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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Decontextualized Discourse: The Curse Of 49

The avalanche of information this election season is not just diluting the political discourse but is also decontextualizing events, altering their meanings completely. The Aam Aadmi Party's phenomenal rise has been affected negatively as electoral campaigns reaches a feverish pitch, with personality cults, controversial statements and general mood of festivity drowning the more earthy issues taken up by the Aam Aadmi Party. As of yet, traditional parties, being unable to counter the very real stands taken by the Aam Aadmi Party had been attacking it for its lack of experience in governance and impracticability of its demands but now AAP government's resignation on 49th day of it assuming power in Delhi Assembly is being touted as vindication of their claims. It is nauseating to find even editorials of India's largest selling newspapers' mention AAP's 49 day stint as failure and abdication of responsibility.

Government Formation
The Delhi 2013 Assembly elections results not only threw a hung assembly but also a unique situation n which the three parties were so ideologically opposed to each other, that any genuine understanding between them was out of question or so it seemed then. Later on it transpired that Congress and BJP had unsaid agreement over several issues.


BJP on Friday asked Aam Aadmi Party, the second largest party in Delhi assembly with 28 seats, to form a government while assuring it of constructive cooperation in fulfilling its promises such as slashing tariff by 50 per cent and providing free water upto 700 litres daily. [Indian Express Dec 13th 2013]

  • AAP faced a dilemma; if it refused to form government, the two parties could accuse it of running away from responsibilities and also for having promised things in manifesto which couldn't be implemented. If AAP formed government, it wouldn't be able to bring sweeping changes without majority and thus still be discredited. Though both the Congress and the BJP promised to help AAP fulfill its pre-poll promise, there was little doubt on it being false promise.
  • Support for AAP's 18-point agenda was agreed upon by the Congress though the response bordered on ambiguity. 
  • Further, Arvind Kejriwal sought people's feedback through SMS campaign. In a political culture where people have to be paid money for even participating in a rally, 5 lakh Delhites SMSed in response to Kejriwal's call referendum and overwhelming majority was in favour of government formation.

Right after Kejriwal was sworn in, the BJP began a malicious campaign accusing AAP of going back against their pledge of having no trucks with the Congress, conveniently forgetting that even the BJP had offered issue based support at that point in time..

While the BJP's attack was from the front, the Congress had a more insidious agenda. Given the unique nature of NCT of Delhi's administrative structure, the AAP government was left with very little room to manoeuvre, leave alone bringing systemic change. With the high level of expectation from the AAP government and Union government tightening the shackles of technicalities, the situation was similar to being thrown into a boxing ring with your hands tied behind your back.

Resignation
That the AAP government had a limited lifespan was a foregone conclusion but the manner of it going out was still a matter of speculation. Arvind Kejriwal quit on his own terms after the Janlokpal bill was defeated in the assembly. However, with a sustained campaign by various stakeholders in the present order managed to bury AAP's achievements in those 49 days, only the resignation of Arvind Kejriwal was allowed to live in public memory and that too in a perverted form.

The media's focus is too short and too enamoured by sharp and vitriolic sound bytes made by popular political personalities to dwell on the way things played out after the Delhi elections and decisions taken by parties in view of constitutional propriety. The fact is that the Aam Aadmi Party had formed the government on assurance given by the Congress that it would support the passage of Janlokpal bill, the issue on which the movement had begun. After blocking the bill the Congress not only went against its commitment, it also proved that the AAP did not command confidence of the house and its constitutional obligation was to resign. Minority governments functioning through horse-trading or jugaad during the test of strength on the floor of the house may have been the norm in last two decades but AAP cannot follow the path and occupy the moral high ground that it does. 

Has personality-centric politics so diluted civil discourse that following the ethical and constitutional path is now seen as folly even by intellectuals ? Or has too much real-time information decontextualized events of  recent past, allowing them to be reinterpreted as part of the media wants it to ?


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