Publicity versus public welfare: Has AAP gone morally bankrupt?

I vividly remember how as a young reporter at the Press Trust of India, I got the wonderful opportunity to cover the first three nights of anti-corruption crusader and social activist Anna Hazare’s fast unto death, demanding a strong Jan Lokpal at the historic Ramlila Maidan in August 2011.

“This movement will change India,” I recall saying to a colleague at the venue.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was born out of the Anna movement and I like many others had high hopes for it. When no one was ready to give the AAP a ghost of a chance, I wrote extensively in its support, calling it ‘a breath of fresh air’ in India amidst all the filth surrounding us. For which I was even called an ‘Aaptard’ by the Bhakts.

Alas, alas, alas. How wrong I was then.

For the AAP has gone bankrupt. Or so claims Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Claiming that the fledgling party has run out of money, Kejriwal has asked people to donate funds for AAP. However, I am least bothered about his party’s so-called monetary problems, for I believe they are being exaggerated and he is being too cute in this regard. What worries me the most about the AAP is its moral bankruptcy; being a common man, its hypocrisy is now getting on my nerves.

First of all, the notion that AAP is facing acute shortage of funds is not true, for it has received more than Rs21 crore from about 51,000 donors since November 2014, and also considering the amount of money the party is splurging on advertising Kejriwal government’s achievements and taking pot-shots at the opposition in Delhi. AAP now finds itself caught in a cleft stick, for the Delhi High Court has accepted Congress’s Ajay Maken’s petition against the Kejriwal government misusing public funds for political ads.

In his plea, Maken claims that the AAP ad campaign comprising of radio, TV and print ads violates the Governmental Advertising (Content Regulation) Guidelines, 2014, set by the Supreme Court.

It should be noted that the AAP government had increased their ad budget in a decision taken on June 25th. The figure of Rs526 crore is 21 times more than the previous budgetary allocation of Rs23.7 crore in the year 2014-15.

So now we know why the party of the common man has ‘run out of money’.

Source: Focus News/ Deepak Saluja

It is a pity that the funds of the public are being wasted in such a careless and self-centred manner.

Why do you need more donations for AAP, Kejriwal ji? For more ads?

Kejriwal’s opponents argue that this unprecedented expansion of Rs500 crore in the publicity budget could have been well spent by the Delhi government for building at least a 100 schools (building cost of one school being five crore approximately), purchasing 1,000 DTC buses (cost of one bus being Rs50 lakhs approximately), building 10,000 flats for the economically weaker section (EWS) category (cost of one EWS flat being five Lakhs approximately), and other public welfare and development purposes.

Moreover, it is a matter of great regret that at a time when debt-ridden farmers are putting an end to their precious lives, some of AAP’s 67 MLAs, who are supposed to represent the interests of the ‘aam aadmi’ (common man), are demanding hike in their salary despite getting Rs84,000 per month for the same. The ‘Khas’ MLAs have petitioned the Delhi government in this regard, citing problems in meeting expenses that include the cost of maintaining an office in their constituencies, transportation and running a household.

Source: Focus News/ Deepak Saluja

This is what senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh said on this issue:

Jab desh mein itne farmers suicide kar rahe hai, aise samay par hum apni salary badhaye ye sahi nahi hai.”

(At a time when farmers are committing suicide in our country, it is not right for us to increase our salaries.)

Alas, farmer Ganjendra Singh’s suicide at an AAP rally is still fresh in people’s minds. Even as the wretched farmer attempted to commit suicide and finally ended his life by hanging himself to a tree, Delhi CM and AAP supremo Kejriwal continued making his speech on the dais whilst posing for TV cameras, exposing his utter disregard for the loss of a human life and callous indifference of his ilk to the suffering of others.

It was not expected of Kejriwal at least – the man whose heart beats for the poor and downtrodden people of India. He, however, apologised later for his ‘mistake’.

But was that enough? Is propaganda more important than humanity?

The big question is whether Kejriwal is ready to listen to others. It is a pity that sane, leftist founding leaders of AAP like Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan have been literally kicked out of the party. The lack of democracy in AAP and inability of Kejriwal to hear and respect dissenting voices has now come to the fore, showing how the Delhi CM has failed to practice what he preaches to others.

Kejriwal ought to realise that his party is fast hurtling down towards the abyss of darkness, extrication from which will be impossible; it is losing its direction. The path on which the AAP is walking now has been trodden by other political parties before and we know their fate. Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were decimated in the Delhi polls where the AAP won 67 out of 70 seats.

But, pray tell me what is it that differentiates AAP from others?

Unfortunately, the only difference I can see now is that it is less hypocritical than the rest.

Dear Arvind Kejriwal, as Gandhi ji said,

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

This piece originally appeared here.

from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/28646/publicity-versus-public-welfare-has-aap-gone-morally-bankrupt/

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