Updated: Open letter to Aam Aadmi Party about allegations about Dharmendra Koli
Dear Aam Aadmi Party,
AAP in Delhi” href=”https://aamjanata.com/stunning-debut-aap-delhi/”>a victory regardless of who forms government.
But this, I could have said on Twitter. I wish to caution you on the risks of getting derailed from the carefully determined ethical responses. I can understand the euphoria in the party, particularly coming against odds that were increasingly looking engineered. I understand the anger at the belief that Dharmendra Koli has been accused of harming women by a person who is a suspect in his sister’s death. (Background: The sister of the accused candidate was the original and highly popular candidate for the same constituency, who died in a mysterious hit and run accident after being threatened to not enter politics. The ex-MLA making the accusations about her brother was in power then and is a suspect.)
Two weeks ago, AAP was protesting outside Tehelka’s office for the arrest of Tarun Tejpal who had been accused of sexual assault as well (yeah, this is my current benchmark for attitude variations on violence against women). This is just an example, but the point is larger. Regardless of whether the accused is guilty or innocent, AAP cannot have one stand for accusations about others, and another for accusations about themselves. Then there remains little difference between BJP (“Everyone does it” or “conspiracy” or “why don’t you talk about something else”) and AAP (“Let the law take its course” and “we WILL act against our own if we are convinced of wrongdoing”).
I do trust the Aam Aadmi Party volunteers any day over Congress politicians with sour grapes – not to mention the bizzarre additional charge, that AAP volunteers threw alcohol bottles in a Valmiki temple – which is the sort of behavior AAP has not shown a single time so far, but there have been various invented “proofs” (read cottage photoshop industry’s handmade products) in Social Media trying to attach alcohol to AAP – but it is not to the Aam Aadmi Party’s advantage to blur this difference from other parties, because it is that difference that has brought it this far. Masses already have the possibility of a belligerent BJP in permanent denial if they wanted that. Aam Aadmi Party has come to power on a promise of accountability, and the promise must not end with the election campaign.
I am aware that the claims of the people from the ground are different. I am aware that AAP volunteers claim that they were attacked when they passed the Congress ex-MLA’s house and the accusations are just a vindictive fabrication after losing the election to those already hated. However, I am pretty certain that the Congress ex-MLA making the complaint will have his people lined up to claim his side of the story as well. In a war of accusations, a party committed to women’s rights cannot dismiss an allegation out of hand. There is no need to do a Tehelka and punish your candidate before proof (and indeed that was wrong), but there most certainly is a need to not be seen trying to get the allegations removed using mob power – even if it is non-violent. Innocence in a crime allegation cannot be determined by who could raise more outraged people.
The reports of Aam Aadmi Party gheroing the police station demanding that the complaint be taken back are on the wrong side of law and order EVEN IF THE CANDIDATE IS INNOCENT. If you don’t trust the local police station, demand that the investigation be moved to a more neutral authority (what that “neutral” could be is anyone’s guess – not many options). I do hope that saner heads prevail and the war is not harmed by a battle. There needs to be a better way of dealing with false allegations, and AAP has dealt with them successfully often enough for me to think that the outrage is that such a thing can happen even after elections.
Well, it can, and it will. Dirty politics is a reality of India. Aam Aadmi Party has to really BELIEVE what it has said often enough. That this is the start of the fight. Dirty politics is not going to get clean just because there is a new kid on the block. There will be attempts to prevent AAP from wielding any real power. Take for example the dramatic loss of Congress in Delhi. A Congress that apparently couldn’t even rustle up audiences for Rahul Gandhi in Delhi. A Congress that consistently ignored any serious allegations on BJP once the initial opinion polls showed results. For that matter, see the polls themselves. They showed such dismal prospects for AAP, yet the relentless witch hunt that followed cannot be explained by the predicted failure.
The point here is there will be many things happening. BJP (and Congress too, in my belief) doesn’t want a reelection. After attempts to buy off AAP candidates failed, the only thing that really remains is to sabotage enough of them to still be able to form a government, since the Congress and BJP seem disinclined to bring their relationship out of the closet. Oh the relationship exits. They do not do each other any real harm, but for whatever reason, it is okay to be together in the BCCI and okay for BJP’s Social Media Army (I know I said mafia on twitter) to suddenly believe in a Congress politician and mobilize their might in making sure his accusations of sexual assault don’t die out, but not okay to be together in a political arena, it seems. I suspect the reason is less about appearances of hostility and more about controlling both ruling party and opposition to create a cozy nest.
Regardless of all that, allegations are here to stay. Accusations are here to stay. You know how to deal with them. You have been doing it beautifully so far. Now is not the time to become complacent about success and be taken so unawares by these tactics that you derail and become “Just like BJP and Congress” as the pressure clearly is with recommendations ranging from “support BJP” to “take the support of Congress” or baits like the accusations on Dharmender Koli one to respond “just like BJP or Congress”. A reelection is near guaranteed, and this will only be used to “prove” to masses that you are no different, that when the campaign is over, you are “same” and you collaborate with those you campaigned against or you act just like them anyway.
Stay away from all this baiting. Put your versions on record, let the law take its course. If you think he will be trapped, agitate for a more fair investigation. Don’t agitate to make the complaint vanish without due process. Stay on track, celebrate, prepare for reelections, fresh avalanche of sabotage, plan strategies (I hear TV experts have graduated from predicting two seats for you to consulting on how you lost seven seats needed for majority – use all that advice), rejuvenate, fund raise, whatever.
Don’t fall to the level of BJP and Congress. It would become the best weapon against yourself that you give them. One of your making, that you will find tough to defeat. Ignore them. Plan the next battle.
With love and respect (and a cheer for the amazing election result)!
Update: Dharmender Koli asserted that he was on an open jeep amid 2,000 people as part of victory parade and did not get off jeep and did no such thing as molesting this ex-MLA’s wife.
Update2: The ex-MLA now says he isn’t sure that it was Koli who outraged his wife’s modesty.
Conclusion: It was much ado about nothing. One of many that will happen and AAP really needs to learn to not overreact and do things they can’t defend over a problem that vanishes on its own or with basic fact confirming.