Democracy unchained: Why the HC verdict is a leg ‘aap’ for the nation

A victory for truth, a victory for justice and a triumph for democracy: The Delhi High Court's decision to reinstate the 20 AAP MLAs who had been asked to step down on office-for-profit charges means all three for the country. First, it is a momentous judgment in terms of the fact that orders signed by the President are rarely overturned by the Courts. Second, it means a reprieve, not just for a political party and the MLAs concerned, but for the idea of a people's movement as a whole. No matter how things play out from here, we can rest assured of one thing: there is room for the democracy to evolve and strengthen itself. 

AAP's maverick rise to success has set many precedents. That the voters of Delhi were willing to vote Arvind Kejriwal back into power is testament enough to the belief they continue to have in the strength of the people and the possibility of an honest leader! Despite the scale of our victory in the north, AAP's term in office has been marked by rivalry and murky maneuvers: in these circles, if you can get away with it, there's nothing holding you back. These are battles that we have required to fight in seemingly paradoxical circumstances: to meet our rivals on their battlefield will mean a compromise of the Aam Aadmi Party's principles.

That is why the Delhi HC judgment props up the pillars of truth and clean governance. 

There is no doubt that AAP's modus operandi is startlingly new to a population that has endured decades of manipulation, near-boundless corruption and realpolitik. Who do we hold accountable for this? Aren't we all culpable? I watched, on Friday afternoon, with growing revulsion, the coverage of the HC judgment on some popular television channels. Conclusions had been reached and opinions formulated even before the judgment was delivered: this is no better than supari journalism and unfortunately, it dominates the mainstream media. AAP's triumph has already been converted into political fodder, used liberally by both the Congress and the BJP.  It seems, in a sense, that there is little escape from the cycle. 

So, are we ready for people-oriented politics? Granted, AAP exists in a rarefied atmosphere and there has been skepticism about our ability to succeed in the political game. Much of this is propagated by the media, which thrives on scandal. Let us, for instance, compare the governances of AAP in Delhi and Congress in Bengaluru. The Hennur flyover took eight years and the escalation of costs was nearly five times. In Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal has built three flyovers in nine months, saving `350 crores. Government schools have been so well developed that they have swimming pools and when people in Karnataka see me campaign, they say, "Why can't we have those schools here?" The answer is that Delhi spends a whopping 26% of its budget on education, while the BBMP spends a mere 1.6 percent. 

Thursday's budget shows surplus revenue, a feat no other state has accomplished in these troubled times of GST and demonetisation. Arvind Kejriwal’s universal healthcare system received the attention of leaders like Kofi Annan and our education initiatives were lauded by Abdul Kalam, who praised us for doubling the education budget. 

How much of this has made it to the mainstream media? And if it has, how much has taken precedence over the relentless litany of scams presented to to the reading public? The many achievements of the Delhi government — and this is something the media will shy away from – are greater still, were one to take into account the restricted atmosphere in which Arvind Kejriwal has to make his mark.

He entered on a tidal wave of enthusiastic support: the ‘Panch Saal Kejriwal’ slogan became an anthem which was sung from the grassroots to the elite.

Everyone sought a refreshing change and AAP returned with a thumping majority winning 67 out of 70 seats and 54% of the popular votes. We achieved this during the Modi wave. 

The excitement was short-lived, for the BJP government has, from the start, every effort to discredit and prevent the popularly-elected government from functioning.  First, the Anti Corruption Bureau was taken away from us, a knockout blow, as the fight against corruption is our mainstay. CBI was misused to conduct raids on the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, the Deputy Chief Minister and the Health Minister. 

While the media made a noise about the raids, little was said about the fact that they yielded nothing! The Delhi police foisted such a bizarre catalogue of charges against us, several false, that even the High Court was forced to acknowledge the absurdity of the situation, remarking acerbically, "Doesn't the police force have anything better to do?" 

Right through history, political accusations and name-calling have been a daily routine. For the first time, 25 defamation cases have been filed against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, only for stating matters that are common public knowledge.

Some 8000 parliament secretaries across the country have benefited from office and our political custodians of morality have not uttered a word. 20 MLAs, who, without any perks and no proven pecuniary benefits, had their names dragged through the mud. The Chief Election Commissioner A.K. Jyoti, a former Chief Secretary in the Modi-led Gujarat government, sends an order to the President one day before he is due to step down from office. The order is signed by the President on a Sunday, so the 20 MLAs were not allowed to enter parliament on Monday morning. Again, this was scoffed at by the courts. 

Today, we have witnessed a new dawn of democracy. The nation's singular justice system has provided us with a ray of hope: dirty politics and suppression of the voice of integrity can only go so far in the eyes of the law. 

Now, the people of Karnataka will soon hold the promise of a new era of politics in our state, in their hands. They need to decide which is more important. Their love for the BJP or their faith in democracy? 

Through it all, I speak with hope and optimism; there is room for this in our country, where the people never cease to cause wonder. The trouble with our brand of alternative politics isn't that people aren't ready to accept it. Sadly, they are continually presented with misinformation and fake news, in an effort by both national parties to kill the very concept of honest politics and pro-people governance. 

We do however, have one thing that threatens the Congress and the BJP, both of whom represent two sides of the same coin. We are a people's party. We don't play by the rules they understand. They cannot comprehend the logic that drives a people's movement and simply cannot understand our motivations. Most people believe we are the underdogs, like David was to Goliath. I beg to differ, for we are the giants of truth and democracy. The shrewdness of a few need not overwhelm the might of the many. We just might send traditional politics running for cover.

The author is no greenhorn when it comes to activism but fighting elections for the first time can make anyone nervous especially when your opponent is a seasoned politician K J George and personifies Power to the power of infinity.   

(As told to Darshana Ramdev)

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