For the Aam Aadmi Party which claims the rationale for its very being is ushering in more democratic and transparent governance, the current troubles at the top levels of the leadership present an existential threat. While Delhi Chief Minister and national convener of the party Arvind Kejriwal was able to easily win support where it immediately mattered — among the MLAs in Delhi and among the members of the national executive — the issues raised by the dissident duo of Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav would not go away quickly. What the AAP sees as problems in the Indian political system — corruption, absence of transparency and lack of accountability — now seem very much a part of its own self. A series of exposés have shown up the AAP as suffering from the very ills it attacks in other parties. From horse-trading and giving the party ticket to persons of dubious background to autocratic decision-making and suppressing dissent, the AAP appears susceptible to all the diseases plaguing India’s political system. Instead of the AAP changing the political system, the political system seems to be assimilating the AAP. While all of these might have increased its chances of winning the polls, the party is slowly morphing into another typical Indian party. With every compromise made on its founding principles, the AAP betrays its original backers, the youth and civil society movements who were disillusioned with the hitherto existing political parties. The AAP owed its success to the promise of change that it carried; to give up on this promise is to admit political defeat for the sake of electoral victory. If the AAP is to truly succeed, it would have to succeed on its own terms, without surrendering its original ideals and crusading spirit.
Mr. Bhushan and Mr. Yadav might have had different reasons for taking on Mr. Kejriwal, but they were united in their opposition to the way the party was being run. True, Mr. Kejriwal is the face of the party, its leader as well as its most hard-working member. But a leader who does not listen to his followers will soon be walking alone. As an organisation grows, consensus-building and democratic procedures might appear to be cumbersome and as a hindrance to quick decision-making and work efficiency. But there can be no shortcuts for a political party pushing for systemic changes. Mr. Kejriwal seems to be opting for a highly personalised style of leadership and campaign, and looks more interested in quick-fix solutions that do not always allow for the complexities of the problem. Internal democracy is integral to informed decision-making in any organisation. Dissent and dissidence might slow down the AAP and Mr. Kejriwal, but these remain essential to keeping them going in the right direction.