AAP could be the real game changer in Indian Politics…
Arvind Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have created the phenomenal enthusiasm, excitement and hopes in the hearts and minds of millions of Indians. Enthusiasm to channelize the anger against the bad governance of 65 years, excitement to be able to actively participate in shaping their lives, hopes to lead a better life for themselves and their future generations. The new torch-bearer of morality in politics, Kejriwal, who has earned himself many nicknames including an Angry Young Man, Crazywal, Kejri Bomb and even the new Mahatma Gandhi and Obama of India, promises that politics will be good again. Like in the times of Nehru, Ambedkar and Lal Bahadur Shastri, who also fought elections, the politics will be again synonymous with patriotism.
Yogendra Yadav, a key member of the National Executive of the AAP, says he wishes to see “I love politics” slogan on the t-shirts and caps of the Indian youth, much like the famous ‘I love NY’ slogan everywhere. The overwhelming response to the movement show that there are countless Indians prepared to go beyond the confines of their narrow selves, eager to work for society, willing to spare their time and resources for a larger cause. Corruption hurts them, widespread poverty appalls them, unequal opportunities in every walk of life offend their sensibilities and indignities of life make them rebel. Unlike others, they wish to do something about it, something to end corruption, poverty, inequality and indignities. Yadav calls this something as politics and there are many of ways of doing politics. AAP wishes to inculcate faith in politics, faith in the collective ability to shape aam-aadmi’s life meaningfully. They wish to convince everybody that politics based on truth and values is possible in today’s India.
Like all living things, humans are selfish by nature. It is a fact of our biology and evolution. More powerful the person, more chances of him/her being more corrupt. People like Mahatma Gandhi are rarest of rare anomalies that go beyond narrow self-interests. Only an effective system of punishment can guard the society against this evil. Establishing a strong institutional system of Lokpal (ombudsperson) at all levels is an important and essential requirement in this direction. It is shocking that politicians have been betraying the nation for last 40 years on this vital subject. The political-drama of last couple of years on national stage, telecasted enthusiastically by 24 by 7 media, made it clear that it will need a people’s revolution to establish a strong effective system of Lokapal in India. The AAP that is born out of that movement appropriately puts it on its top priority. But it goes much beyond that by promising Swaraj (self-rule) and direct democracy, and that is where it runs into a zone of doubt in the eyes of critics.
Critics say these new kids in the Indian politics are naïve, too simplistic and do not understand the complexity of Indian politics and governance systems; that Kejriwal & Co is too idealistic in their promise of eradication of corruption and implementation of true Swaraj in Gandhian sense. If established power structures and administrative systems are eroded, critics fear it will lead to anarchy. If a lot is left to the people to influence and decide directly, it will end-up in mobocracy instead of democracy. After the failure of state-sponsored socialism in India, USSR and elsewhere, and in the current times of economic recession and challenges, critics feel that this new wave of “AAP ka Socialism” is the last thing that India Inc needs.
Well, critics do have a point or two. But if very well-educated, experienced and successful people like Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav do not understand Indian Political Systems, then who does it? One is an IITian, ex-income tax officer and die-hard social activist (remember the game-changing RTI); another is a Supreme Court lawyer, constitutional expert and master of PILs and crusader against the corrupt politicians; yet another is a leading political analyst of the country, expert of electoral politics and man of socio-political movements. And there are a lot more of such people in and for AAP, it is just that we love to identify and worship the well-known heroes.
The real issue is, some analysts say, what kind of political and economic system would work better, in a huge and diverse country like India. Some even go further and say that overall things are becoming better in the Modern India of post-1991 of vibrant democracy and mix of market and welfare economics, but it is the morality that is fast-eroding and as an effect millions of Indians still live miserably; bring the morality back in public life, establish/strengthen systems for it and India will be a much better place on earth. Exactly that is what Team Anna, its movement of India Against Corruption and its supporters across the country wanted. But shamelessly, politicians betrayed the nation. During this process of political “samudra-manthan” (churning of political ocean), many devils and a few gods became apparent in public perception.
Although it is hard to believe that political parties wish to keep their respective vote-banks poor and uneducated, it is a fact that identities like caste, class, region and religion are fully exploited; women are not encouraged to participate actively in politics; nepotism is practiced in full-swing. The main objective of any political party is to come/remain in power and, to achieve that, at times national interest and development are jeopardized for partisan and parochial advantages. The AAP promises to practice politics without its pervasive evils. Is it possible to do so and also win elections? Supporters of AAP counter that its lack of vast material resources can be an asset and ability for doing public good when eradicating corruption is high on people’s agenda. It can also be foreseen that, with much higher moral ground that the AAP promises to hold, it will surely be a deterrent for evils in other parties who would feel the crunch to improve their ethical standards, atleast in public perception. And after all, winning elections is not the only way to do politics and influence people’s lives.
One thing is sure: AAP’s activities and progress will be scrutinized with greatly zoomed lenses of media, movements, political parties and public across the nation. The success of AAP will depend on many elements, practice of democracy & integrity being on the top in the list. Simple but still well-articulated vision that, instead of just condemning everything, offers an implementable system reform will be the key element. It will be important to be inclusive in bringing together all like-minded movements, aandolans and people from all walks of life, with their rich knowledge of local problems and solutions. Additionally, it will have to actively unleash the creative enthusiasm and rebellious energy of countless artists and students in all fields in popular culture to sustain the seminal mood in public consciousness. Continued expose on corruption, as and when it happens, will definitely advance the cause.
The party has to be positively seen beyond age, caste, class, gender, language, region and religion but still get as much diversity as possible represented in its offices and activities, across the length and breadth of the nation. They will be well-advised not to take a stand on each and every issue now, particularly controversial ones, and develop a sound mechanism to do so. There are numerous knowledgeable and experienced aam-aadmi in the form of activists, artists, farmers, business persons, professionals, beaurocrats, technocrats, retired officers, alumni, NRIs, etc who are, sometimes discreetly, willing to contribute to the cause of AAP. An appropriate mechanism to harness such talent can be of great value to the party. Last but not the least, the party should not be perceived as anti-private sector which is an important element of “common-man” constituency. Creating a conductive political environment that loosely binds people from diverse settings of India and providing a purposeful channel of expression holds the key to success of AAP and aam-aadmi.
Questions still remain: Can the common-man rise above his obvious self-interests to support the AAP? Will he support it inspite of knowing that, unlike other political parties and practices, he should not expect any undue favours from the AAP? For example, he should not expect an MLA or MP of AAP to help get a job or business favour or an admission for his son or daughter. Aam-aadmi is too occupied to sort-out his own problems, fulfill his own dreams in taking care of his own family. Can the party make him realize that it will help solve his own problems and fulfill his own dreams? Can the party mobilize the career-oriented middle-class youth who spends energy in the gym, time on the virtual world and money on pleasures influenced by the western world? Will they get registered as voters and come-out atleast on the Election Day?
The path is long and hard, like any path worth pursuing. The battle is to be won atleast at three levels: personal, political and popular cultural level. The first step of personal level is, it seems, achievable by the proof of talent, commitment and integrity of the AAP leadership. It needs to be sustained, by continued hard-work and bringing-in more such people. At the political level, the battle has just started. AAP needs to unfold the clear vision that the majority will actively subscribed to. It will have to inspire tremendous enthusiasm in the numerous islands of issues and identities to work together for the national and noble cause, which is good for all. It will decide the party’s immediate electoral prospects, but long term success of the party will depend on the popular culture it unleashes in all walks of life. Freedom, creativity, fraternity, justice, sense of purpose and satisfaction, realizations of aspirations and possibilities as a human being – all these will contribute in sustaining the mass support in the longer term.
- Nilesh Buddha (firstname.lastname@example.org)