The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which burst into public life with the highest decibel media campaign, the likes of which has never been seen before or since could well enjoy the distinction of having the shortest political career ever. So opines Sree Iyer, a highly successful technocrat turned highly successful journalist. If you follow him on Twitter, you would have received a message which states that the average attention span today is 8.25 seconds, during which, in a world of 140 characters on Twitter, you have to get your point across. Iyer stays true to the spirit of that concept in Rise and Fall of the Aam Aadmi Party, a cogent, perceptive, and engrossing narrative.
In 2010-11, when the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh were busy finalizing plans to avoid another debacle in 2014, the Congress-Left were weaving a new paradigm to checkmate the near-certain rise of Narendra Modi.
For those wondering about the meteoric rise of Arvind Kejriwal, he provides insights most of us are unaware of, even those who followed the Anna Hazare movement. It was Sri Sri Ravishankar and the Art of Living (AOL) who spearheaded an anti-corruption movement but had to withdraw as it was skillfully hijacked by Kejriwal and his cronies. For those who wonder why Kejriwal and the AAP never rose to the much-hyped public expectations, this book is a must read.
Iyer brings the spotlight on one of the most brilliant conspiracies in modern Indian politics – Arvind Kejriwal (and his Aam Aadmi Party) was propped up by the Congress Party, which led the UPA coalition. Many have suspected it, but few understood the dynamics of how and why the AAP was allowed to seize power in Delhi in 2013. People believed that Kejriwal was anti-Congress, but the reality was soon evident.
Iyer presents a detailed timeline of Kejriwal’s rise following the 2009 Lok Sabha election. In 2010-11, when the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh were busy finalizing plans to avoid another debacle in 2014, the Congress-Left were weaving a new paradigm to checkmate the near-certain rise of Narendra Modi. Iyer claims there was some covert support for this endeavor from an unnamed Delhi-based BJP leader.
The reason for this exercise was the realization that the people were growing weary of the Congress-CPI-CPI-M ideology; hence, a new neo-leftist outfit was crafted in the garb of opposition to the Congress – enter Arvind Kejriwal.
As the RSS and AOL did not think much of Kejriwal, they unwittingly allowed him to hijack a protest for which they had urged citizens to assemble. The Congress-Left had deftly played its hand and won; the nation saw an unknown Kejriwal supported by the BJP-RSS.
The author blames the short-sightedness of the Parivar and its think tank, the Vivekananda International Foundation, who had helped strategize these protests. The media’s active role in promoting Kejriwal is well known, but the writer highlights the unnoticed link between NDTV and Kejriwal, and the complicity of other media barons who ensured non-stop live coverage and iconization of the so-called crusader. The Urban Naxals had arrived!
Iyer notes the hypocrisy of these anti-corruption crusaders, who avoided any mention of Dr. Subramanian Swamy in the 2G spectrum scam and extolled senior advocate Prashant Bhushan as the sole voice in anti-corruption matters. He questions the motives of Christian organizations that joined them, particularly the role of Delhi Archbishop Vincent Conçessao in shielding Sonia Gandhi from accusations of corruption and diverting all blame towards the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Remember too, the dubious Delhi Church “attacks” in the run up to the Delhi assembly elections and the furor created by the Church in that period, all of which helped Arvind Kejriwal-AAP.
Iyer notes Kejriwal’s rise from an unremarkable career in the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) where normal service and posting rules never applied to him or his wife. Kejriwal’s mentor, Aruna Roy, also a media darling, was always projected as an activist, while her identity as President of the CPI women’s wing was carefully concealed. That is a real scoop.
Kejriwal leaped to fame in 2006 after receiving the Ford Foundation-funded Ramon Magsaysay award (yes, it is not a purse given by The Philippines’ government). The citation lauds his work as an RTI activist but never mentions his contributions, if any, in revealing anything meaningful under the RTI.
Prominent RTI activists such as Subhash Agrawal, credited with bringing transparency into the judiciary, never received the attention they deserved, but Kejriwal basked in unearned glory! To burnish his artificial glitter, neither the Department of Personnel & Training nor the Ministry of Home Affairs under the UPA dispensation took cognizance of Kejriwal running an NGO and receiving foreign funds, while still in government service. Iyer details every such grant received by Kejriwal; one was cited “Media initiative on RTI”.
From the word go, there was something dubious about the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement. This was also the period of the West-funded Arab Spring in the Muslim world, and Indian Marxists and their still-to-be discredited journalist buddies began drawing parallels between Jantar Mantar and Tahrir Square. Unbelievable but true.
Inspired by the rhetoric, Kejriwal tried to emulate Tahrir Square in front of Rail Bhawan in January 2014 when, as Chief Minister, he declared that he would not allow the Republic Day celebrations. Unsurprisingly, Kejriwal and acolyte Manish Sisodia received funds from western NGOs, many of which are associated with regime change.
Unnoticed by most, the great anti-corruption crusader was conspicuously silent on the National Herald case where there is a paper trail involving Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Yet he never missed an opportunity to attack the BJP with wild allegations that could not be sustained. Only on one occasion, AAP tried to show bipartisanship by lambasting Robert Vadra with an old news item.
Iyer blames the Delhi BJP for maintaining inexplicable silence on the scams of the Congress-led Sheila Dikshit government in Delhi in the matter of escalating electricity and water bills. That Kejriwal later reneged on his commitments to rectify matters in this regard is irrelevant; he had already won. In fairness, his victory did scuttle moves to privatize water supply, as recommended by the World Bank. Again, the BJP silence on this front deserves an explanation.
But soon, Kejriwal changed track. The rise of Narendra Modi and the sight of masses rallying behind him for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections frightened the Congress-Left. It was time for their creation, Arvind Kejriwal the redeemer, to deliver that for which he had been created. So Kejriwal began using his anti-corruption crusader credentials and media friends to launch an all-out propaganda war against then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. His ego had been pumped to such levels that he thought he was fated to be the next Prime Minister.
But first, he had to distance himself from the Congress. Hence the inane drama of January-February 2014, in which he resigned because Congress would not allow his Delhi Lokpal Bill to surpass the national bill passed in Parliament!
Free from the shackles of governance, AK-49 plunged into a high pitched, media assisted, the campaign against the BJP and Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The author follows the AAP journey from the Lok Sabha fiasco to the massive 67/70 seat victory in Delhi to the resurgence of the BJP in the Delhi municipal polls.
Second Term, Lies and Corruption
Iyer lists the financial irregularities of the AAP and its dubious funding through shell companies. He observes the reluctance of Congress-appointed Lt Governor Najeeb Jung to act on a complaint by Subramanian Swamy and opines that the high-pitched Lt Governor-CM drama during the former’s term was a scripted fight meant to demean the office of the Prime Minister. As if Modi had time for such antics! It is notable that since the appointment of a new Lt. Governor, the AAP has not been able to continue this charade. After all, it takes two to tango.
The writer notes the financial dealings of AAP minister Satyendra Jain and his associates, and the disillusionment of Delhi cabinet minister, Kapil Mishra, who exposed much of the financial and cash dealings of the AAP along with its fraudulent book keeping. Kejriwal’s own brother-in-law was caught doing fake transactions with the Delhi PWD.
Iyer feels that the anger of Kejriwal, Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee, during demonetization was that of persons affected personally. Kejriwal’s behavior, body-language, and tweets calling the PM a coward and psychopath after a raid on his principal secretary in a graft case is equally astounding.
Iyer records the numerous lies peddled by Kejriwal, and media complicity in not unearthing his service record, or discussing why a serving officer was on leave for more than 50 per cent of his career, or how he was allowed to collect foreign funds during that period.
Kejriwal’s lies are the stuff of legend. TV news watchers would remember the 370-page “proof” Kejriwal claimed he had against Sheila Dikshit, which miraculously disappeared after he came to power. When questioned in the Assembly as to why he wasn’t taking any action as CM, he told then Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly, Dr. Harshvardhan, to furnish any proof that the latter might have against Sheila Dikshit.
Kejriwal carefully crafted the media narrative around him. He was the Congress-Left’s only hope of checking rising power-house Narendra Modi; many editors projected Kejriwal as the next Prime Minister after his 49-day government. Many journalists/ commentators argued that Narendra Modi should resign from Gujarat and first get parliamentary exposure before contesting for the post of the PM.
So how did they envisage Kejriwal as Prime Minister? The media’s delusion in creating a vision (illusion?) of how Kejriwal would defeat Modi in Kashi is on-record. Iyer chuckles at how Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghose tried to portray friend Yogendra Yadav as future Chief Minister of Haryana and the hilarious krantikaari episode between Kejriwal and Punya Prasun Bajpai.
Kejriwal’s future was sealed in the elections of Punjab and Goa. Though second in the number of seats in Punjab, AAP was a flop as its media friends had projected a 2/3rd majority. In Goa, AAP failed to open its account.
Having lost two generations and blood lines to the insurgency, Punjab sensed the danger of Kejriwal coming to power. Hundreds of Sikh NRIs landed in the state to campaign for the AAP, accentuating fears of a Khalistani angle to this party. The media, which questioned why a commission was set up to probe Rohith Vemula’s suicide and why it looked into his caste, never thought to question why NRIs were campaigning for a political party.
Iyer concludes with Kejriwal’s personal insecurities, his behavior towards his colleagues, fear of getting recorded on mobile phones, and side-lining Kumar Vishwas because of his growing popularity. His massive victory having gone to his head, Kejriwal flouted rules as and when he fancied; this has now come to haunt him with 21 of his MLAs facing disqualification for holding office-of-profit.
Kejriwal has only himself to blame for the premature Cinderella hour in which the beautiful magic crafted by his Congress-Left mentors and their media elves crumbles to dust before his disbelieving eyes.
Rise and Fall of the Aam Aadmi Party
Sree Iyer, 2017
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.