movement. Organizational  structure was put in place, the agitation was handled in Delhi by the NGO- Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF). In the evening, all of those in-charge of key cities would confer via teleconference where Arvind would give directions. Congress was baffled with growing popularity & mass support, so much so that it fielded its powerful spokespersons – Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari Salman Khurshid and P. Chidambaram to publicly handle Anna and IAC. They were arrogant rude and dismissive which caused anger in common people, generating backlash.

Anna decided to take the lead and announced that if the Prime Minister did not constitute a joint Lokpal Committee by March-end, he would go on an indefinite fast from 5th April, 2011. Anna spoke across all media platforms and he came out a winner.

On 9th April, the government’s resistance broke, it finally accepted for a joint drafting committee comprising five members from each side for preparing the new Lokpal Bill. Pranab Mukherjee and Shanti Bhushan were announced as this Committee’s joint Chairmen.

Anna drank some juice to break the fast, history was being made that day. The Lokpal bill was drafted in first place by Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhusan, Santosh Hegde and Shanti Bhusan.

Meanwhile, things started to change in the core committee. Arvind, on his part, who initially had a very local supporter in the core committee named Naveen Jaihind who came in with bull-like aggression. He attacked or shouted down anyone who came in the way of his leader’s view. Later, Jaihind’s services were used by Arvind to corner Yogendra Yadav in Haryana. At this stage Arvind had started creating a small coterie personally loyal to him.

A weak and diluted Lokpal Bill was introduced by the Government in the Loksabha. Mass burning of such Lokpal bill were organized in Mumbai. In Mumbai, slogans rang in the air, ‘ Bharat Mata Ki Jai, Anna tum aage badho hum tumhare sath hai’. Anna went onto fast. Deshmukh came so that Anna would break his fast. He was informed of three key demand:

i) A citizens’ charter for the redressal of grievances,

ii) A move to bring lower bureaucracy under Lokpal, and

iii) Setting up of Lokayuktas. (If Lokpal is a central governing body that has jurisdiction over  all MPs and central government employees for corruption cases.

On twelveth day of his fast, Deshmukh handed over a letter from Prime Minster Manmohan Singh conveying Parliament’s acceptance of his demand. Anna finally ended his fast on 28th August.

But this, did not bring concrete result which Arvind and his team wanted. Ultimately, Arvind decided to form a Party which even Anna supported initially,  though retracting later. The style of working of Arvind grew autocratic gradually. This was evident by the way Prashant Bhusan and Yogendra Yadav were cornered and outsted from the party.  Their fault was to question Arvind on major issues where decision were not arrived by consensus or by democratic procedures. Differences started to erupt between Anna and Arvind and these were fueled further by Kiran Bedi. Anna was no more the face and the Political Party led by Arvind won the election with a thumping majority winning 67 seats out of total strength of 70. This was a sweep and huge morale booster for the common man who saw in Arvind a crusaders

of justice, a savior.

Arvind became the Chief Minister and his close associate, Manish Sisodia, the deputy chief minister. Arvind, who earlier seemed reluctant to use the official car or house in the beginning, not only accepted all the amenities later but also ensured good salary for his ministers. His scheme of free water and electricity, had put an extra load on State Exchequer. Few of his ministers were  found to  have questionable credentials,  while others were mired with corruption charges. Arvind fought elections in Haryana , Goa and other States but lost. The donation of two crore that he received, turned out to be from Shell Companies. Even after coming into power, the Party could not do much in the directions of Lokpal Bill or Lokayukt Bill. Given the track record of Arvind from being a RTI activist to a Magsaysay Award Winner and a person who had quit his job as Commissioner of Income Tax, his genuine intentions to end corruption from its root, could not be doubted entirely. Though the book brings Arvind in shades but it is ultimately for the Public to decide. His Schemes such as ‘odd-even’ scheme, in which only odd and even number cars were allowed to ply on road alternatively and Mohalla Clinic which made the treatment for poor people within reach became highly popular. His work in educational sector ensured fees do not increase exorbitantly. It might be said that in his journey, from being a leader at ‘India Against Corruption’ to becoming a leader of a political party, his approach of doing things started changing. It cannot be denied that with the advent of his Party and way he shared all the financial details of inflows and outflows on the Party’s website, people started having a buzz about clean politics. The other political parties realized that they were weak when it came to connecting with masses, gathering volunteers and bringing out transparency in their financial disclosures. The current scenario is that his Party lost the Municipal Corporation elections in Delhi and his popularity has taken a dip. He doesn’t rule the news channel as he used to do once, may be, he has realized that rather than wasting energy by constant appearance in media, it is better to focus on work and give an account of doings and achievements to the Public when the day of reckoning comes.

It is for the readers to decide for themselves whether the political party, ‘Aam Adami Party’ has fulfilled expectations  or not and whether corruption has decreased or increased or status quo.

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