I had an opportunity to hear Shazia Ilmi in Feb, 2014 in Constitutional club, Delhi, where the central committee meeting was on. Her topic, I am not sure, but that time she was talking on nonviolence and was at pains to explain her audience what it means? Thinking bad about others is violence, forget about verbal and physical violence, and in turn, her talk was more religious than political and I could make out loss of interest in the audience.
Well I am not here to recount her thought process or ideology. She was one of the founder members of AAP. Her effort to get into Delhi VS or LS had failed. After not so good show by AAP where it polled approximately 2% of total votes cast and managed 4 MPs, where it was expected to rise as a major force, led to major bickering in AAP.
AAP, though declared time and again by AK that it was neither left nor right, has left orientation. This inclination, I term as ‘natural selection’ by this party due its stand not only against corruption, say JLPB, but also with peasants, workers, contract labourers, rag pickers etc and as such was against any form of exploitation by the present capitalist system, where women are the worst sufferers. It will not be out of context to remind readers that AAP was not against capitalism, but against evils of capitalism that is crony capitalism.
Accordingly, AAP adopted “Democratic Centralism” wittingly or unwittingly for its organizational work, which is developed by the Leftist parties and in short it means (and is not in synch with Swaraj) –
1. All directing bodies of the Party, from top to bottom, shall be elected.
2. Party bodies shall give periodical accounts of their activities to their respective Party organizations.
3. That there shall be strict Party discipline and the subordination of the minority to the majority.
4. That all decisions of higher bodies shall be absolutely binding on lower bodies and on all Party members.
What it means in short is that, decision will be taken by the party at all levels and once taken will be binding on all members, minorities. If in disagreement, there may be debate and if not agreed by the party, old decision will hold and if some members still disagree, they are to follow party line or quit the party. This sounds undemocratic especially to AAP volunteers but that’s the reality.
Here is one example; Captain Gopinath joined AAP and later opposed its stand on FDI! This was wrong on the part of Gopinath, he should have known the party line on FDI and had no right to oppose it once being implemented. By the way, stand on FDI was not taken by discussion among the members, but was decided at the time of its launch by its founding members and those who wanted to join the party, had to accept it.
Second example is that of forming of the Delhi government, where the AAP went to the people to decide where to form it or not. Leaving the government was the decision of central committee.
Shazia Ilmi failed to grasp this. As far as Binni was concerned, was an opportunist and quit as he was not getting what he demanded. Shazia, a committed member of AAP, failed to understand the internal democratic functioning. She was disheartened by the defeat of AAP, sadly, deserted it at a time when AAP is passing through a bad time, AK in jail, many members and volunteers are angry with its performance. Worst, she blamed the central leadership of dictatorship, where she got all supports when there was farce sting operation against her and her communal remark and herself was part of the central leadership!!
The episode of Shazia Ilmi was big enough to be highlighted in almost all media and many other party representatives gleefully passed sarcastic remarks on ‘inner fight’ of AAP. These are the same people who discarded AAP as non-existent and said there was no need to discuss about it further.
Well, AAP has still time to collect its cadres, have a basic constitution on organisation, ideology, and politics written and explained. Swaraj demands lower to top, but hardly any downward movement, whereas democratic centralism is the mobility of decision both ways (Compare it with undemocratic organisational set up of Congress, BJP and any other regional parties)! This is not a huge contradiction, but due lack of understanding, such embarrassing moments are followed and must be addressed to lead the mass for better India!