Former leader and now fierce critic of the Aam Aadmi Party, Yogendra Yadav says one year of the Kejriwal government has been a big disappointment as it has not lived up to its promise of a radical change. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, Yadav says AAP is now like any other party, and its government is like any other government.
How do you rate AAP government?
During the course of this one year, this government has shifted expectations from those of a revolutionary idealist dream to that of one more government, one more party. And that is truly tragic. From an Aam Aadmi Party, it is an aam party. It is one more party, one more government.
So, the government has failed to live up to its promises.
In the run up to the election, the party bosses, rather the boss—there are no two bosses, there is only one boss—had decided that the only way to come to power is to do what the powerful do, by giving tickets, making promises, not giving importance to genuine volunteers, picking up contractors and delinquent staff and making huge compromises in the process of election.
On ethics, it may be a shade better than the Congress. The CPI(M) took 20 years to become corrupt. This party has managed to do that within one year.
For me, the disappointment is more on the governance front because my impression was that Arvind is a fairly efficient person. He is a smart manager. And, therefore, he would be able to administer well. In politics, a bit of theatre is acceptable. But you can’t make it 80 per cent theatre and 20 per cent work.
Also, they are unable to understand the grammar of governance. You don’t govern by accusing your own senior bureaucrats.
The experiment of AAP government has given a bad name to the idea of alternative politics. It had started with the promise of changing things. But it has reduced that into the idea that business as usual is the only way forward.
AAP leaders say they have proved they can govern and the odd-even scheme is an example.
The experience of the party has proved the opposite. It has actually given a very bad name to movements.
On the odd-even scheme, the government took a risk, which was good. And the people backed it. The test of governance is now, whether that can be translated into something of an enduring solution.
How do you see Arvind Kejriwal’s popularity?
I do not know of any government which lost popularity in the first one year. In the polls, Narendra Modi is still a very popular prime minister. Holding on to that after two years is the challenge.
The question is how is that popularity spread across various sections of the society. Is he popular among the bottom half, which is more likely, but has he also retained his popularity in the more discerning, educated class, which had turned to this phenomenon for the first time?
How do you look at the confrontation between the Delhi government and the Centre?
Delhi should become a state. The elected government in Delhi deserves to have the same powers as any state government. I fear the manner in which it is being handled currently would give a bad name to a good cause of Delhi becoming a full state.
Is it turning into a Modi vs Kejriwal scenario?
This is a large theatre being enacted. And the whole point of this theatre is to give a message to the country that if there is someone capable of taking on Modi, it is Kejriwal.
Is he trying to attain a national stature by doing so?
There is nothing wrong in anyone wanting to do that. But there are better ways of doing it.
What do you think of the CBI raid on Kejriwal’s office?
I have no doubt that the Central government is playing various games. I do not think that Modi is an angel. I think he is out to create as much trouble as he can. But if you are leading an honest government, the response will be to say you are welcome, please do an inquiry, that I have nothing to hide.
Also, the party does not understand the difference between a bureaucrat and a political leader. They attack bureaucrats as if they are attacking an opposition leader. And they defend a bureaucrat, as if they are defending a party colleague.
So, you don’t approve of the way Kejriwal reacted?
It is good that the scam related to Arun Jaitley has come out. No one should be above scrutiny in democracy.
The AAP started playing exactly those old games that the Congress and the BJP used to play, which is that my man is clean, your man must be inquired into. I thought the party came on the promise that everyone must be inquired into.
How do you look at Kejriwal as chief minister?
I think he has done some smart things. One of which was not to hold any portfolio for himself. I think it is a good move that people can learn from. There is no point in a chief minister being burdened with portfolios.
Has he evolved as a politician?
His evolution is from being a crusader to being a politician, which has all the merits and demerits of a standard politician.
He is a very intelligent person. Those who are higher up in politics are fairly intelligent people. The question is what do you do with your intelligence.
So, Kejriwal is an intelligent politician, someone who has political acumen.
Absolutely. However, for me, politics is about looking at a broader vision and being able to actualise it. If that is political acumen, then we haven’t seen that.
How do you look at the AAP going to Punjab?
Punjab desperately needs change. People are yearning for some kind of an alternative. This was the moment to give Punjab a genuinely different kind of government. I fear that the Aam Aadmi Party, as in Delhi, is settling for the simpler option in terms of picking up people from other parties, people with dubious character, leaning and integrity.
This is like another Congress. Then which one of the two Congress wins does not matter.
Is AAP turning into another Congress?
It is another ordinary party in the political establishment. Once that happens, it does not excite me.
Critics say the anti-corruption credentials of AAP have taken a hit.
In the last one year, they have done nothing to give substance to the idea that the party is serious about controlling corruption. On the contrary, they brought about the Lokpal Bill, which is a terrible bill, which is going back on all the promises made at the Ramlila Maidan and what they did in 2014.
And the defence that the party offered of people like Jitender Tomar is exactly what every party of this country does—keep denying till you can deny.
We have seen some reduction in the ground level corruption and it is because people have been so empowered by this victory.
What do you think is Kejriwal’s ambition?
Political ambition is a nice thing. I would like to be in an India where billions of people aspire to be the prime minister. The question is whether you realise your ambition in a way that works for the larger good of the people or you realise it in a way that actually pushes at the cost of everything else.