Aam Aadmi Party
|Aam Aadmi Party|
|Founded||26 November 2012|
|Headquarters||Ground Floor, A-119, Kaushambi (NCR), Ghaziabad- 201010|
|Newspaper||Aap Ki Kranti|
|Student wing||Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (CYSS)|
|Youth wing||Aam Aadmi Party Youth Wing|
|Women's wing||AAP Ki Mahila Shakti|
|ECI Status||State party|
|Seats in Lok Sabha|
|Seats in Rajya Sabha|
|Seats in Legislative Assembly||Delhi Legislative Assembly)(|
|Politics of India
Aam Aadmi Party (translation: Common Man's Party; abbreviated as AAP) is an Indian political party, formally launched on 26 November 2012. It came into existence following differences between the activists Arvind Kejriwal and Anna Hazare regarding whether or not to politicise the popular India Against Corruption movement that had been demanding a Jan Lokpal Bill since 2011. Hazare preferred that the movement should remain politically unaligned while Kejriwal felt the failure of the agitation route necessitated a direct political involvement.
The party's first electoral test was in the 2013 Delhi legislative assembly election, from which it emerged as the second-largest party, winning 28 of the 70 seats. With no party obtaining an overall majority, the AAP formed a minority government with conditional support from the Indian National Congress. A significant part of its agenda was to quickly introduce the Jan Lokpal bill in the Union Territory. When it became clear after the election that the other major parties would not support this bill, the AAP government resigned. It had been in power for 49 days.
The origin of the AAP can be traced to a difference of opinion between Arvind Kejriwal and Anna Hazare, social activists who had both been involved in Team Anna, a strand of the anti-corruption movement for Jan Lokpal Bill that had gained momentum in India during 2011 and 2012. Hazare had wanted to keep the movement politically neutral but Kejriwal considered that direct involvement in politics was necessary because attempts to obtain progress regarding the Jan Lokpal Bill through talks with existing political parties had, in his opinion, achieved nothing. A survey conducted on a Facebook page that purported to be operated by India Against Corruption and other social networking services had indicated that there was wide support for politicisation. Hazare rejected the poll, saying "elections require huge funds, which will be tough for activists to organise without compromising on their values". He also said it would be difficult to ensure that candidates are not corrupted once elected.
Hazare and Kejriwal agreed on 19 September 2012 that their differences regarding a role in politics were irreconcilable. Kejriwal had support from some anti-corruption movement activists, such as Prashant Bhushan and Shanti Bhushan, but was opposed by others such as Kiran Bedi and Santosh Hegde. On 2 October, Kejriwal announced that he was forming a political party and that he intended the formal launch to be on 26 November, coinciding with the anniversary of India's adoption of its constitution in 1949.
The party's name reflects the phrase Aam Aadmi, or "common man", whose interests Kejriwal proposed to represent. A party constitution was adopted on 24 November 2012, when a National Council comprising 320 people and a National Executive of 23 were also formed. Both the Council and the Executive were expected to have more members in due course, with the intention being that all districts and all classes of people would have a voice. Various committees were proposed to be formed to draft proposals for adoption by the party in a process that was expected to take several months. Although one aim was to limit nepotism, there were complaints at this initial meeting that the selection of people invited to attend was itself an example of such practices The party was formally launched in Delhi on 26 November and in March 2013 it was registered as a political party by the Election Commission of India.[a]
Ideology and issues
The AAP says that the promise of equality and justice that forms a part of the constitution of India and of its preamble has not been fulfilled and that the independence of India has replaced enslavement to an oppressive foreign power with that to a political elite. The party claims that the common people of India remain unheard and unseen except when it suits the politicians. It wants to reverse the way that the accountability of government operates and has taken an interpretation of the Gandhian concept of swaraj as a tenet. It believes that through swaraj the government will be directly accountable to the people instead of higher officials. The swaraj model lays stress on self-governance, community building and decentralisation.
Kejriwal has said that the AAP refuses to be guided by ideologies and that they are entering politics to change the system: "We are aam aadmis. If we find our solution in the left we are happy to borrow it from there. If we find our solution in the right, we are happy to borrow it from there."
In early 2014, there was some media speculation that an alliance might form between the AAP and Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPIM). Prakash Karat, the CPIM leader, thought that there were some ideological similarities between the two parties, such as their agendas relating to social justice and decentralisation of power. The AAP's Prashant Bhushan explicitly refuted any joining of forces, claiming that there was corruption within the CPIM. A columnist, T. C. A. Srinivasa Raghavan, has said that AAP is right-wing when it comes to morality and left-wing when it comes to economics.
On 26 November 2012, the formal launch day of the AAP, the former law minister, Shanti Bhushan, donated 10 million (US$160,000). Prashant Bhushan, his son, is a member of the party's National Executive Committee.
On 18 May 2013, a group of Indian-Americans from 20 different cities in the USA held a convention in Chicago and extended support to the AAP. The convention was attended by two AAP leaders, Kumar Vishwas and Yogendra Yadav, and Kejriwal addressed it via video conferencing. Aruna Roy and Medha Patkar, who had differences with Kejriwal on certain issues, supported him after his 15-day fast against inflated electricity bills.
On 23 March 2013, Kejriwal began an indefinite fast in an attempt to mobilize people against inflated power and electricity bills at a house in Sundar Nagri, a low-income group resettlement colony in North-East Delhi. During the protest he urged Delhi citizens not to pay the "inflated" water and electricity bills. The AAP also demanded an audit of power and electricity supply in Delhi by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India also supported by Civil Society Groups like National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM). The AAP claimed that the protest gathered support from 100,000 people in Delhi on a single day and from more than 300,000 people up to 28 March 2013. Anna Hazare urged Kejriwal to end the fast on 29 March and he did so on 6 April.
On 10 June 2013, Kejriwal supported the agitation by Delhi auto rickshaw drivers, who were protesting the Delhi government's ban on advertisements on auto rickshaws. Kejriwal claimed the government's ban was because the drivers supported his party and carried AAP's advertisements on their vehicles. He said that the AAP would put 10,000 advertisements on auto rickshaws as a protest. In retrospect, after Kejriwal had been elected and then resigned his position, a union representing the drivers expressed dissatisfaction saying "Arvind Kejriwal, who had won the elections because of the support of the auto drivers, has betrayed them by not fulfilling any of the promises made before the elections".
Delhi Assembly election, 2013
The 2013 Delhi state assembly elections were the party's first electoral contest. The Election Commission approved the symbol of a "broom" for use by the AAP in that campaign. The party said that its candidates were honest and had been screened for potential criminal backgrounds. The AAP published its central manifesto on 20 November 2013, promising to implement the Jan Lokpal Bill within 15 days of coming to power.
In November 2013, a sting operation conducted by Media Sarkar, alleged that several leaders of AAP, including Kumar Vishwas and Shazia Ilmi had agreed to extend their support to some people seeking assistance with land deals and other financial arrangements in return for donations in cash to AAP. Ilmi offered to withdraw her candidature as a result but the party refused to accept her offer, describing the footage as fabricated and a violation of the Model Code of Conduct. The Election Commission ordered an inquiry regarding the legitimacy of the video.
AAP emerged as the second-largest party in Delhi winning 28 of the 70 Assembly seats; the Bharatiya Janata Party as the single-largest party won 31 while its ally Shiromani Akali Dal won 1, Indian National Congress won 8 and two were won by others. On 28 December 2013, the AAP formed a minority government in the hung Assembly, with what Sheila Dikshit describes as "not unconditional" support from Indian National Congress. Arvind Kejriwal became the second-youngest Chief Minister of Delhi.
Government of Delhi
After coming to power in Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal announced reduction in electricity bills for up to 400 units, driven by subsidy. He also ordered an audit of power distribution companies. The AAP government also announced that the homes with metered connections will receive 20 kilolitres of free water per month, but will have to pay 10 per cent more if they exceed that limit. The government scrapped Foreign Direct Investment in multi-brand retail, thus preventing development by international businesses such as Tesco and Walmart. It established an anti-graft helpline for the citizens to report corrupt officials.
The government's plan to conduct Janata Durbars (public hearings with ministers) were abandoned due to mismanagement. Vinod Kumar Binny, an AAP Member of the Legislative Assembly was expelled after rebelling against the party.
On 20 January 2014, Kejriwal and his ministers staged protests at Rail Bhavan against the Union Government Home Ministry. These came after his Law Minister, Somnath Bharti, had been dissatisfied with the response from the Delhi police to allegations relating to a neighbourhood popular with immigrants from Uganda and Nigeria. Kejriwal was demanding that the police should come under direct control of the Delhi government and that officers who had refused to do as Bharti had requested should be suspended. He said that the protest will not hamper his work as he had brought along files and would carry on working from the venue of the protest. He later claimed that it was the first time in Indian political history that a Chief Minister had protested on the streets to raise his Government's demands for a fair inquiry. After two days, he ended his fast when the Lieutenant Governor, Najeeb Jung, intervened by sending on leave two of the policemen involved and setting up a judicial enquiry.
Also in January 2014, the party's office in Ghaziabad was attacked by right-wing activists protesting against Prashant Bhushan, who has expressed a personal opinion against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Jammu & Kashmir by talking of a referendum in that state to decide whether the people want the army to handle internal security. This caused the AAP to determine that its prominent members would in future refrain from expressing opinions on anything that was not agreed by a broad consensus within the party.
Financial support for the party from non-resident Indians have halved while it has been in government, possibly reflecting disenchantment. It has also admitted that its systems may have significantly overstated members introduced through a nationwide recruitment campaign that was affected by hoaxers.
In February 2014, the AAP tried to introduce a Jan Lokpal Bill in the Delhi Assembly, However, Jung said that the AAP government tabling the bill without his agreement would be "unconstitutional" because the correct procedures for introduction had not been followed. This view was supported by Congress and the BJP, and Jung advised the Assembly Speaker not to allow the tabling. The AAP government stated that it was following all the procedures and there was no need to obtain prior approval from the centre or Lt Governor to table the bill, and tried to table the bill. When BJP and INC blocked the introduction of the bill, the AAP government resigned. Kejriwal alleged that there was a nexus among Congress, BJP and the industrialist Mukesh Ambani, and the two parties had "ganged up" against AAP after it filed an First Information Report against Ambani. In March, the party declared that it would seek re-election.
General election, 2014
The party fielded 434 candidates in the 2014 Indian general election, in which it did not expect to do well. It recognised that its support was based primarily in urban areas and that different strategies might be required for regions such as Uttar Pradesh where caste-based politics are the norm. The party pointed out that its funding was limited and that there was too much demand for local visits from Kejriwal. The intention was to field a lot of candidates to maximise the likelihood that it would achieve official recognition by the ECI as a national party. The outcome was that four AAP candidates were elected, all of whom were from Punjab. The party obtained 2% of all votes cast and 414 of its candidates forfeited their deposit by failing to secure one-sixth of the vote in their constituencies. Although the party secured 32.9 per cent of the votes in Delhi, it failed to win any seats there.
The criticism of Arvind Kejriwal's style of leadership continued with National Executive member Yogendra Yadav's writing a letter to his party members, charging his party members to be "falling prey to personality cult”.
“Let me reiterate that Arvind bhai is no ordinary leader and there are no two opinions about his continuing as the national convener; nor have I ever doubted his status as first among equals within the party’s leadership. The real question is whether there are limits to personal discretion of the leader.”
After the National Executive meet on 8 June, party and Arvind Kejriwal acknowledged these differences and announced launch of "Mission Vistar" (Mission Expand) to include more people in local as well as national decision making.
- The Election Commission of India gazetted the AAP as a "registered unrecognised party" on 9 April 2013.
- There is confusion in India between the terms "right to reject" (RTR) and "none of the above" (NOTA), with media sources frequently using them synonymously. The Supreme Court of India ruling in September 2013 that a NOTA option must be implemented does not affect the AAP agenda for RTR. Votes registered as NOTA will simply not count towards an election outcome, whereas the AAP's RTR concept is intended to allow a situation whereby if sufficient people vote to reject then the election is voided and a new election would be held.
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