Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is burning midnight oil to formulate its views on national and contentious issues so that controversies like the one stoked by Prashant Bhushan’s remarks on Kashmir on Monday can be avoided.
AAP got embroiled in a controversy after Bhushan batted for a referendum on whether to deploy the army in Kashmir and attacked the role of the army in the state. AAP’s national convenor Arvind Kejriwal was quick to say Bhushan’s was not the AAP view. It was like the Congress distancing itself from Rahul Gandhi’s views – a snub to Bhushan though he took it in his stride.
Later, when reporters asked Kejriwal for his party’s views on Maoism and reservation, he asked them to first find the views of both Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi on these issues. This evasive reply betrayed the widening ideological chasm between Bhushan and Kejriwal.
The problem here is one of ideological positions. Prashant Bhushan is a liberal and has been fighting for causes that centrist or right parties would not touch. He was at it even before AAP was launched. For instance, Bhushan has been supporting Naxalites and has opposed the “state terror unleashed on them”. Bhushan has always taken a principled stand on issues on which there is a conspiracy of silence among all parties.
He is the only prominent person who has had the courage of conviction to appear with Arundhati Roy who holds a fierce anti-state view. Roy’s hard hitting essays shook up the establishment. It’s believed they were one of the reasons why P Chidambaram when he was home minister chose to give up the idea of the anti-Naxal Operation Green Hunt, which apparently included plans to strafe Naxalites with helicopter gunships. Chidambaram had first denied that there was anything called Operation Green Hunt though it was common knowledge that the plan was dumped.
On Kashmir, too, Bhushan has taken a left liberal position and has opposed the military action there. He also fought for the abolition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act against which there is continuing agitation in the Northeast as well.
AAP, on the other hand, has so far been a freelancer in the ideology market conveniently switching from one position to another.
Neither on the Kashmir issue nor on other such national issues does AAP have a position. It cannot be blamed fully for that since till the other day it was just a rag-tag band trying to fight for civic issues in Delhi. AAP and Kejriwal are now behaving like an Under-17 players foisted on the Test arena.
Prashant Bhushan does not hold any post in the party so far and has preferred to operate from backstage though he is often seen with Kerjriwal who would have benefitted from picking his brains. AAP now says it is in the process of formulating views on major contentious issues as well as on important national policy issues. Officially, AAP has said it would come out with its national views and policy by March 30 but party sources told dna it will be ready to do so much before that.
Till then, AAP leaders have decided not to voice their opinions on national issues in order to steer clear of controversies. It would also help them speak in one voice rather than look as a house divided.
But on various issues Bhushan and Kejriwal now seem to be on two ends of the ideological spectrum. It is not beyond Kejriwal to span the gap. He has borrowed freely from the Left and the Right to fill up the ideological vacuum in AAP. Yet it is difficult to see Bhushan on the same wavelength as Kerjriwal on over-arching issues.
The party is also of the view that till then it will let its work in Delhi speak for itself, which largely revolves around issues of transparency, anti-corruption and good governance. Even in its national plan, these three issues are bound to find a prominent place.
“We will cross the bridge when we come to it. AAP is formulating clear positions on national issues. We will come out with them soon. We have set March 30 as the deadline,” AAP’s senior leader Dilip K Pandey told dna. “The position would be backed by facts and proper reasons instead of being arbitrary. Care is also being taken that the positions are in accordance with AAP’s broad political idea.”
Last month dna had come out with a list of 10 broad areas on which AAP needs to have a clear position before going national. The list was topped by Pakistan and Kashmir issue and included subjects like broad foreign policy, economic policy, reservation, Maoism, poverty, health, education and issues related to minority welfare.
Kejriwal said his party will come out with its position on these and other important issues before the general elections take place in April or May.