Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Citizens Appeal to Aam Aadmi Party Leadership

Citizens Appeal to Aam Aadmi Party Leadership

We, concerned citizens and voters of the Aam Aadmi Party have anxiously observed the developments of the past few days in the higher echelons of the party. These developments were triggered by a letter of Admiral Ramdas – the independent ombudsman or internal Lokpal of the party. The letter addressed to the National Executive and Political Advisory Committee, which is now in the public domain, has flagged the breakdown of internal communication within the top leadership of the party and also spoken of two camps within the top leadership with divergent views on core principles. 

The concern of Admiral Ramdas was supplemented by other communications among party leaders, raising issues of transparency in decision-making processes. We accept that a resolution of these issues is an internal matter of the party. We hope it will overcome this challenge collectively and live up to the expectations and goodwill that society has bestowed upon it.

We consider the Aam Aadmi Party to be no ordinary phenomenon. It was a product of the nation-wide social churning that began with the India Against Corruption movement led by Anna Hazare. The inherent spirit of that agitation was not just to fight corruption but also an invocation of the ideal of ‘swaraj’ – that implied transparent and participatory governance with collective decision making.

Soon after its formation the party caught the public imagination with its resolve to practice a different kind of politics and its commitment to abjure the unethical means that have become part and parcel of so-called mainstream political parties. Your vision statement announced your commitment to cleaning the system from inside.

The recent massive support for the Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi election expresses the social aspiration for an alternative space in our political system. The established ‘high-command culture’ of the so-called mainstream is intolerant of divergent views and internal democracy. Please remember that the people of India have extended faith in you despite a vicious campaign against you by political parties and by a corporate-controlled media. It is clear that with this massive support, ordinary citizens want this unique experiment of alternative politics and participatory democracy to succeed, not to collapse in a matter of weeks.

Needless to say India’s economically and socially marginalized sections, such as casual labourers, oppressed castes, tribals, women and religious minorities look to you with the hope that the AAP will begin the long march towards the true and full realisation of the ideals and promises lodged in the Indian Constitution. Some of your leaders are fond of saying that the AAP has no ideology. That may be debated, but surely it is possible to declare your adherence to the statutes, norms and values of the Constitution? These include complete equality before the law, the abolition of gender and caste discrimination and equal protection of the freedoms of combination, of faith, speech and expression.

 Let us remind you that in the mid 1980’s similar euphoria accompanied the surprise victory of the Asom Gana Parishad in Assam where an erstwhile students’ union formed a government under the leadership of Prafulla Kumar Mohanta. However, the experiment of students’ participation in mainstream politics faded with the AGP adopting the prevalent political culture. Similarly, the political alternative which emerged with the JP movement in the mid 70’s also failed to resist the magnetic (and fatal) attraction of ‘pragmatic politics’.
Given the facts and concerns we have outlined above, we appeal to the leadership of the Aam Aadmi Party to resolve their issues amicably, on the basis of dialogue and conciliation. This is essential if the AAP is to emerge as a viable alternative to a political system which has been perverted by the lack of diversity, participation and transparency. You must manage differences of personality and opinion amongst yourselves with greater maturity that you have shown. Such differences are to be expected in any political movement and inevitable in Indian society with its serious social divisions and conflicts of interest. The challenge is to negotiate these conflicting interests with less, rather than more friction; and this can only be done if diverse viewpoints are given space and freedom of expression. Democracy is not merely a slogan. It is also a wise method of political work. If you cannot handle such problems in keeping with your promise, your supporters will soon conclude that your politics is thoughtless and your capacities over-rated.
Please realize that there are many faceless and selfless citizens who have worked for your electoral victory and that your political conduct and success is not a private matter for your top leaders. Nor are they entitled to make frivolous and sweeping statements and allegations in the social media as if they had just won a students’ union election. We are concerned that the failure of the AAP experiment (not only in governance, but also in the promise of a new political style), will have grievous long-term ramifications for Indian politics. It will have an adverse impact on the morale of the citizens who voted for you and who believed that you were committed achieve the constitutional goals of democracy, equity and justice.
Our statement is constructive and drafted by your well-wishers. We wish for nothing more or less than that you succeed in your stated objectives. Please conduct yourselves with maturity and get to work. There is no time to be lost.
Signatories:
Purushottam Agrawal
Dilip Simeon
Ovais Sultan Khan
Prashant Tandon
Shailendra Dhar
Dipak Dholakia
Anil Sinha
P K Choudhary
Prakash Kumar
Kiran Shaheen

Ratan Lal
Deepak Choudhary

Suman Keshari

Primila Lewis

Nirmalangshu Mukherji

Kamal Joshi

Ananya Vajpeyi