Honeymoon threatens to be brief for anti-graft party AAP

NEW DELHI Fri Jan 17, 2014 12:17pm IST

Arvind Kejriwal (R), leader of Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party, speaks during a meeting with his party leaders and media personnel after taking the oath as the new chief minister of Delhi, in New Delhi December 28, 2013. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee/Files

Arvind Kejriwal (R), leader of Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party, speaks during a meeting with his party leaders and media personnel after taking the oath as the new chief minister of Delhi, in New Delhi December 28, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee/Files

Related Topics

Stocks

   

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - From a rally that nearly ended in a stampede, to a rebellious lawmaker and a minister openly duelling police over drug gangs, the honeymoon could be short-lived for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the anti-corruption party that shook up India's politics last month.

The AAP enjoyed a heady few weeks after its leader Arvind Kejriwal pulled off a political surprise by becoming Delhi chief minister in December elections.

He eschewed the usual displays of power beloved of many of India's VIPs, such as expensive official cars that routinely ran red lights, and promised voters cheap water and power.

With his party aiming to contest a general election due by May, both the ruling Congress Party and the main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worry that Kejriwal could eat into their traditional voter support in the cities.

Kejriwal's party is still a force as it attracts supporters across the nation, ranging from intellectuals to journalists and rights activists. But a sinking feeling of inexperienced, out-of-their-depth politicians is increasingly manifesting itself.

"Attacks From All Directions" was Friday's headline in the Economic Times newspaper on a list of five "embarrassing moments" for the party.

Taking a jab at a leader seen as being happier in opposition than in power, one newspaper cartoon featured Kejriwal holding a protest placard demanding that Delhi's chief minister quit, while a nervous aide reminds him that is his own position now.

The first sign of trouble came last weekend when Kejriwal had to flee a town hall meeting where out-of-control crowds threatened to stampede. He abandoned plans for more meetings that had been touted as his version of "people power".

The incident provided ammunition to critics, who accused Kejriwal's government of being undisciplined.

"Now they are out of activism...they need to understand what is governance," said Kiran Bedi, a former Delhi police commissioner and anti-graft activist who is not an AAP member.

Next, Delhi law minister Somnath Bharti led a night raid on what he described as the homes of African prostitute gangs and drug dealers, provoking criticism of vigilantism.

A senior police officer warned the politician against "crossing the limit".

With a base in Delhi, the AAP's anti-corruption platform, coupled with promises of free water and cheaper electricity, resonated with voters. But its foray into wider national issues has been shaky, and it has gained an image of a populist party with few realistic economic policies.

Kejriwal faced criticism within his party after he barred foreign supermarkets from setting up shop, dealing a blow to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's efforts to open India's $500-billion retail industry to foreign investors.

"(The party) is in danger of being branded like other political parties - resorting to cheap and populist measures," said C.R. Gopinath, the founder of a low-cost airline and a member of the AAP.

One AAP lawmaker accused Kejriwal of behaving like a dictator, surrounding himself with a small circle of advisors.

For the AAP, many of the controversies are just hiccups for a new party gaining support across India. In many cities tens of thousands of voters fed up with the patronage and perceived graft of mainstream parties are signing up.

So it is early days yet, say supporters.

"It's good that people have many expectations from us," said Yogendra Yadav, a senior party leader. "It keeps us on our toes. However, along with that, it also makes sense to keep a reasonable sense of time when it comes to getting things done."

(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (1)
Mahishmati wrote:
Those concerned with social movements, please note
Avoid your tiny interests to join firmly
Otherwise, our goals will remain incomplete
And anti-national celebrates it.

Jan 17, 2014 4:05pm IST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Press Event

Press Event

Modi takes tea, but no questions, in first press event as PM.  Full Article 

Monetary Policy

Monetary Policy

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley favours interest rate cut - paper  Full Article 

Sundar Pichai Elevated

Sundar Pichai Elevated

Google's Pichai to oversee major products and services.  Full Article 

Reuters Poll

Reuters Poll

India's growth pace to pick up as reforms draw investment   Full Article 

Need For Reforms

Need For Reforms

Euro zone risks "relapse into recession" without structural reforms - Draghi.  Full Article 

Diwali Sales

Diwali Sales

Gold sales jump about 20 pct for Diwali - trade body  Full Article 

World Bank Rival

World Bank Rival

Three major nations absent as China launches W.Bank rival in Asia  Full Article 

Health Of Lenders

Health Of Lenders

25 European banks set to fail health checks - sources.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage