Why I quit AAP
Surajit Dasgupta a founder member of AAP has resigned from party. Surajit is a journalist who has written in Pioneer and Statesman. Below is an unedited version of Surajit’s comments on Youth for Democracy’s Facebook forum upon his resignation from AAP. The below is being published after seeking his permission. The original link to his Facebook comments is here and here.
We believe in the ideology of comprehensive structural changes in every sector of the state where the ordinary citizen encounters the government: election, education, health, law and order, economy, defence, civic bodies, media…
Until early 2012, there was no political party that had this agenda. Every party talked of performing better than the competition while functioning within this failed system. We had been urging the leaders of India against Corruption to form a political party, contest in elections and, on winning them, making their legislators frame laws that they thought people needed. A part of the group finally accepted our demand. So the president and vice president of Youth for Democracy (Y4D) joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as its founder members.
Soon, however, Sudesh Verma returned to journalism, resigning from the party after his sound proposals were rejected by the party leadership. A key proposal of his was to create a large party structure to absorb and channelise the energies of citizens from across the country. He had proposed creation of empowered posts at least equal to the number of States of India. After he insisted on the point for two days, he was not invited to the subsequent rounds of discussions on the structure and constitution of the organization in the weeks leading to the formation of the party in November 2012.
The restriction on the number of party positions to three — national convener, secretary and treasurer — appeared a bid to keep power concentrated to a few on the top. It is ironical, a party pressing for decentralization in the country does not practice decentralization in its own organization.
Surajit Dasgupta resigned from the AAP on 21 November 2013 after realizing that his interventions to correct the party’s economic policies and a wrong interpretation of secularism were bearing no fruit, as some mindless cheerleaders and sycophants had formed the leaders’ core group of advisers. The statement on the Batla House encounter, invitation to a serial abuser on television for campaigning, breaking of the promise that FDI in retail would be accepted/rejected in accordance with the result of a referendum etc are instances to show that the AAP leaders do not value the advice of thinkers like us.
The party manifesto released the previous day legitimizes corruption, risks millions of lives and would be a massive burden on the exchequer. Dasgupta refuses to be seen as a supporter of this communal, dangerously populist and anti-market agenda.
The subsequent section consists of some questions that were asked by various people from Surajit and Surajit’s responses on Facebook.
Q. – How does AAP’s manifesto “legitimises corruption, risks millions of lives” ?
Surajit – By Regularising unauthorised colonies. It legitimises the bribes exchanged to build those homes.
It risks the lives of those very residents who may like this point in the manifesto. Do you approve of the building material used for the construction of these illegal houses (especially on a seismic zone)? Do you approve of the live or badly insulated wires that dangle over one’s head outside these houses?
Q. – What was the communal agenda in AAP Manifesto ?
Surajit – Refer to the community-specific measures the party is promising.
Q. – You could have waited till elections to get over.
Surajit – That is what all friends, including many in the party who wish to revolt, were advising. They thought resigning now would mean we are somehow helping our rivals.
But my conscience did not approve of it. I cannot be seen as a supporter of this agenda of governance. Many people thought of voting for the AAP on my insistence that this was a party of well-meaning people. I cannot cheat them. Besides, why should I care for the survival or success of a party that is increasingly looking like any other party that has existed so far? The party is a means to the end of resurrecting India. It cannot be an end in itself.
And once the party loses — the chances of which are high — and I point out its mistakes, people would say everybody finds faults with a loser. Why did you not warn us beforehand?
The fact is, I tried out all internal mechanisms to correct the mistakes being made by the leaders: through verbal communication during policy meets and constantly through emails. Initially, a few like Prof Anand Kumar at least appreciated the interventions. Since May, they stopped inviting me to policy meetings and stopped responding to my emails.
Q. – What are your views on Arvind ?
Q. – Have you resigned in disgust, protest, or something else?
Surajit – “मुझ तक कब उन की बज़्म में आया था दौर-ए-जाम?” This line of Ghalib was used to represent my frustration inside the AAP. Was I ever asked for advice or heeded to when I urged the party leadership to pursue the dictionary sense of secularism, or the principles of a free market? If they had listened to me, would there be a statement calling Batla House encounter fake? Would the meeting with Maulana Tauqeer Raza happen? He says he met with a Shankaracharya, too. Why did he? In the politics for decentralization and fair price of water and electricity, why do you need endorsements from clerics? Do Hindus and Muslims drink water of different chemical formulas? Do Hindus and Muslims consume electricity of different potential difference, intensity and resistance? Or, are we slaves of the clergy that we will mindlessly press that button on the EVM where the clerics take our hands to? Can a country as huge and diverse as India, with its myriad problems, be resurrected in a matter of two elections — Delhi Assembly in 2013 and Lok Sabha in 2014 — that you became so desperate that you start employing the very short cuts that older parties whom you call corrupt are infamous for? If my advice was worthwhile for Arvind, would he be pressured by the Vyapar Udyog Mandal to rant about FDI in retail?
Much, much before, would there be only 23 members in the national executive of a party that wants to change the country? And who are these members? A few retired bureaucrats who did not revolt against the system when in service, and now they are calling the system wrong? Two turncoats who have changed parties on numerous occasions? Half a dozen activists who were seen everyday on stage during the JLP movement, none of whom except one has any political philosophy? One intellectual who pushed in a few friends so that he could enjoy a greater degree of leverage during policy meetings of the NE?
Q. – Did you resign because of the sting operation on AAP?
Surajit – The headline of IBN report is erroneous. Many people who do not bother to go through the full story would be misled. When I resigned, I had no knowledge of the sting operation, and I am not known for knee-jerk reactions. I came to know of the sting in the evening whereas I had resigned in the morning.
I do not condone what some of our leaders are heard saying and seen doing in the tape. At the same time, I take exception to the way the sting was conducted. When your subject says “no”, you retreat; you have no right to entice her/him further. It’s a clear case of entrapment, which is a violation of basic journalistic ethics.
I resigned because the internal democratic mechanism of the AAP had turned defunct. After January, I was never called for the regular meetings held to formulate policy. Furthermore, the leaders of the party stopped responding to my emails that were aimed at correcting the mistakes the party was making. I did not resign before because, before 20 November, there was no written document to protest against. Resigning earlier would mean quitting on the basis of some perception. The published manifesto proved that all my advices had fallen on deaf ears. And I couldn’t wait till the elections were over because the few hundred people who had agreed to vote for the party at my insistence would then question why I had kept them in the dark about the party’s errors of judgement until it was too late.
Yet I believe the AAP, pressing for decentralized governance of the national capital, is the best party in the fray in the Delhi Assembly elections. It’s an evil much lesser than the Congress and the BJP. At least Arvind Kejriwal will not compromise with his ideals for monetary considerations, which I cannot say for the leaders of other parties.
I quit because creating a lesser evil was never the mission for which we had set out on this journey, leaving our livelihood and families behind. Further, I was being invited to television debates almost everyday to defend some action of the party that I personally found indefensible. Those channels will stop bothering me with requests of the kind of advocacy that does not emerge from my heart from now onwards.
Q – Vikrant Verma (@vikrant6478) Sir if you have resigned because of different ideology than AAP then why did you join.
Surajit – Because some agendas were common: decentralization, education, health etc. And Arvind was closer to our ideology last year.
Q – Vikrant Verma (@vikrant6478) : then what happened … His ideology changed ???
Surajit – Yes. His ideology of November 2013 is diametrically opposite to that of November 2012. Last year, an activist demanded spl package for Muslims. Arvind said, “You mean health, edu, lokpal etc are not for Muslims?” Then he began changing. He’d also promised referendum on FDI. The manifesto rejects it without referendum!