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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Aam Aadmi Party And New Politics

Posted by: danish Ahmed 7:54 PM

#ThankYouAAPians is one of the best hashtag I have come across this election season even if it is not that popular. In electoral-public discourse, we are used to winning candidates thanking their electorate (party workers mainly) but in this case, not only were the activists thanking each other, they were doing it on the day news channels were competing to project more number of seats Modi and BJP are expected to win and were particularly harsh on the Aam Aadmi Party. Yet the Aam Aadmi Party volunteers were as upbeat. The final results would be out two days later, but the AAP has already won the first battle. AAP is not a traditional political party, its success/failure should not be seen from the traditional perspective. Here are some of the things the established political class believed in and the effect of AAP's new politics.

They said, corruption has become part of our DNA, it cannot be fought on the strength of principles alone
 There is perceptible decline in petty corruption, government formation by nominees of corrupt corporates might buy them time but not a lot of it. But rest assured bribery is not going to be the same again.

The political class is too powerful, it cannot be challenged or made to change its ways by common folks through protests alone
 AAP decimated the Congress in Delhi and scared BJP to the extent that despite being the largest party it refused to form the government. In Lok Sabha election, AAP changed the rules of the game,supreme leaders of national parties no longer had luxury of safe seats. Kumar Vishwas in Amethi and Arvind Kejriwal in Kashi rattled Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi, there is no ambiguity on who won the war of nerves.
Further, political power is defined as the ability to bring out desired behaviour in other actors without the use of force or coercion. From this perspective, the sudden decline in availing VIP privileges by politicians of all parties, taking up issues they were reluctant to take up earlier and ad hoc altering of well crafted political strategies to tackle the latest thrown by Aam Aadmi Party vindicates the stand that the seemingly invincible political class can be brought to its knees by a motley group of honest individuals.

In coalition era, taking the entire political establishment from leftists to right-wing parties, going alone is a recipe for disaster
 AAP went without a bookish ideology, focusing more on the actual problems people were facing and working out plans on how to resolve them. Its pan-India presence today (within 2 years) fielding 450 candidates proves that you don't need a comprehensive political ideology to find following, you just need to understand people's problems, their aspirations and speak their language.


One way or the other a political party cannot exist without resorting to identity politics i.e. have backing of a community, caste or ethnic, linguist group that vote en block.
 This is the biggest victory of AAP, unlike other parties it just did not address identity factors in political discourse. Rather it stuck to its agenda of cleansing the political landscape,so the basic needs of the people could be met. Do note, it did not, like the Sangh Parivar,demand or suggest abolition of sub-identities, AAP just did not address it.


Contesting election requires an obscene amount of money some of which have to be unaccounted for or black money 
 This is actually part of the vicious circle that has gripped Indian democracy like a snake and continues to squeeze it. If corporate donate money to the the tune of billions, they expect the party to dole out favors to them in return. During Delhi Vidhan Sabha election, AAP's entire poll expense was less than what is spent in a single rally of Narendra Modi.
 Since AAP represents the common people, it sought funding from the very same people. Contrast this with the fact that traditional parties dole out cash to people to vote for them. As for overseas fund collection, it is the only party to have undergone High Court probe related to its overseas funding and has come out clean while both the Congress and the BJP have been found at fault.  I suspect AAP has perhaps willingly de-prioritized fund collection.

Winning election is the only objective 
Of course winning election is an important objective but not the only one. A true democracy is a continous process, voting for a candidate/party every 5 years is meant to decide who leads the nation but debates and deliberations,decisions taken and enactment of laws in the Parliament and State Assemblies, is democracy in motion.  
True representatives of people present inside the legislature or outside it, play an important role in the functioning of the legislature. But democratic process should not be limited to that alone. Other elements  such as media, corporate lobbies and at times, even foreign governments (most pursuing narrow personal interest) influence the parliamentary process too.  However, leaders with mass following, even if outside Parliament are more central to democratic process. Let us not forget that the UPA government was forced to bring in Jan Lok Pal bill during the Anna Hazare led-India Against Corruption movement and was hurriedly passed right after AAP decimated Congress in Delhi Vidhan Sabha election. 

AAP has done what other parties have not been able to do in decades (not even communists after nearly 100 years)  not because it had abundance of funds or was harping on ultra-nationalist sentiment or anything that other parties would count on. It has been possible only because AAP's call for anti-corruption,non-communal and transparent politics found resonance in like minded Indians who found the campaign worth devoting time and effort towards, even if it meant leaving high paying jobs, business ventures and comfort to walk in the hostile streets of Amethi and Varanasi, interacting with the people, no fiery rhetorics but plain talks. Others in lesser known cities and rural areas were spreading the same message, spending money from their own pockets and braving hardship and at times difficult terrain. A year back, AAP had hardly any network of workers outside Delhi, even today it doesn't, but what it has is an all India body of volunteers networked by the idea of Swaraj. By definition, AAP has succeeded far more than any other party can imagine and it was won by the AApians and for the AAPians. 
So #ThankYouAAPians        



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