Interview: AAP’s Yogendra Yadav defends Delhi protests, blames media
By Aditya Kalra and Sankalp Phartiyal
Senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) member Yogendra Yadav on Wednesday defended his party’s protest against the police on the streets of New Delhi and blamed the media for “unsympathetic” coverage.
Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the AAP, or “common man’s party”, ended his planned 10-day “dharna” after two days on Tuesday.
The protests were unusual considering state chief ministers do not use street protests to achieve their ends. Last week, the party accused two police officers of negligence, one of whom was in charge in the tourist area where a Danish woman was reportedly gang-raped.
The party has been demanding that control of the state police, widely seen as corrupt and ineffective, should be transferred from the central government to the Delhi government which the AAP took over in elections in December.
Yadav, speaking during an interview at his home in Delhi, said questions that require boundaries of legality to be shifted significantly are often decided on the street and not “inside four walls”.
“There is an absurdity written into the law … that absurdity had to be challenged. And such things can be challenged only through public mobilization, popular contestation. Usually it happens on the street,” said Yadav, who is also the party’s chief spokesman.
Kejriwal became chief minister in December on the back of his promises to eradicate corruption and fix problems faced by residents of Delhi, a city also referred to as “India’s rape capital”.
Kejriwal began his protest on Monday to force the central government to agree to the demands. The protests, which led to traffic jams and shut down four metro stations ahead of Republic Day celebrations, turned ugly on the second day when demonstrators clashed with police.
Yadav said the media’s unsympathetic coverage over the last few days put the party in unfavourable light, prompting more questions from the public on the party’s style of functioning ahead of the 2014 general election.
“Media played it up in ways which was not just unsympathetic, which bordered on the unfair, especially questions about that episode in Malviya Nagar was so selectively reported,” Yadav said, referring to an incident last week in which AAP minister Somnath Bharti reportedly conducted a raid in a south Delhi neighbourhood and accused a group of African women of selling drugs.
One of the African women has accused the AAP minister of beating and harassing them after a group led by him barged into their house. A Delhi court on Sunday directed the police to file a report in the case.
While AAP has found support from some, many among the public, politicians and TV commentators have slammed the recent street protest by Kejriwal, whose year-old party barely registered as a credible force to India’s traditional political power elite until the surprise results of the Delhi election.
Critics have suggested that the protests show Kejriwal’s party has failed to evolve a more mature strategy to achieve its political goals.
Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of the IBN18 news network, said his channel reported a cross-section of views.
“The fact though is, a senior AAP minister is facing serious charges and those have been reported and opined on fairly. The fact also is, there are a number of people who were disapproving of the AAP’s dharna. Airing those views is not being unfair to AAP but representing all sides to the story,” Sardesai said via email.
Yadav also said Kejriwal’s remarks, in which he called himself an “anarchist” during the protests, were misunderstood.
“I don’t know how the media managed to miss the very pronounced irony with which he said it,” Yadav said. “If you miss irony and turn it into a flat statement, anyone in the world would be misunderstood.”
(Editing by Robert MacMillan; Follow Aditya on Twitter @adityayk, Sankalp @sankalp_sp and Robert @bobbymacReports. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced in any form without permission)