It is not that people by and large still consider the Aam Aadmi Party a paragon of virtue led by an anti-corruption crusader Arvind Kejriwal, but the disqualification of 20 of its MLAs by the Election Commission for holding offices of profit puts an institutional stamp on their dishonesty. To those who looked up to the party with the hope of seeing a clean government in the national capital, it is embarrassing to note that they have proved a bunch of power-hungry people given to avarice more than the perceptively corrupt Indian National Congress. The INC’s then president Sonia Gandhi had resigned from Parliament in 2006 to seek a fresh election from Rae Bareli to escape the OoP law applicable to her as she was simultaneously an MP and the paid chairperson of the National Advisory Council. Even earlier, Jaya Bachchan of the Samajwadi Party had to relinquish her membership of Parliament for being the chairperson of the Uttar Pradesh Film Development Council. With so much of history to learn from, it was utterly brazen of the AAP to make 21 of its Members of Legislative Assembly parliamentary secretaries additionally. Since the issue erupted in 2016, the party could furnish no rationale for these appointments, thus lending credence to the theory that Kejriwal had found it difficult to keep the flock of 66 MLAs — their law minister had to resign on being exposed as a fraud — together by any glue other than greed, as not all of them could be made ministers. The brazenness has now turned into impunity. Still loath to giving up their Assembly seats, seven of the legislators have moved the High Court for a reprieve from the order while other party colleagues have gone to town questioning the integrity of the EC.
During the reign of the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the background of an aspiring politician was hotly debated. Though freshly out of the freedom struggle, many lawyers of that generation believed only such a person could devote time to public service whose financials were secure and stable. Yet, the decades that followed saw professionals resigning from their regular work to enter the legislative bodies. On a parallel track, the salaries of MPs and MLAs were constantly hiked, making another source of income redundant except for the lust for money — more so because, unlike with the commoners, a whole lot of facilities were state-sponsored for the legislators. The excuse that the elected representatives of the people had to often spend on their voters caught in a time warp, as they considered the legislators modern avatars of kings, was bogus. MPs and MLAs alike are policy makers who still get, immorally but officially, Local Area Development funds beyond what is allocated in annual Budgets. If the MLAs of AAP need money beyond their salaries of Rs 3 lakh a month, a plush bungalow and a car each, and perks concomitant to the job, to stay loyal to Kejriwal, it is shameful. That the party will continue to rule Delhi regardless of the result of by-elections to 21 seats — including one vacated by the resignation of one of the accused some time ago — is Delhi’s misfortune.
The current Delhi chief minister must thank his stars for being able to receive support from a fresh batch of young people whenever he gets exposed before the AAP volunteers with some years of experience of working with him, who leave the party, disillusioned. It is this generation of half-baked politicians, which has emerged since the hyped movement called India against Corruption, that must get the message. From his days as a joint commissioner of income tax to his days as an assistant to ‘waterman’ Rajendra Singh, from the period when he did activism for ration cards to the phase when he went on a hunger strike for free water and cheap electricity, from being a Ford Foundation beneficiary to seeking donations for his ‘poor’ party, from the stage where he was Anna Hazare’s lieutenant to the occasions in 2013 and 2015 when he distributed election nominations among dubious characters of society, Kejriwal’s record has never been clean, contrary to his self-advertisement. For all times to come in the future, the youth must be wary of any new kid on the block who claims all his rivals are crooks and he is the lone virtuoso.