How disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs in Office of Profit case has put Kejriwal at crossroads
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) finds itself at a crossroads. The disqualification of 20 of its MLAs may prove to be a turning point for the five-year-old party.
This disqualification may do two things to AAP. Either it may teach the party a lesson, harden it and help it in the forthcoming elections.
Or, alternatively, the disqualification may prove to be the undoing of AAP. It may have a spiralling negative impact on the party which is already facing several challenges. The party may come crashing down under its own weight.
AAP is beset with several serious challenges. But it also has some achievements to its credit. Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia are getting accolades on four fronts at least.
Education and study culture in the government schools are witnessing significant improvement. The Delhi government has not allowed the private schools to increase fees either. It has also kept the electricity charges under check.
The Kejriwal government has garnered praise for taking some positive steps in the health sector. It aims at creating a network of neighbourhood health facilities. Through 1,000 low cost mohalla clinics, the government plans to offer sound health facilities to the people of the capital.
The AAP government has fulfilled a promise of providing free water upto 20,000 litres per month to every household in Delhi.
These initiatives have endeared Kejriwal, Sisodia and AAP to a section of the voters.
CHALLENGES BEFORE AAP
The AAP has suffered more reversals and setbacks than it has tasted successes since its inception on November 26, 2012.
The AAP did form government after the 2013 Delhi Assembly elections even though it was the second largest party, bagging 28 of the 70 seats after BJP which won 31. The Congress managed to win only eight seats.
However, Arvind Kejriwal's government lasted only 49 days in 2014. Worse, Kejriwal nursed prime ministerial ambitions and contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The AAP suffered the second major jolt when it won just four of the 543 seats. Kejriwal, who had contested against Modi in Varanasi, forfeited his deposit and came a poor fifth.
The AAP savoured its biggest success ever by winning 67 out of 70 seats in the 2015 Delhi Assembly election with the BJP getting the remaining three and the Congress failing to open its account.
However, the party has generally been suffering setbacks since then. It faced its first embarrassment when law minister Jitender Singh Tomar in Kejriwal government was arrested in a fake law degree case.
Since then several ministers have either been sacked or have resigned. They include Sandeep Kumar, Asim Ahmed Khan, Kapil Mishra.
Health Minister Satyendar Jain and Kejriwal himself are facing several corruption cases. Different government agencies like the Income Tax, CBI and Enforcement Directorate are investigating their cases.
The AAP has seen several rebellions, desertions, suspensions and expulsions in these years. Many senior leaders and even AAP's founding members have been either removed from the party or they have quit it. They include Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav, Shazia Ilmi, Anand Kumar, Ajit Jha, Anjali Damania and Mayank Gandhi. Kejriwal's mentor and hero of anti-corruption crusade Anna Hazare parted ways with him over formation of AAP.
Another founding leader and poet-turned-politician Kumar Vishwas is sulking after being given a short shrift by Kejriwal. In the latest, he launched an indirect attack on Kejriwal after being denied a Rajya Sabha ticket.
Kejriwal faced a personal embarrassment when his principal secretary and senior IAS officer Rajendra Kumar was arrested by CBI in 2016 for alleged corruption.
The AAP has been at the receiving end electorally having lost almost all elections it has contested since 2015 - be they Punjab and Goa Assembly elections or the Delhi municipal polls.
KEJRIWAL UNDER ATTACK
Besides the reversals, Kejriwal has been courting controversy over governance issues.
His rift with his lieutenant governors (L-Gs) - incumbent Anil Baijal and his predecessor Najeeb Jung - always attracted eyeballs. The AAP government has been clashing with the Centre and the L-Gs demanding full statehood for Delhi, powers to transfer and post Central officers and control over the Delhi Police.
The Delhi CM finds himself on a backfoot in a defamation cases filed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) alleged irregularity case.
On top of these, Kejriwal faces criticism for not fulfilling the promises he and AAP had made for the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections. They include Wi-Fi in public zones, filling up of 55,000 vacancies in government departments, installation of 10-15 lakh CCTV cameras throughout the national capital, introduction and passage of Swaraj Bill, building 500 new schools and 20 colleges, transformation of Delhi into a solar city and making the capital a drug-free city.
Subsequent to the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs in the Office of Profit case, Kejriwal may assess the situation and take the road which is best suited for his party. From here, AAP has the chance to surmount the hurdles and win the people's confidence. Or, it may falter and not recover till the next elections.