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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

#AAP Effect: The Politics Of Denial In Delhi

Denial is not just a river in Egypt,  it is also a strong current of a sentiment flowing in the corridors of the established political class of India. For once we see the Right, Left and Center of India’s traditional political spectrum publicly uniting against motley group of ordinary people who neither have great legacies, wealth nor fame but still believe they can contest elections in a democracy!  The very idea of winning polls without exploiting identity-based issues whether fictitious or real, making hollow rhetoric or bribing, coercing voters would be the height of incredulity.


Yet, the ridiculous happened and the Aam Aadmi Party performed exceedingly well in Delhi Assembly elections,  winning 28 seats, virtually decimating the Congress and clipping wings if the BJP, which emerged as the single largest party but still short of majority. This is not the first time BJP has been invited to form government without it having the majority. It has twice formed union government for 13 days and 13 months, even the current UPA government doesn't really have the numbers,assurance from non-allies such as SP, BSP prevents the opposition from asking UPA to prove majority in the floor of the House. As a matter of fact, after polls which return fractured mandates, parties now literally keep their elected members under restraints fearing defection to the party that bids highest.

In such a political climate it is difficult to accept that BJP declining to form government and Congress extending support to AAP is in keeping with the sense of constitutional propriety. The existing political class and their supporters are thoroughly convinced that it is but a pipe dream, the practice of bribery,nepotism, elitism and such are so deeply entrenched in the country's as well as the people's mindset that they have been almost institutionalized and that it is impossible to fight the system while being part of it. Arvind Kejriwal's suggestion that the BJP and Congress could ally themselves and form the government met with cynicism in most quarters, since their ideologies are considered to be diametrically opposite.There may be substance in the assertion but when it comes to functioning, the difference between mainstream parties and AAP are quite the opposite.

A comparative analysis of all three parties' stand on key issues and principles 
Ambition
  • Most (not all) mainstream leaders' took up politics as alternative career, AAP leaders like Kejriwal gave up promising careers to pursue political activism and fight for civil rights. Few years before India Against Corruption movement, Kejriwal had already been recognized for his role in forcing the government to pass Right to Information Act which has been a game changer. Be it Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan or Yogendra Yadav, for the longest part they have been fighting for the common people but chose to stay away from politics and limelight.  

Corruption
  • The AAP originated from Anna Hazare led India Against Corruption and is by all accounts the only political force that seeks to check corruption and eliminate it.
  • The Congress faces a national backlash today majorly because of large scale corruption taking place in UPA government's watch. But then, Congress has always been known for kleptomania of its members ;)
  • The BJP's initial claim of being clean was rebuffed the very first time they came in power but recent scams have dented its credential irreparably. Karnataka ex-CM's involvement in corruption cases and subsequent defiance had left the BJP red-faced and was forced to kick him out. But the decision to take Yedurappa back into the party has left BJP with a stain it cannot remove in near future.  

 Power
  • Power and empowerment figure prominently in speeches of Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal, but all three of them have their own definitions.
  • While Modi's references should be seen as allusions  to national power, military as well as economic.
  •  Rahul Gandhi refers to political power when he talks on empowerment of people in the grass-root level.
  •  Arvind Kejriwal too talks about power too but of a different kind  of power i.e. electricity. AAP manifesto clearly laid down how it sought to cut the tariff. There is really no need for him to talk about political power as every issue AAP has taken up involves empowerment of the collective. 

Elitism
  • AAP wants to do away with VIP culture, this is something embedded in Congress' DNA. The Gandhi-Nehru family isn't called the first family of India without any reason. In fact, even the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi is given security and privileges, that even those holding key constitutional posts cannot avail.
  • The BJP is founded on elitist doctrine but its latest bid to deify   Narendra Modi  and spawn a personality cult around him goes much beyond elitism or "VIP culture".  

Identity Politics
  • The Congress is the pioneer of identity politics in free India. It has been guilty of pampering all communal, casteist extremists at one time or the other.
  • The BJP is founded on principles of identity politics. It would be pointless to write more on this.
  • Apart from corruption, identity politics is the other vice most regional parties are guilty of practicing. Be it SP with its Muslim appeasement (but not empowerment), Shiv Sena, MNS,MIM, BSP and its casteist agenda and splinter groups are all founded on the base of identity politics.
  • The agenda of AAP leaves no room for identity or any other divisive plank to stand on. For the first time I have come across post poll analysis in TV and newspapers that don't include demographic factors when attributing the factors that they think led the AAP to success.
Resources
  •    Although the entire political class is guilty of spending state resources on themselves, the Congress stands out for allocating resources to the Gandhi family in a manner befitting the "first family". Apart from that Congress candidates tend to be richer and more affluent in keeping with the feudal structure of the party. It has time and again been accused of spending huge amounts of money during election and even bribing voters.
  • The BJP with the business community being its core support base has no lack of funds neither does it shy of spending them during election campaigns but the recent spending on various campaigns including social media campaigns to present Narendra Modi as the savior is lot more than what BJP has spent in the past.
  • It is interesting to note that the entire budget of AAP during Delhi elections was around Rs 20 Crore, while amount spent on organizing rally for Modi costs around Rs 20-30  Crores per rally ! 
Someone recently told me that Kejriwal's retort on Congress and BJP allying to form government was naivete, their ideologies are so different that they are like opposite sides of a coin. Not the correct idiom but it seems an apt way to put the relationship of the the national parties. They are as different from each other as they could be but they are part of the same system, and together they constitute the system. As the comparison shows they truly are opposite side of the same coin.

However, the Aam Aadmi Party has from the day of its inception, unflinchingly maintained that its objective is to transform the present notion of governance and restructure its institutions. One has to be really living under a rock to not be able to see that the  Congress' offer of unconditional support to AAP is but a gambit aimed at nipping the movement in the bud.Just get them to lead the system, if it doesn't corrupt them, the system itself would definitely finish them.

A popular Latin quote wrongly attributed to Euripides says
" whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad"

But those who have seen or read on political strategies and tactics in present day India, would probably amend the quote to say

 "the party(s) Congress wishes to destroy, it supports them form government first "

Ex-Premiers such as Late Charan Singh, Chandrasekhar, IK Gujral, and others would have affirmed this.

However, the Aam Aadmi Party has already made the difference, it has woken up the mandarins of political power from their slumber but more importantly it has demonstrated to the common people that they can make a difference on the larger political landscape if they exercise their right to vote dutifully, and vote for candidates who truly represent them and not on the basis of religion, caste, ethnicity, false promises, freebies etc. Vote for candidates and parties who really understand the value of trust a common person invests in, while voting for them.  

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