I had an opportunity to hear Shazia Ilmi in February 2014 in Constitutional Club, Delhi, where the central committee meeting was on. Her topic, I am not sure, was talking nonviolence and she was at pains to explain her audience what it meant. According to her thinking bad about others is violence, forget about verbal and physical violence. In turn, her talk was more religious than political and I could make out loss of interest in the audience.
Well, I am not here to recount her thought process or ideology. She was one of the founder members of Aam Aadmi Party. Her effort to get into Delhi Vidhan Sabha or the Lok Sabha has failed. After not so good a show by AAP where it polled approximately 2% of total votes cast and managed 4 MPs, where it was expected to rise as a major force which led to major bickering in AAP, she quit.
AAP, though declared time and again by Arvind Kejriwal, that it was neither left nor right, has left orientation. This inclination, I term as ‘natural selection’ by this party due to its stand not only against corruption, say JLPB, but also with peasants, workers, contract laborers, rag pickers etc. and as such was against any form of exploitation by the present capitalist system, where women are the worst sufferers. It will not be out of context to remind readers that AAP was not against capitalism, but against evils of capitalism that is crony capitalism.
Accordingly, AAP adopted “Democratic Centralism” wittingly or unwittingly for its organizational work, which is developed by the Leftist parties and in short it means (and is not in sync with Swaraj):
1. All directing bodies of the Party, from top to bottom, shall be elected.
2. Party bodies shall give periodical accounts of their activities to their respective Party organizations.
3. That there shall be strict Party discipline and the subordination of the minority to the majority.
4. That all decisions of higher bodies shall be absolutely binding on lower bodies and on all Party members.
What it means in short is decisions will be taken by the party at all levels and once taken will be binding on all members and minorities. If in disagreement, there may be debate and if not agreed by the party, the old decision will hold and if some members still disagree, they are to follow the party line or quit the party. This sounds undemocratic especially to AAP volunteers but that’s the reality.
Here is one example: Captain Gopinath joined AAP and later opposed its stand on FDI! This was wrong on the part of Gopinath, he should have known the party line on FDI and had no right to oppose it once being implemented. By the way, the stand on FDI was not taken by discussion among the members, but was decided at the time of its launch by its founding members and those who wanted to join the party had to accept it. The second example is that of forming of the Delhi government, where the AAP went to the people to decide whether to form it or not. Leaving the government was the decision of central committee. Shazia Ilmi failed to grasp this. As far as Binni was concerned, he was an opportunist and quit as he was not getting what he demanded. Shazia, a committed member of AAP, failed to understand the internal democratic functioning. She was disheartened by the defeat of AAP, and sadly, deserted it at a time when the party was passing through a bad time with Arvind Kejriwal in jail; many members and volunteers are angry with its performance. Worst, she blamed the central leadership of dictatorship, where she got all support when there was farce sting operation against her and her communal remark. Infact, she herself was part of the central leadership!
The episode of Shazia Ilmi was big enough to be highlighted in almost all media and many other party representatives gleefully passed sarcastic remarks on the ‘inner fight’ of AAP. These are the same people who discarded AAP as non-existent and said there was no need to discuss about it further.
What Needs To Be Done
Well, AAP still has time to collect its cadres, have a basic constitution on organisation, ideology, and its politics written and explained. Swaraj demands lower to top, with hardly any downward movement, whereas democratic centralism is the mobility of decision both ways (Compare it with undemocratic organisational set up of Congress, BJP and any other regional parties)! This is not a huge contradiction, but due to a lack of understanding, such embarrassing moments follow and must be addressed to lead the mass for a better India.
By KK Singh
Video Source: ABP News@YouTube