Has the Congress party scored a suicidal self goal by extending support to the Aam Admi Party (AAP) in Delhi ? The Congress decision seems to have been based upon a huge miscalculation. Its leaders thought that by supporting AAP and allowing it to form the government it would expose its failure to implement the extravagant poll promises made during the campaign. The error lay in failing to appreciate that even a perceived sincere effort to fulfill those promises would gain public appreciation for AAP.
The battle right now is one related to political culture. The first goal of AAP is to present a starkly alternate image of political conduct from what is delivered by the current crop of politicians. In pursuance of that the party will most likely pursue its avowed campaign aims regardless of remaining in office. That is where the Congress might well have committed a huge blunder. The central aim of AAP has been to fight corruption. Will the party now pursue that aim with vigour?
The indications are that this is precisely what the new AAP government in Delhi will do. AAP leader Mr. Prashant Bhusan has gone so far as to suggest that because of its agenda against corruption the Congress will pull the rug from under it within the next few months. His prediction was reinforced by former Chief Minister Mrs. Sheila Dikshit’s terse reminder that Congress support was “conditional” upon the new government’s performance. It should not be difficult to interpret the exchange by reading between the lines.
A major corruption issue frequently highlighted by AAP leaders relates to the Commonwealth Games scam. The Shungloo Committee that probed the deal made scathing references to the Sheila Dikshit government. Obviously the worry about the new government’s future role in pursuing corruption cases is beginning to haunt the Congress.
Earlier this writer had pointed out the obviously complementary nature of the AAP-Congress alliance. AAP with its strength drawn from a chain of NGO activists spread across Indian cities would be strengthened by traditional Congress party workers spread across rural India . It was even suggested that the Indian National Congress be reinvented as the India Federal Congress to rope in other likeminded regional parties. The potential of such a transformation must have brought cheer to Congress leaders. However there was an important caveat.
I wrote: “Would he (Rahul Gandhi) be prepared to countenance investigation into at least a few corruption cases against his own party members?” The success of the AAP-Congress alliance hinges on this precondition. Does Mr. Gandhi’s deafening silence over the corruption unearthed by several former chief ministers of Maharashtra including the Union Home Minister offer much hope that he will approve investigation against Congress leaders? Does Mrs. Dikshit’s veiled threat of withdrawing support if the AAP government did not perform satisfactorily provide such hope?
The two most glaring cases of alleged political corruption that demand attention in Delhi are the Commonwealth Games scam and certain DLF land deals. The first is related to Mrs. Sheila Dikshit and the second to Mr. Robert Vadra, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law.
From Mr. Prashant Bhushan’s remarks it seems that the AAP government by no means has abandoned its pledge to pursue these cases with vigour. In that event how will Mr. Rahul Gandhi and his party react? A situation might be created that proves the death knell of the Congress party. If action in these corruption cases is allowed the top Congress leadership would come under the scanner with possibly disastrous consequences. If investigation is disallowed the public would perceive the brazen cover-up that would expose the Congress leadership.
What would be its result?
It might well draw the Congress rank and file to joining AAP and abandoning the Congress. In effect the tail will wag the dog, and AAP would swallow the Congress.
Thus far AAP has done everything possible to convey its allegiance to Mahatma Gandhi. Its members wear Congress caps, go on fasts at the drop of a hat, have their leader Mr. Arvind Kejriwal write a booklet entitled “Swaraj” which is reminiscent of Mahatma Gandhi’s “Hind Swaraj”, shun security arrangements for ministers and refuse to occupy government houses allotted to them.
Given all this, will it be too difficult for ordinary Congress workers who still retain nostalgia for past probity to be attracted to the new party? Especially if they are reminded that Mahatma Gandhi’s last explicit wish was for the Congress party to be dissolved?
It will be hazardous to predict the future. The situation is pregnant with possibilities. Things might end with a bang or a whimper. But if I was a Congress leader, I would worry.