AAP X-rayed: No dream alternative
by Ashok B Sharma on 13 May 2014 6 Comments

Indian democracy is faced with a challenge of electing leaders with a clean image. Over the years, criminalization of politics has almost reached its nadir. The judiciary has tried its best to bring the political system to order by pronouncing several verdicts and ensuring that the provisions of the Representation of Peoples Act 1951 are not violated in any manner; from time to time it has sent necessary directives to the Election Commission.


Born out of the movement led by Anna Hazare for cleansing public life in the country, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by Arvind Kejriwal took up the initiative for providing the people with a dream alternative.


The party assumed power in Delhi after the assembly elections of 2013, with the support of the Congress. The AAP government resigned after 49 days on the pretext that both the Congress and the BJP were not allowing it to function in the way it liked. In the interim, the AAP made several promises to the Delhi people, including scaling down the high water and electricity tariffs and others, which the government could have done on its own without seeking the support of either the BJP or the Congress on the floor of the House. But Kejriwal resigned without fulfilling a single promise.


Instead, he sought the support of the BJP and the Congress to introduce and pass the controversial Jan Lokpal and Swaraj Bills without going through the mandated legal and constitutional procedures. As both the Congress and the BJP did not agree, Kejriwal resigned and sought to invoke public sympathy.


After resigning from the chief ministership of Delhi, Kejriwal put up AAP candidates in several parts of the country in 2014 parliamentary polls. But his promise to provide a clean alternative to the country’s political system seems to be eyewash.


A survey conducted by an independent think-tank, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), has exposed the hollowness of Kejriwal’s tall claims. The ADR analysed the affidavits filed by 8163 out of 8230 independent candidates and the candidates of several political parties in the fray in 2014 parliamentary elections. About 15 per cent of the AAP candidates (65 in number) have criminal cases filed against them, of which 10 per cent are fighting serious criminal cases filed against them in the courts. The AAP candidates face charges relating to murder, attempts to murder, crime against women, charges of creating communal disharmony, robbery and dacoity, kidnapping, et al.


Some of the serious criminal charges, if proved, could result in prison terms of up to five years, or more. Some of the offences are non-bailable in nature. About 42 AAP candidates have confessed to have serious criminal cases pending against them.


It seems that the AAP has followed the path of other political parties by relying upon muscle power, instead of providing a clean alternative that its founder Arvind Kejriwal and his mentor Anna Hazare had promised time and again to the people.


In the race for use of money power in polls, the AAP is not much behind either. About 45 per cent of the AAP candidates (192 in number) are wealthy crorepatis. About 115 (27 per cent) out of 427 AAP candidates occupy the top three highest assets positions in their constituencies. To cite a few examples, the AAP candidate from Bangalore Central, V Bala Krishnan,  has declared assets of Rs 1,89,42,53,519; the candidate from Mumbai South Meera Ashish Sanyal has declared assets of Rs 50,94,61,553; Darbhanga candidate Prabhat Ranjan Das has declared assets of Rs 36,46,42,463; Tiruppur candidate R Chakravarthi Raja Gopala Krishnan has declared assets of Rs 32,59,25,000 and Ghaziabad candidate Shazia Ilmi Malik has declared assets of Rs 30,33,42,609. According to the ADR survey, 109 AAP candidates have not filed their Income Tax returns.


The AAP has moved away from its declared concept of Aam Aadmi (common man) for whose interests it had pledged to fight against injustice. The party leaders live in luxury apartments and bungalows in posh colonies. They dress in costly suits and attires and not in dhoti-kurta, the dress of the country’s common man – the real aam aadmi.


The party has enough funds to pay its full-time and part-time volunteers. Funds are flowing from foreign countries and the AAP says that these funds are contributions from non-resident Indians (NRIs).


The situation raises several eyebrows. Every year, on the occasion of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the Government had been making appeals to NRIs and Overseas Indians to invest in the Indian economy, individually or by pooling in their resources. But the NRI investment in the Indian economy had not been that encouraging, though their remittances to their families remained high. It is difficult to believe that NRIs who are shying away from investing their hard earned money in the Indian economy would fund a political party like the AAP in such a big way.


However, the AAP leaders have been careful to show their poll expenses within the limits fixed by the Election Commission, viz., Rs 14 lakh per constituency. In the 2013 Delhi Assembly elections, the average election expense declared by the six ministers was Rs 8.07 lakh. AAP leader Girish Soni showed the highest election expense at Rs 12.53 lakh, followed by Rakhi Birla Rs 11.65 lakh, Jarnail Singh Rs 11.64 lakh, Harish Khanna Rs 10.97 lakh, Jagdeep Singh Rs 10.88 lakh, Sanjeev Jha Rs 9.96 lakh. Remarkably, Arvind Kejriwal showed an exceptionally low poll expenditure of Rs 3.99 lakh followed by Ashok Kumar (Ambedkar Nagar) Rs 3.78 lakh.


All in all, the AAP seems to have moved away from its proclaimed goal of cleansing the political system; it believes in muscle and money power; its goals will be commensurate.

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