AAP continues to remain aloof from Opposition with unclear ideology

Although it confronts BJP on selective issues, other parties are unsure of party’s stand

On Monday, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s official Twitter account listed out the Muslim-majority countries to which India-made vaccines had been sent by the Narendra Modi government as part of the ‘Vaccine Maitri’ programme. Pakistan was top on the list and the party said Prime Minister Modi sought votes from Indians but sent vaccines abroad.

Two hours later, seeing the adverse reaction, an additional list of countries was posted. Pakistan is not among the 95 countries listed on the Ministry of External Affairs website that received India-made vaccines. Pakistan got the vaccines through COVAX — an initiative aimed at equitable access to the COVID vaccines.

AAP national spokesperson Raghav Chaddha was sent a set of questions including on the reasons for the said tweet, but there has been no reply.

But the message had already been sent out — the insinuation that the Modi government was too friendly towards Muslim countries. The AAP has taken a leaf out of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s book on Pakistan. Linking Pakistan to Opposition politics is a familiar trope of BJP politics but the AAP has been trying to use it against it.

Arvind Kejriwal had characterised the Citizenship (Amendment) Act as a measure to help Pakistanis at the cost of Indians.

Staying aloof

The AAP, while confronting the BJP on selective issues, has also chosen to remain aloof from other Opposition parties on issues that they jointly raised. There was no word from it on the arrest of TMC ministers in a corruption case by the CBI, which has not acted against BJP leaders accused in the same case.

Since last December, there has been at least three joint Opposition statements on farmers’ agitation and the mismanagement of the COVID pandemic by the government. The AAP was not a signatory to any of these.

A section of the Opposition holds the Congress primarily responsible for keeping the AAP out.

“The Congress is allergic towards the AAP,” an Opposition leader said. Sources said on the issue of COVID pandemic, the AAP was approached but it was reluctant to participate.

It is unclear whether it is the AAP’s reluctance or the Congress’s reservation that is keeping the AAP from being a signatory to these joint letters, but what is clear is the reluctance of the AAP to question the BJP on Hindutva issues.

On Monday, when the rest of the Opposition was criticising the “high-handedness” of Narendra Modi government for the CBI action against TMC leaders in the Narada case, the AAP was silent.

Mr. Kejriwal, who shares a warm equation with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, did not make any public comment. The party’s views about the CBI action on TMC leaders was also sought, but there was no response.

In March the entire Opposition had rallied behind the AAP against the Modi government for bringing in the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021. On March 24, just three days before the first vote was cast, TMC flew in nine of Rajya Sabha MPs just to participate in the debate.

Mr. Kejriwal also thanked Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan for supporting the people of Delhi against the BJP’s assault on democracy and federalism.

All this is not new. The AAP was among the parties that supported the government on August 5, 2019, when Parliament passed the J&K Reorganisation Bill, while the Congress, the Left, the DMK and the SP, among other Opposition parties, staunchly opposed it. In the morning, the AAP, which has three members in the Upper House, trooped inside the well with the rest of the Opposition protesting against the legislation. But within a few hours, they did a somersault. Party convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, “We support the government on its decisions on J&K. We hope this will bring peace and development in the state.” The AAP voted in favour of the government.

During the prolonged anti-CAA protests in Delhi in 2019, Mr. Kejriwal had said that if his government had control of the Delhi Police, they would have got the roads cleared of the protesters.

‘False narrative’

Congress general secretary Ajay Maken, who has faced the AAP in Delhi, says the AAP led by Kejriwal did not have any ideology — political or otherwise. “We have seen them swing from extreme political left to extreme right. Having started as crusaders against corruption, over the years there are numerous examples of the AAP shielding the corrupt,” he said, accusing the AAP of clinging on to power using public money for advertisements to create a false narrative.

“Several questions have been raised about the ideological and political position of the AAP; it is for the AAP to clarify where it stands. While we don’t expect all secular parties to take a leftist stand, at least they should remain centrist and not take a right of centre position,” CPI general secretary D. Raja said.

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