The gender insensitive leadership of AAP

Dr Sandeep Pandey, CNS Columnist
The comment made by Kumar Vishwas on nurses from Kerala and the Delhi Law Minister’s insistence that Delhi police raid a place which he alleged was being used to run a sex and drug racket have exposed certain weakness of the AAP party. Since it is a party created in a hurry obviously its cadres have not received any kind of training, leave aside ideological training. Unfortunately the top leadership of AAP is bereft of any prominent female member or anybody with feminist outlook.

Otherwise such things would not have happened. Madhu Bhaduri’s, who has been Arvind’s colleague since the days he started his work on RTI about ten years back, resignation from his party shows the gender insensitivity among top AAP leadership. She has gone to the extent to say that this party of men (aadmi) doesn’t respect women and behaves like a Khap panchayat. These are serious allegations.

Kumar Vishwas was also making casteist comments in his first appearance in the anti-corruption movement during Anna Hazare’s fast at Jantar Mantar in April 2011. He had to be told to not make such statements. He is a professional entertainer with little social understanding who has been propelled into national leadership of AAP because of the success of the movement.

Now the Delhi police certainly seem to be protecting the sex and drug mafia when they refuse to take an action upon instructions from a Delhi minister, but the minister must also realize that he cannot interfere into the privacy of women in the middle of night without women police. The policemen who were targeted are both men. In the end no proof of drug was found on the body of Ugandan women. It is really a shame that when police refused to arrest the women, which they could not have done legally, the AAP workers manhandled the women and forced them to go to AIIMS for check-up.

How is this display of muscle power any different from what other politicians do, may be not inspired by the zeal to punish the wrong doers. But this moral policing could be very dangerous like we have seen some right wing Hindutva organisations doing it. It is also a matter of curiousity that among all places the minister chose to target this particular place where Ugandan women lived. This incident reeks of racism and the act of the minister borders on fascism. The attempt by Delhi government to take control of Delhi police is a valid one but police cannot be used to wreak havoc by unnecessarily harassing the citizens. The sensitivity especially expected when women are involved was not shown in this matter.

Imagine that AAP government was given control of police. Now, if every minister and MLA of the ruling party decided to use Delhi police to carry out raids in their enthusiasm to check corruption and irregularities they could create chaos. Since the time of Anna Hazare there is a streak of fascism in the movement which wants to publicly hang the corrupt on street crossings. If they decided to extend this thinking to people involved in sex and drug rackets and other such illegal activities, they could throw the society into anarchy. Rather than taking the law into their own hands it would be better if they allowed the law and order machinery to function independently with them playing the role of watchdog. Otherwise, they would be accused of the same charge as every other political party in power – of abusing the police to serve their own ends even though it may be for a public cause. The cause has to be right and even the method has to be correct.

It would do AAP party good if Arvind Kejriwal got all his volunteers, especially the ones in responsible positions, oriented towards gender sensitivity, right to choice, gay-lesbian rights and other such issues.

Somnath Bharti’s early morning raid at Ugandan women’s place and Arvind Kejriwal’s dharna on street to defend Bharti have seriously dented AAP’s image. People who were looking upto AAP as a viable national alternative have started having doubts. AAP has set out to redefine the way politics is done in India. The prevalent culture of mainstream political parties is that they defend the wrongdoing of their party workers. AAP is not expected to emulate other political parties in this matter. In fact, it is hoped that they would take action against their own workers if they commit a wrong. Somnath Bharti must pay a price for his intemperate ways and AAP should force him to resign. He is a lawyer and he has exhibited ignorance of basic law relating to women and acted in a highhanded manner. His action deserves to be condemned like we condemn the obnoxious behavior of other politicians.

One or two more mistakes like this and the AAP popularity can really take a dive. The danger is that when the damage reaches out of control then Arvind Kejriwal may just wind up the experiment. The party is in danger of frittering away the gains it has made so rapidly. The growth of the party has not been accompanied by an evolutionary process and it may end up paying a heavy price for it.

One hopes that AAP will learn from its mistakes and not put inexperienced people in important positions. His argument that if it is after all ordinary people who do various kinds of jobs so why can’t they become MLAs and ministers is flawed. Every job requires some training or experience. He is able to aptly handle the job of CM because of his experience as an administrative officer. He can’t expect newcomers in his party to function at his level of expertise and understanding.

Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee and CNS Columnist
February 2014 

(The author is a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and a senior social activist. He is the Vice President of Socialist Party (India) and member, National Presidium, Lok Rajniti Manch. He has led National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and is a former faculty of IIT Kanpur. Presently he is a faculty at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) BHU. He did his PhD from University of California, Berkeley and is a visiting faculty for a number of US Universities and IITs in India. Email: