Sunday, 2 February 2014

Upsetting India: Aam Aadmi Party (article published in the current issue of THE INTERNATIONAL INDIAN MAGAZINE, Dubai)

Everyone was shocked by the results of the Delhi elections: Aam Aadmi is a political party which did not even exist a few months ago.

Most Indians have still to recognise the significance of the results: the notable thing is that even though BJP won a plurality of seats, it actually lost votes - in spite of Narendra Modi’s supposedly charismatic and magnetic drawing power, the BJP’s vote share actually declined.

The results were not only a slap on the wrist for Congress, they were also a shock for BJP – after the announcement of the election results, the BJP leadership initially boasted that they would still provide the government for Delhi, but when it actually came to the decision, they did not dare to come up to the platform.

AAP had already announced that it would not work with anyone’s support, and wisely made clear the minimum agreement necessary before it would work with any party. Its 18 point minimum demand is too extensive to list here, but included items which were bound to be totally unacceptable to both Congress as well as to BJP, such as: The VIP culture to be stopped in Delhi: no MLA, minister or Delhi official to use a red beacon on their cars, nor live in big bungalows or be provided any security greater than is available to the ordinary citizen; locally-relevant decisions to be taken directly by the local citizens in ‘mohalla sabhas’ in every locality and colony; complete statehood status for Delhi: the Central Government’s hold on organisations like the Police and the Delhi Development Authority to be ended; an audit of all electricity companies in the national capital from the time these were privatised: licences to be cancelled for any companies that refuse to participate; all unauthorised colonies to be regularised (thirty percent of Delhi’s population lives in such colonies); clean and affordable ‘pakka houses’ (properly built houses) for those living in slums; regular jobs for all those working on contract; roads, electricity, water and other basic facilities to all street traders; setting up enough courts and appointment of a sufficient number of judges so that all uncleared cases are dealt with within six months; and, all sexual harassment cases to be investigated, prosecuted and judgments delivered within three months.

As one person put it on an internet chat group: “AAP had guts to put conditions and its conditions are exactly the demand of people”.

Another put it this way: “I am a supporter of Congress and if they do not agree on most of the AAP’s points, I think I will have to think about realigning my support”.

I am sure the refusal of BJP to support the AAP agenda will also have led to most BJP supporters to reconsider whether their support for BJP should be discontinued.

In any case, it was clear to me and to any other clear-eyed observer that no such minimum agreement would be forthcoming (it is entirely contrary to the spirit and modus operandi of both Congress and BJP).

So it is also clear that we will have a re-vote for Delhi around the time of the National Elections – and that, unless AAP does something extremely stupid before then, or BJP or Congress do something extraordinarily smart, AAP should then win the Delhi re-vote by a clear if not outright margin.

What AAP’s triumph signifies is a shock to the entire political culture in India which has slowly declined since Independence, and became totally reliant on money- power, muscle-power and caste-based calculations.

While caste-based calculations still have some hold in the less-developed parts of the country (that is, of course, the actual reason those areas are less-developed), it is clear that their hold is declining and will soon be a thing of the past. At least if ethics- and law-based parties such as AAP deliver administrative performance that matches their promise.

Given the economic and political structure of our country, that cannot be delivered if any such party forms the government only in a few states. As the entire structure of the country is steeply pyramidal, with economic as well as political power concentrated at the top levels of the Central Government, it is necessary for such ethically- based parties also to have power at the national level.

The challenge before AAP and similar parties elsewhere in the country is that of scaling up their effort - and there are indeed efforts for such parties to come together on the basis of a minimum common agenda in order to form a united national Rule-of-Law Front.

It is already evident that many if not most eminent thought leaders from the country will be with such a front, once it is formed.

Can India move beyond the upset of the Delhi elections to upsetting the entire direction of corruption and incompetence in which it has gone increasingly in the decades since Independence? If so, it will upset many who are currently benefiting from the incompetence and corruption.

But some upsets are good ones.


For the full text of the current issue of THE INTERNATIONAL INDIAN MAGAZINE, please see

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