She joined the Aam Admi Party (AAP) with a lot of fanfare at the beginning of the year, but just a few months down the line acclaimed dancer and activist Mallika Sarabhai finds herself isolated within the party in Gujarat.
"I have felt that I am not needed by them, that I am more of a disturbance to the people running the organisation in Gujarat," Sarabhai told dna in New Delhi, where the 38th Vikram Sarabhai International Arts Festival is being held. Sarabhai is neither contesting nor is she actively aiding the party's campaign effort. "Whenever they want me, I will (be available)," she said, "they don't want me — or that's the feeling I get".
It may be recalled that soon after she joined AAP, Sarabhai had critised Kumar Vishwas, the party's Amethi candidate for the Lok Sabha elections, describing his views expressed in a YouTube video as "sexist", "misogynist", "anti-minority" and "anti-gay". Asked whether the incident may have had a bearing on her marginalisation within AAP, Sarabhai said that she has not heard from the party leadership on the issue. "But I thought the whole party is about asking questions," she said.
Interestingly, there are only two women in AAP's National Executive.
Sarabhai had contested the 2009 Lok Sabha elections as an independent candidate and is also a vocal critic of Gujarat chief minister and Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, especially on the 2002 riots and has contested his claims on Gujarat's development.
Reiterating again that she wants AAP to succeed, Sarabhai said that the alternative AAP provided was a crucial one for the polity and as a fledgling party should be allowed to make mistakes. Denying that she was disappointed at her marginalisation, she said: "It's just that I feel I have something I can give, having fought the election as an independent, with absolutely transparency, the way they want to do, and having asked people for Rs10 to fund my campaign. That experience could have been used. It is a pity that they are not using so many good people."
Speaking of her association with Arvind Kejriwal, Anna Hazare and the India Against Corruption movement, Sarabhai said that she had been working with them since 2008 on RTI and was one of the signatories on the letter on Lokpal. She also said that she had taken Kejriwal and Hazare around Gujarat and introduced them to 28 organisations of groups such as contract labourers, farmers fisherfolk, security forces and so on, who felt they had been betrayed and exploited by the government.
Kejriwal has been raising several issues about the gaps in Gujarat's development story during his electoral tour of the state last week.