It was inevitable, but no one expected it to happen so soon. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi has started to unravel even before settling down to govern. While the fiasco of a Janata Durbar and the attempt to revoke FDI in retail had unnerved many, it was the recent ‘anarchic’ protest outside the Rail Bhavan which saw widespread condemnation of the AAP and its leader Arvind Kejriwal. The Delhi chief minister’s antics during the dharna, especially after swearing on the Indian constitution, belied any hopes of sense and sensibility from a person in such a responsible position. It is possible the party will amend its ways, but the sheen of self-righteousness worn so proudly by the AAP leaders is now fading.
However, there is another pretender to the same high, hypocritical throne: the good old Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP has been trying to occupy the moral high ground by calling the AAP “anarchist”. While the AAP is certainly anarchist, the BJP has no right to call it so. After all, the BJP has always promoted anarchy and has historically thrived on it.
With what face can BJP leaders criticise Kejriwal for being unconstitutional when he asks Delhi Police to not obey its officers? All the top BJP leaders today, including Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, are products of a similarly anarchic movement led by Jayaprakash Narayan in the 1970s when he exhorted the army and the police to revolt against the Congress government. No provocation, not even the declaration of an emergency, warrants the opposition asking the army to overthrow a democratically elected government. The BJP still takes pride in that call given to the police and the army by Jayaprakash Narayan. It essentially means that the BJP and the AAP are two faces of the same coin.
Actions speak louder than words and it would do no harm to remember how anarchic the BJP’s actions have always been. Remember the mayhem caused by LK Advani’s Rath Yatra to Ayodhya which put the country asunder under a spell of rioting and violence. That anarchy has been hailed by BJP leaders as “the biggest mass mobilisation movement after the Mahatma’s freedom movement”. If that wasn’t constitutional, was the demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992 – and the riots it spawned – totally in accordance with the rule of law? Of course, the BJP also believes what happened in Gujarat in 2002 under Narendra Modi’s leadership was totally constitutional and in accordance with the law. The fact is simple: having invested repeatedly in anarchy, the BJP has no right to speak against the AAP’s anarchy.
The BJP’s anarchy is not merely limited to rioting and rath yatras. During the UPA government’s two terms, the BJP has stalled full sessions of parliament over petty and frivolous excuses. The BJP’s opposition has not been principled, but purely opportunistic. For instance, it stalled an entire session of parliament during UPA-1 over the corruption allegations against Natwar Singh’s son; today, that same son of Natwar Singh is a BJP MLA from Rajasthan. The number of times parliament was not allowed to function during UPA-2, from the demand of a JPC probe into the 2G scam or on price rise, with the BJP reversing its position soon after would be a big joke, if it were not so serious an issue.
But it is not merely limited to anarchy. If anarchy is the AAP’s trademark, which it has perhaps learnt from the BJP, the BJP is far worse because it couples anarchist tendencies with a rabid, communally polarising and socially regressive agenda. Even if the BJP were to suddenly appropriate a holier-than-thou stance against the AAP’s antics, its inglorious past would stare it in its face.
If the rule of law is a founding principle of the Indian Republic, then liberal pluralism is another fundamental value enshrined in our constitution. The AAP opposes the former, while the BJP ignores it and vehemently opposes the later. A modern, forward-looking and diverse India can and must do without either the AAP or the BJP.
In other words, the country needs a party that has always upheld the rule of law and believes in the idea of a modern, liberal, plural India. We need to understand what is transpiring before our very eyes. The choice between the BJP and the AAP is a false dichotomy. The alternative to the AAP’s anarchy is not the BJP’s anarchy, topped by its socially regressive and communally divisive agenda. India can do without either.