Democratic governance is not just about translating political will into immediate action. It is also the fruit of rational thought. This rationality is the foundation on which the institutions of democracy must stand, and must be embodied in its leaders as well. The Aam Aadmi Party’s recent interventions in governance do not bode well for these essential principles of democratic modernity. And what is more alarming is that the lack of hard thinking, and of working out consistent and clearheaded positions on matters of governance, comes with a populism that is fairly adept at drawing upon collective mindsets and prejudices in the name of a radical transformation of politics. The Delhi law minister’s recent raid on Ugandan women in the capital, followed by alleged physical violations of their right to justice and privacy, not only undermines the due process of law, but also taps into the worst kinds of racist and misogynist prejudice that the women regularly face in the city. Moreover, in the way the minister and his volunteers have chosen to handle the situation, and the chief minister continues to endorse this modus operandi, has led to a confrontation with the police that further degrades the political and administrative ethos of democratic rule.
There is something unpleasantly ironic about a law minister first harnessing popular racism and misogyny, and then expecting the police to subvert correct pocedure at his behest, in order to enforce the rule of law. When a highly proactive antipathy to corruption is built, among other things, on notions of purity that equate racial, cultural and sexual difference with the illegal and the immoral, and when such a position is empowered by the mandate of the ‘people’, then the risk of a polity built on such impulses becoming unacceptably majoritarian is rather grave. The AAP seems to have arrived at a rationale for such behaviour through its own theories of how drugs, sex and rape are related to one another, and are embodied in people who are, as the minister put it, “not like you and me”. Such a commonsensical idea of what is good or bad for the “common man” — held by more than one minister affiliated to the party — seems to bypass the usual institutions of law and order, like the police and the courts. This is hardly the alternative to corruption and nepotism that would bring new life to a jaded polity.