Rajya Sabha Election: How AAP Lost a Godsent Opportunity

AAP Rajya Sabha
PTI Photo (PTI9_2_2017_000044a)

As far as Indian politics is concerned, 2017 will be remembered for the BJP’s near-complete sweep of all the states that went to polls, Uttar Pradesh being the demonstration of Party’s domination in Indian Polity, where it totally decimated its opposition. But the early newsmakers of 2018 are not the BJP but, the Aam Aadmi Party which went a step ahead to prove that when it comes to corruption, it is no better than the rest of the bunch.

Aam Aadmi Party won a record 67/70 seats in the 2015 Assembly elections and hence were entitled to elect 3 members to the Rajya Sabha once the term of the existing MPs from Delhi was over. Much was expected from the party for its big Rajya Sabha debut. Big names like Raghuram Rajan and former CJI TS Thakur were discussed, which only increased the expectations. Unfortunately for the party, both rejected the party’s offer. In a desperate attempt to get one up over the BJP disgruntled BJP leaders Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha who have been sent to compulsory retirement since the Modi-Shah duo took over the reins of the BJP in their hands, were approached. Yet again the party’s offer was rebuffed. The candidates didn’t want to be associated with AAP. It speaks volumes about Arvind Kejriwal’s leadership and AAP’s plummeting credibility.

ND Gupta, a Chartered Accountant and Sushil Gupta, ex-Congressman and a billionaire businessman were nominated for two RS seats from the party while the third ticket going to Sanjay Singh, a close confidante of the party’s supreme leader. Shockingly, Kejriwal didn’t feel the need to approach any party loyalist. While the nomination of Sanjay Singh was on expected lines, the nomination of ND Gupta and Sushil Gupta over party loyalists Ashutosh and Kumar Vishwas raised quite a few eyebrows.

ND Gupta has been associated with the party for 5 years and handled all the Income Tax cases pertaining to obtaining illegal donations from various shell companies. However, in no way is his stature was bigger than someone like Kumar Vishwas. However, the nomination of Sushil Gupta was the final nail in the coffin for AAP’s “anti-corruption image.”

Sushil Gupta happens to run a host of businesses, notably private schools in and around Delhi contested the 2015 elections on a Congress ticket from the Moti Nagar constituency and lost. Not so long ago, he was running posters against Kejriwal across Delhi. But come November 28, he suddenly had a change of heart. Sushil Gupta resigned, the reason stated at the time of his resignation was that AAP had offered him a Rajya Sabha seat. In fact, Kapil Mishra, ex-minister in the AAP cabinet, claimed on December 24, itself that Sushil Gupta will be declared the party’s candidate as he has directed a huge sum of money to the party’s coffers. He was proved right a few days later.

Now, selection of an ex-Congressman and a known party baiter over Kumar Vishwas raised a lot of dissent in the party. Kumar Vishwas campaigned hard for the Rajya Sabha ticket, gathered his supporters and protested too but to no avail. Yes, Vishwas has often been critical of the affairs of AAP but his criticism has been constructive rather than anything else and sending someone of the stature of Kumar Vishwas to the Rajya Sabha would have certainly livened up the debate in the upper house which has now been reduced to being an oasis of the ageing opposition leaders. I am no supporter of Vishwas but his ability to know where to draw the line makes me respect him. After the surgical strikes across the LOC on Pakistan’s soil, shockingly Kejriwal asked Vishwas to demand proof of the strike from the government. Vishwas refused arguing that it would harm the Army’s confidence but Kejriwal replied “Army’s confidence is not important, removing Modi anyhow is” and this incident created cracks between Vishwas and Kejriwal which only propagated further.

After the recent setbacks in the Punjab and Delhi MCD elections, the party was restricted to only one state in India, hence hampering its dreams to be a pan India party. Rajya Sabha was the perfect opportunity to grab eyeballs and have its voice heard across the nation.

But by selecting two ‘nobodys’ for Rajya Sabha , AAP has squandered its golden opportunity.

It is alleged that Sushil Gupta routed money through one of the 188 shell companies under the scanner with most of them being run by AAP legislators Shiv Charan Goyal and Naresh Yadav. (Un)Surprisingly all the 188 shell companies have been registered at a single address in Delhi’s Jasola area. The Income Tax department is currently probing all the shell companies which brings us to the curious case of a person named Priya Bansal. It is alleged that AAP received Rs 90 lakh as a donation from a person identified as Priya Bansal of Bengaluru in 2014-15 and 2015-16, but the tax payable on her income was merely Rs 4,000.

The party is getting routed in every subsequent elections and its candidates are setting new records in losing electoral deposits. If that’s not bad enough, AAP now faces the prospect of a mutiny. AAP is no longer the party which captured the imagination of the country in 2013. Party founders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan have been booted out while party loyalists like Anjali Damania and Mayank Gandhi have resigned fed up with Kejriwal’s dictatorial style of functioning. Any dissenting voices for e.g. Kapil Mishra, Shazia Ilmi etc have been sacked and once ‘brother in arms’ Kumar Vishwas has been completely sidelined. Internal democracy and decentralization of power which happened to be the plank on which Kejriwal rode to power, is pretty much non-existent now.

It is quite evident that Kejriwal has chosen rubber stamp candidates instead of people truly capable of representing the issues of the people of Delhi in Parliament. It is no secret that Delhi’s demand for full statehood has been falling on deaf ears with the Centre unwilling to relent its control on the executive power.

Does he really expect the likes of ND Gupta and Sushil Gupta to further press the demand? What a golden opportunity lost!