Has AAP stumbled before it even begins in Madhya Pradesh?
There is a question mark on AAP’s prospects in MP as most surveys have predicted a strong wave in BJP’s favour
Bhopal: A look at the list of its office–bearers can give an onlooker a fair idea as to why the Aam Aadmi Party is floundering before it has even taken root in Madhya Pradesh. A good 40 percent of its state executive members come from the Rewa-Satna belt of Vindhya Pradesh.
Such imbalance wouldn’t have been met with furrowed brows if people from the Vindhya region themselves had not complained about the AAP team’s composition. The state convenor, Abhay Verma, has been accused of promoting caste and region-based politics by packing the state executive with cronies.
Though Verma denies the charges, complaints are piling up in Bhopal from his home village. The sarpanch and village elders have levelled charges of corruption and atrocities against poor tribal people, while Verma headed the village panchayat in Puraini in Rewa district.
Members have raised questions over whether Verma should screen the candidates for Lok Sabha while charges of irregularities are still pending against him. A member of Rewa district unit, Dr PL Tripathi, has accused Verma of corruption. He says the state unit has not been uploading accounts on the party website. The state treasurer Sandeep Mukherjee, however, says the accounts are now handled by the central committee.
The central committee took over the exercise after some executive members were accused of selling the membership registration forms for ten times their actual price of Rs 10.
The AAP drew a quick and spontaneous response in the state after its success in Delhi. It reached a membership of over half a million in just about three months. The central leadership would take a final call on the candidates. The exhaustive application form seeks to check the candidates’ credentials thoroughly. The party also conducts confidential enquiries about the candidates, says the party Lokpal for the state, Arun Gurtoo, former Director General of police in Madhya Pradesh. Gurtoo was invited to join the party but preferred to stay out of politics and help by sorting out issues that needed adjudication.
Most murmurs of protest are over positions being offered to new members while older ones who joined the movement before the formation of the party are ignored, says Gurtoo.
Some members who stick to the strict regimen of personal conduct as prescribed in the constitution, resent the deviations allowed in the case of new members. The prudish impulse is to brand the new members corrupt. Since the party is treading on the toes of the conventional parties like BJP and the Congress, the resentment among some members is attributed to the machinations of rival parties. At least three office-bearers including a spokesperson, Kamal Shrivastava, have quit posts over allegations of hobnobbing with other parties. Verma, however, denied any wrong-doing on Shrivastava’s part. “He has only quit the post due to personal reasons and not the party," said Verma.
AAP was able to rope in prominent persons who made a mark in the public life and bureaucracy. Among the first who pledged to work for the party without contesting any elections are: retired IAS officer RR Gangarekar, retired IFS officer Dr Ram Prasad, Jain Samaj secretary Chandra Kumar Jain and advocate Rajesh Jain.
The Congress was jolted when its state secretary Kamal Ajmera resigned to embrace the fledgling party. Ajmera said unchecked factionalism in Congress forced him to take the decision. Retired judge RC Chandel, a state BJP member, and two NCP members also switched camps. Former state chief secretary SC Behar has offered to work at the token salary of one rupee to help the AAP government draft the swaraj (self-rule) legislation in Delhi.
The new arrivals are not without baggage. This led to mutual distrust even though the party played it down. AAP's state working committee member Sharad Singh Kumre said, "Since members of UPA allies and mainstream political parties have joined us, it would take some time to know each other. But to say there is factionalism in the party would be unfair. AAP believes in politics that transcends region, language, caste and community," sayid Kumre.
The party is no longer charging the registration fee of Rs 10 from new members after complaints regarding issuance of fake receipts came to light. However, there is a question mark on the party’s prospects in the state as most surveys have predicted a strong wave in BJP’s favour. No survey gives more than five seats to AAP in Madhya Pradesh.
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