Friday, 19 August 2016

Aam Aadmi Party’s “anti-corruption” is a corrupt business



Aam Aadmi Party’s “anti-corruption” is a corrupt business

"Anti-corruption" is a good slogan to capture political power



(Cartoon downloaded from internet)

       The official website of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has very high sounding sentences for readers: 

   “Since most political parties are corrupt, greedy and thick skinned, it's time to bring political power  back into the people's hands. We are not saying that every single politician is corrupt and greedy. There are many good intentioned people in politics today who want to work honestly for the people of India. But the current system of polity does not allow honest politicians to function. We are also not claiming that every single person who joins our party will be hundred percent honest. We are saying that it is the system that has become very corrupt and needs to be changed immediately. Our aim in entering politics is not to come to power; we have entered politics to change the current corrupt and self-serving system of politics forever. So that no matter who comes to power in the future, the system is strong enough to withstand corruption at any level of governance.”

“This national demand for a change in the way our political system works has forced our anti-corruption drive to enter the political arena to clean it from the inside. Politics itself is not a dirty word – it is our current breed of politicians who have made it dirty. Aam Adami party wants to make politics and noble calling once again.”

“Our party’s vision is to realise a dream of SWARAJ that Gandhiji had envisaged for a free India – where the power of governance and rights of democracy will be in the hands of the people of India”

About its election symbol (‘Jhadoo’), the party says “With the Broom which symbolizes dignity of labour, the party hopes to clean the filth which has permeated our government and our legislature. The country needs a clean sweep of its corrupted main stream political parties.”

    The critics of the party, of course, have always been challenging these tall claims but nothing damaged the image of the party as the allegations made on February 2, 2015 that four Delhi-based bogus companies – which exist only on paper – donated Rs. 50 lakh each on April 5, 2014. The allegations, made by a group of former AAP members who have formed a group known as AVAM, seem to have completely unnerved the party. The strategies of every spokesperson who appeared on a TV channel during debates on February 2 and 3 were to claim that they were most transparent because all the donations received by the party could be seen on the party’s website, to question the timing of the allegation and to attack all other parties for indulging in corrupt practices.  Yogendra Yadav, a prominent face of the party, has been claiming that every donation of Rs. 10 lakh or more is thoroughly scrutinised by the party’s Political Affairs Committee (PAC) to ensure that no wrong type of money comes. A very lame excuse given on the on the TV channels was that those four donations escaped scrutiny due to ‘procedural lapse’. 

    Significantly, no one, not even Aravind Kejriwal, denied receipt of donations of Rs. 50 lakh each from 4 companies. The claim of ‘procedural lapse” was however contradicted by none other than Aravind Kejriwal himself. Yesterday, in an interview on a TV channel he boldly said that if somebody gave donation by cheque, that was a sufficient proof of its genuineness. He said, it was not his to verify the background of that donor; he was not going to verify whether the address given was correct or not. He said that this was the job of the investigating agencies like Department of Income Tax, Intelligence Bureau, etc.

     Some media persons have also raised doubts about the gentleness of the allegations, particularly because of timing. 


I did some research to check the AAP’s claim of probity and transparency and whether the amount of Rs. 2 crore received on April 5, 2014 was reflected in the list of donations received by the party. The  information about donations is available on the party’s website, “AAP donation, Membership and Information Trends”. It contains, inter alia, details of donation by country, by State, by district, by donation size, etc. According to the information available on the website, 7 foreign countries have donated more than Rs. 50 lakh each and besides Union Territory of Delhi, 10 States of India have donated more than Rs. 50 lakh each. The maximum donation from any Indian State has come from Maharashtra, followed by Delhi. 

I went through the entries at about 8:30 PM on February 3 and again at about 1 PM on February 4. It was just my good luck that I visited the website yesterday as well as today otherwise I would not have been able to bring out something really serious. Look at the comparative picture as given below: 

Donations received in Delhi


At 8:34 PM on Feb 3, 2015
At 1:04 PM on Feb 4, 2015
Increase

Total since 12/12/2013

Total No. of Donors
19729
20137
408
Total Donation (Rs.)
7,96,16,594
10,14,41,711
2,18,25,117


Donation on April 5, 2014

No. of Donors
166
170
4
Donation (Rs.)
3,62,667
2,03,62,667
2,00,00,000

Obviously, donations from the 4 bogus companies were omitted till yesterday evening. The omission cannot be dismissed as ‘procedural lapse’ or ‘a matter of chance’. It cannot just be a matter of chance that the 4 big donations received on April 5, 2014 were included in the list only yesterday. In all probability, the AAP leaders wanted to suppress information about those donations and they would have succeeded had the former insiders (now members of AVAM) not exposed them. The AAP leaders must have realised late yesterday evening that in the event of detailed enquiry they might be accused of suppressing facts and that might compound their crime. The omission of the amount from information to be furnished to the Election Commission and to the Income Tax Department for 2014-15 is a very serious offence. They hurriedly updated the website to include the donations made by 4 bogus companies. The dirty money received one midnight were publicly admitted another midnight.

The AVAM should have made these disclosures much earlier.

Incidentally, the amounts of donations received on several other dates since January 6, 2015 have also been upwardly revised but not to the extent as on April 5, 2014.

Kejariwal would be sorry to learn that those who updated the website have done a very clumsy work. They have not updated the district-wise break-up. See the table below:


At 8:34 PM on Feb 3, 2015

At 1:04 PM on Feb 4
District
No. of Donors
Total Amount (Rs.)

No. of Donors
Total Amount (Rs.)
DELHI
273
76,35,684

273
76,35,684
SOUTH
1136
16,48,026

1136
16,48,026
SOUTH WEST
627
12,01,435

627
12,01,435
NEW DELHI
476
11,93,599

476
11,93,599
EAST
805
11,71,641

805
11,71,641
WEST DELHI
805
9,79,901

805
9,79,901
NORTH WEST
617
7,94,726

617
7,94,726

1
5,00,000

1
5,00,000
NORTH EAST
312
2,60,716

312
2,60,716
CENTRAL
158
2,22,976

158
2,22,976
NORTH
206
2,06,911

206
2,06,911
OTHERS
34
17,450

34
17,450

An interesting fact that has emerged from the scrutiny, though not quite relevant in the present context, is that there are some special categories of donors: “Special 2812”, “Special 2014” and “Special 1402”. For some mysterious reasons, several persons have chosen to donate special amount: “Rs. 2812”, or “Rs. 2014 “ or “Rs. 1402”.

The AAP is trying to divert attention by writing to the Chief Justice of India to set up a Supreme Court-monitored SIT to probe into funding of all major political parties and by making allegations that the electronic voting machines (EVMs) have been tampered with to favour the BJP. However, the party's offence is quite serious and calls for detailed scrutiny of not only the accounts of the AAP but also of all the major donors.

The AAP too has  made politics “a dirty word”. Its members are in no way different from the “current breed of politicians who have made it dirty”. The AP cannot claim “to make politics a noble calling once again.” In fact, what it has done is worse. It has made “anti-corruption” a corrupt business.


Devendra Narain

(This article was written soon after it was known that the AAP had received Rs. 2.0 cr. from dubious source. The party tried to cover it up. The investigating agencies maintained stoic silence.)

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