In May 2016, Fountain Ink, a Chennai-based long-form journalism magazine, published a story titled, “Unraveling the AAP myth.” Written by Arpit Parashar, one of the magazine’s contributing writers, the story brought into focus multiple instances of alleged impropriety on the part of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi. Among the many charges that Parashar levelled, the most controversial was the appointment of 27 journalists in the governing bodies of 28 colleges that are funded by the Delhi government and affiliated to Delhi University.
The fact that the ruling government nominates journalists, academics and other prominent personalities of its liking to institutions that come under its purview is not new. For years, Parashar noted, both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have made such appointments. But that the AAP—which was built on the promise of divorcing itself from the old ways of politicking in the country—is indulging in similarly nepotistic acts, does not sit well with the image of the party.
On 1 June, as the story began gathering momentum online, the AAP leader Aashish Khetan, formerly a journalist, dismissed it by attacking Parashar for being drunk at the office they once shared together." Khetan, who set up the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi—which, among other things, liaises between the state government and the media—did not contradict any of the claims in the story. He has still not responded to Parashar's allegations. But a few days after his outburst, Khetan tweeted an article that compiled the appointments the BJP had affected in the country's premier colleges and cultural institutions. "This is tyranny," he said.
Over the past two years, the central government of the BJP has drawn considerable flak for filling key positions in academic institutes with Hindutva ideologues. The appointments made by the AAP have not been subjected to similar scrutiny. But the manner in which the party has installed representatives from the media as members of the governing bodies at several colleges in Delhi presents an equally troubling pattern.
For one, the criterion for the selection of these journalists is not clear. Although the posts are not salaried, the members of the governing bodies are in a position to influence the working of their respective colleges. “They play a pivotal role in the hiring of ad hoc faculty, librarians, and Class III and IV posts,” Parashar wrote in his story. “These appointments are also the ones for which huge bribes are paid.”