President & Group Managing Director: Dr.Shelly Ahmed | Editor in Chief & Group CEO: M H Ahssan

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Focus: AAP’s Political Expansionism In Public Morality Wrap

By M H Ahssan | INNLIVE

INDEPTH COVERAGE The idea of revolution to clean India’s politics may excite only the innocent. Experience tells that in spite of valiant efforts by previous anti-corruption crusaders, such as JP Narayan in 1970s and VP Singh in 1980s, India’s politics did not undergo any substantive change, except for throwing up a new generation of politicians. 

Each time corruption and poverty issues were successfully deployed for the regime change, however, neither the politics of the country nor the state of India’s poor showed any qualitative improvement. Aam Adami Party (AAP) led anti-corruption protests in Delhi too were built around the revolutionary idea of Vyavastha Parivartan whose real life interpretation ended up creating more problems than solving. 
Moreover, Delhi’s poor received nothing more than the satisfaction of experiencing the excitement of protests. Considering the post-Delhi AAP progression and the slips that Kejriwal has courted there are already signs of creeping cynicism about AAP’s strategy to produce anything tangible besides protesting. 

Aam Adami Party’s strategy of political expansionism in morality wrap through protest marches built around accumulated frustrations of decades of India’s underclasses may help the party to earn an image of a watchdog outside as well as inside the Indian Parliament if they win few seats. 

However, this role was already being played by India’s Left Parties with reasonable sincerity. Moreover, India’s multi-party democracy always carried that inherent quality of throwing up checks and balances. Therefore, AAP’s politics of public morality with verbal attacks on corruption and poverty without creating an evidence of delivery with integrity runs the risk of leaving behind greater disappointment than the politics of known and established cheats. 

At stake is the trust of a billion ordinary Indians who desperately need a deliverer of tangibles to bring about some qualitative improvement in their lives. Unfortunately, at this point of time, it is not Arvind Kejriwal, especially after he squandered an extraordinary opportunity to set the most needed example of public delivery with integrity minus power pretentions himself in the national capital, something that he has been demanding from others and now promising to bring in the national politics.

National sentiment and the quintessential enemy
India’s Aam Adami, the ordinary masses, wholeheartedly supported Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare when they led the struggle to make black money in foreign banks and corruption national issues. Most of them also backed Kejriwal when he decided to float a political party to fight corruption. 

Not power, it is Vyavastha Parivartan that is our aim, he said. The idea of using the national sentiment against corruption to gain power in the national capital to set an example of public delivery with integrity minus power pretensions was noble, even if not entirely new.

In 1980s, VP Singh had last shaken the national conscience momentarily by making kickbacks in the Bofors gun deal a national issue. Still earlier, in 1970s, JP movement had catapulted the national politics briefly, thrown up a generation of new leaders, and then faded away. While some people made political careers, the fundamental issues of corruption and poverty persisted. 

In the post-liberalization period, while the scale of corruption scandals grew bigger with each passing year, poverty, particularly over the last decade, increasingly became a game of political expediency and intellectual self-aggrandizement with constantly conflicting numbers and confusing definitions.

It was not a surprise when a variety of disparate groups with varied expectations flocked around AAP in Delhi, the biggest among them was of those living on the socio-economic margins of the city, who were not quite sure whom to hold responsible for their everyday struggle for basics until they were told it was corruption. They needed an enemy and they got one, and the experiment for change in Delhi began under the cameras.

Delhi’s experiment with alternative politics and delivery with integrity
AAP leaders were excited with the support they were getting in the street protests, but had their doubts about the same translating into votes. Holding on to their activist streak they refused to be treated as the traditional politician who, as they argued, was power hungry, greedy, manipulative, cunning and with no concern for the peoples needs, particularly the poor. 

To strengthen their image of the ordinary, they were walking in public, using metro and autos, having their meals amidst the raging crowds. The experiment for change was progressing all right until the election results catapulted AAP into the second largest party within few months of its conception.

No one wanted to be seen as becoming a hurdle in the way of the experiment for change, not even the established political parties given the impending national elections. Like never before in India’s political history, the necessary political support to allow AAP to form the government in Delhi was given without being asked and the political support was accepted by AAP from Congress Party in full public denial. 

Delhi was determined: If change is what we seek, we have to begin from somewhere. Kejriwal became the somewhere point of Delhi. Considering the fractured mandate, overnight transformation was not expected but an evidence of sincere attempt was a must. It was time to unpack the promise of public delivery with integrity and the idea of Vyavastha Parivartan.

The social activist vs the politician – the battle within
The victory was also a moment for Kejriwal to make a choice between remaining the determined social activist who advocated public morality and only reluctantly accepted the political role to unpack his Vyavastha Parivartan and set an example of change and becoming the full fledged politician with expansionist designs and aspirations open to real politick as and when required. 

It also meant making a choice between keeping the focus on Delhi and creating evidence of public delivery with integrity to whatever extent possible or using Delhi’s response in media-led excitement to expand the scope of the experiment for change nationally. Kejriwal chose later. Delhi and its electorate were reinvented as an instrument to fulfill expanded aspirations.

Public morality, ambition and the first slip
The forty-nine days of AAP Government that followed was less about governance of Delhi but more about being seen as governing by playing on public morality with clear aim to hit the national scene. The mid-night vigilantism in Delhi’s neighborhoods, the Delhi Cabinet-led protest marches, the mindless and indiscriminate accusations, the hurried file-based policy decisions without implementation concerns, etc. were aimed at building argument in favor of their social commitment using the city that was already relegated in their scheme of things. 

Interestingly, the AAP victory in Delhi triggered the first slip as the genuine social activist turned politician in self-denial (Hum satta ke liye rajneeti mein nahin aaye. Hum to Vyavastha Parivartan ke liye aaye hain), emboldened by his victory, shifted his domain from Delhi to India. Instead of doing Vyavastha Parivartan in Delhi, Kejriwal preferred to talk about the same nationally.

Corruption, compromise and the second slip
AAP’s politics of basics did not need to be coherent – left, center, right or any cocktail worked. In Delhi, their focus was the Congress Party that was in power at the Center for the last ten years and in Delhi for fifteen. However, once Kejriwal decided to go national, he publicly declared corruption, the sum and substance of his protests, as lesser threat to the country than communalism. 

Furthermore, the politics of basics was turned subservient to the singular focus on politics of Gujarat’s development model, industrial growth, agriculture and mal-nutrition that Congress Party had been trying hard to counter BJP with. The second slip came when Kejriwal decided to become the vehicle for Congress’s agenda without any hesitation. 

In fact, quite surprisingly, Kejriwal’s Vyavastha Parivartan and Rahul Gandhi’s Changing the System mean exactly the same, except that one prefers Hindi and the other English. While Rahul has offered some details, Kejriwal has not unpacked his Vyavastha Parivartan.

Incoherence, self-obsession and the third slip  
After raising hopes in Delhi and staging a calculated walk out, AAP has now moved on to attack corruption and poverty across the country. The Vyavastha Parivartan signifying public delivery with integrity minus power pretensions will now wait until after the national elections, of course, subject to the outcome. 

In the meantime, Kejriwal’s list of the corrupt has now included select media houses as well. His standard one liner is now upgraded: Sab chore hain, Sab jail jayenge, Media-wale bhi. Also, after a three-days road show in Gujarat, Kejriwal’s latest obsession is Modi with whom he wants to tag himself to attain immortality. 

However, Kejriwal’s third slip comes from the way he has tried to belittle the Gujarat Chief Minister who has steadfastly fought his battles for over a decade with evidence of delivery and won four assembly elections in a row, while he himself wriggled out of the responsibility of Delhi’s Chief Minister-ship in straight forty-nine days by inventing a reason that truly was not.

The AAP progression in the last few months including the slips they have carefully courted indicate the dynamics of multi-party democracy where revolutionary ideas such as Vyavastha Parivartan can be grossly misleading, particularly for the ordinary masses who at the end are still found struggling for the basics of life.
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