(Note: This editorial in the March 6th edition of the Hindu has a wide range of applications about the need of internal democracy in all political parties, as well as churches and religious organizations. Without internal democracy there can be no credibility for any social organizations. That is the message the recent Ernakulam Meet of ex-priest and religious also proclaims. James Kottoor)
Success usually drives away troubles, but in the case of the Aam Aadmi Party, the victory in the Delhi Assembly election only seems to have precipitated a crisis of credibility and leadership. By effecting the removal of Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav from the Political Affairs Committee of the party, the dominant faction of the AAP that stands solidly behind national convener Arvind Kejriwal signalled that it would not tolerate any dissidence in the organisation. Both Mr. Bhushan and Mr. Yadav were apparently willing to step down from the panel, but wanted an honourable exit: either through a complete reconstitution of the PAC or by informally staying away from its meetings. But the Kejriwal faction, with his deputy Manish Sisodia in the forefront, wanted to publicly signal that there could be no questioning of the leadership of Mr. Kejriwal. Although the differences within the AAP revolving around the leadership style of Mr. Kejriwal have a long history, the immediate trigger for the crisis was the continuation of Mr. Kejriwal in the organisational post after he was sworn in Chief Minister of Delhi, which is prohibited under the party’s rule of one person-one post. But Mr. Kejriwal’s loyalists would hear of no such thing, and wanted him to continue in the top party post. Notwithstanding his offer to step down as national convener, Mr. Kejriwal gave free rein to his supporters in the party to silence dissidents and dissenters.
Mr. Kejriwal is no doubt the face of the party and is central to the party’s fortunes both as Delhi Chief Minister and a front-line leader of the AAP. But the question implied in the challenge from Mr. Yadav and Mr. Bhushan is the party leader’s commitment to internal democracy, an issue that the AAP has taken great pride in differentiating itself from other parties. Mr. Kejriwal, for all his talk of transparency and democratic processes, is sometimes impulsive in his ways and wont to surround himself with a coterie of subservient second-rung leaders. As a party campaigning for probity in public life and equal access to public resources for all, the AAP holds great promise. But a politics revolving around a personality cult will achieve little. The Delhi victory was not Mr. Kejriwal’s alone, and the attempts to undermine the democratic structure of the party would have long-term consequences. Without a democratic structure, the AAP cannot hope to win the people’s confidence, relying only on Mr. Kejriwal as a mascot. It needs to expand beyond Delhi to take on the BJP in substantive terms, and that onerous task requires a strong organisational base — which alone can provide inspiration for a consolidation of mass sentiment in the AAP’s favour.