Shazia Ilmi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) discard who is now with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), told some of us a couple of months back that her former party was fast turning into a “Ghaziabad Boys’ Club” – Arvind Kejriwal and his clique of men like Manish Sisodia, Sanjay Singh, Ashutosh, Kumar Vishwas and Ashish Khetan. Ilmi said the party had few women in its decision making structures, while the men running the party lived in or near Ghaziabad and within few kilometers of each other. We, journalists, were quick to dismiss her criticism then. We thought it was, if anything, witty at best but also both elitist and a case of sour grapes.
But Wednesday’s events suggest Ilmi, who has been slammed for being an opportunist when she joined the BJP days before the Delhi elections, might have jumped ship more out of compulsion than choice. By sacking founding members like Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan from AAP’s political affairs committee or PAC, the party has conveyed it is unwilling to tolerate anyone who isn’t part of Kejriwal’s boys club. The voting pattern at Wednesday’s National Executive bears this out – those who voted against the resolution or abstained are activists or academicians in their own right and do not necessarily have any personal proximity to Kejriwal.
When it comes to representation of women, AAP seems to be even worse than other mainstream parties. It is also quite similar to most other parties in ridding the party of those who could potentially challenge the topmost leader. Arvind Kejriwal-headed Aam Aadmi Party government’s council of ministers in Delhi has no women. AAP’s National Executive has only one woman in Christina Samy. Incidentally, she voted against the resolution to kick out the two leaders from the PAC. It is also increasingly evident that many more of Yadav and Bhushan’s supporters will be weeded out in the days and months to come.
All of this is unseemly for a party that has ambitions to replace the Congress as an umbrella party to rival the right wing Sangh Parivar. And it isn’t just women. Representation of OBCs, Dalits and minorities in the party’s decision making structures is either absent or negligible.
AAP leaders like Ashutosh have argued that the party has moved beyond the old politics of tokenism, and is focused on providing “new politics”. He has said the recent episode was a clash of ideas between “ultra-left” and “pragmatic politics of welfarism”. But AAP leader Mayank Gandhi’s blog, posted today, indicates the events of Wednesday were nothing but the purging of those who one day might be rivals of Kejriwal.
It could be argued that Yadav and Bhushan were impatient, that they should have allowed Kejriwal to consolidate in Delhi. The AAP is currently Delhi centric and could become more representative as it eventually expands to other regions. But it also runs the danger of becoming a very regional party, both in its reach and party structure and replicate the supremo model of a Trinamool Congress, an AIADMK, Shiv Sena or even worse, the Congress.