From emerging as a symbol for new brand of clean politics on anti-corruption plank to adopting the ‘hit-and-run’ brand of confrontationist politics, the Aam Aadmi Party’s descent has been as dramatic as it is disquieting. As an offshoot of the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement, the party had raised hopes of establishing a new political culture but the developments in the last few years make it clear that it has squandered away the opportunity to emerge as the voice of alternative politics. Ever since it swept to power in Delhi in 2015, winning 67 seats in the 70-member Assembly, AAP has been hopping from one crisis to another with its credibility taking a hit every time. First, the corruption charges and other criminal cases saw the exit of some ministers from the Cabinet. This was followed by a string of ruthless expulsions targeting dissidents and signs of implosion in the wake of graft charges against the top leadership. A series of humiliating electoral drubbings in Goa, Punjab, Gujarat and a crucial bypoll in Delhi took a heavy toll on the party’s credibility. The latest crisis to hit the party is the disqualification of 20 MLAs for violating the law against holding office of profit. Though it still has numbers to remain in power in Delhi, the disqualification has come as a severe moral blow to the party. As is its wont, AAP has cast aspersions on all the constitutional bodies, from Election Commission to the Office of the President, and blamed its adversaries for its predicament.
The disqualified MLAs, including Delhi’s Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot, were parliamentary secretaries in the government, a post considered by the Election Commission as an office of profit. With President Ram Nath Kovind approving the poll panel’s recommendation to disqualify the legislators, it is virtually the end of the road for the ruling party though it has vowed to approach the Supreme Court for justice. The Delhi High Court had earlier set aside these appointments in 2016 on the ground that the then Lieutenant Governor had not given his approval. The Election Commission heard a complaint by an advocate seeking disqualification. AAP has claimed that it was denied a hearing in the case and alleged political motives behind the action. It has also questioned the timing of the decision, just ahead of the Chief Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Joti’s retirement. It is deplorable that while making sweeping allegations against all the constitutional bodies, AAP has not spared even the President and attributed political motives to him. It is time Arvind Kejriwal did some serious introspection about his tactics and realised that the politics of confrontation is a game of diminishing returns.