Indian mainstream politics is at an interesting junction. The election of 2014 is going to be one of the most significant elections of the modern era and has thrown up several questions. So far the politics of India has been dominated by two parties, Congress and the BJP (In the past this has had many avatars including the Jan Sangh). Of this Congress has ruled for almost the entire period from 1947 onwards barring a period of around 10 years where the others namely BJP, Janata Party and Janata Dal have had brief reigns at governance. It is fair to say that the current generation is unhappy with the state of governance that it currently finds in this country in with corruption and bureaucracy crippling the common man.
It is in this backdrop that a revolution known as AAP has emerged. It started as a breakaway faction of the Anti Corruption movement started by Anna Hazare. One of key aides Arvind Kejriwal decided that the only way to change the system is to become part of the system and change it. Given that it came at a time when the incumbent Congress government is so besotted by scams, lack of basic governance and messiah like attitude towards general public, AAP caught the public imagination. To add to these, the debates on TV channels started to get extremely heated and political leaders cutting across political parties started appearing arrogant and overbearing making a mark on the psyche of the electorate about the political crass that is now holding the reins of the country.
The first major effect that AAP had was that it shook some of the politicians who used to make remarks such as “You can only criticize, but you cannot enter the system to clean it.” Mr. Mani Shankar (chaiya shop) Aiyar actually claims that his remark was the one that led to the formation of AAP. Probably he wants to be acknowledged as the founder of AAP. Secondly, it led a lot of politicians to drop their arrogance, at least to some extent now that the fear has crept into them that the public is no longer going for just biryani and beers, but are also starting to think about other aspects. Next up, the focal point of the discussions changed from pseudo secularism comments and “Maut ke saudagar” remarks to more meaningful governance discussions as both parties realized the only point on which they have an advantage over AAP is in experience over governance!! On all these points, AAP was a major revolutionary which fulfilled it’s claim of changing the way politics is done in India. Unlike one of the prime ministerial candidate who disowns his own party and makes statements about revolutionizing the way politics is done in India, AAP actually managed to do it.
The adulation and support that AAP received probably took AAP members by surprise. Suddenly they were the second largest party in Delhi Assembly within touching distance of BJP who emerged as the single largest party. Such an unprecedented wave for a new political party sans film stars and big political names on the one hand shook the foundations of the so called big political names. Shiela Dixit had to bite the dust after being the face of Congress for 3 straight elections. But, on the other hand, the rush of power and responsibilities came a wee-bit too early for AAP and that caused internal ripples.
So the party first took support from Congress, the party that it said it will not touch with a barge pole. The reason given by AK was that the people want us to give them a clean government and we will do it. It was clear to all and sundry who have observed the Indian politics why Congress was supporting them, but AAP decided to go forward. Immediately, the political parties and media put the microscope on this fledgling party so that they live up to the high standards and moral base that they had claimed to. AK started well by coming to take oath in a metro, but then came the bungalow issue. A chief minister staying in a bungalow is not big deal and AK could have justified it for the nature of jobs that his post requires. Instead he decided to take moral high ground, by first rejecting it, but later it was found that it was AK who had first requested for it.
Next came the ministry formation and Mr. Binny suddenly started acting wise and rebelled against the party he joined only a few months back. He was expelled from the party after a few more dramatics on this part. Meanwhile Mr. Bharti decided to act on complaints of some local people by raiding some apartments in the night. While it is laudable of government to act on the complaints of citizens, but there is a process and a mechanism for it. Raiding houses without warrants and then holding the policemen responsible showed an irresponsible streak that is high on dramatics and low on real value. The Dharnas and the protests that went on after really did not solve any problems for the Delhites. It only caused a lot of drama without any true value. At the end of the day a law maker cannot be a breaker of the law else he is no different from the current lot from which they want to stand apart!!
Then came the Lokpal Bill which was the one bill on which AK had staked his government on. Though it was delayed a bit from his election proposal, it was not as much of a delay as the Congress Party did after promising Anna. But the way the whole episode played out was a sham. Here is a government that has come up with a bill which it wants to be the law of the land. It was trying to introduce the bill in the Assembly without following the rules for introduction of such bills. Neither did it try to coordinate with the other parties to try and help it bring the bill. Instead the approach was we are going to introduce this bill in this manner and if you block it we resign. All the other parties gleefully agreed to this deal and AK has now resigned. So where does this leave AK’s original reason for taking support from Congress “People want us to give them a clean government and we will do it.” If you want to govern a state are your not supposed to have the nuances of governing a state or are you simply allowed to say I am an Aam Aadmi, so it is not my fault. I am such a small man. The question is then why take the responsibility when one cannot fulfill it.
So now the political parties can celebrate and come back saying, look you tried this new party which promised a see change, now see the change. Absolutely nothing, there is no government in Delhi and they have done what other political parties have been doing of taking support from opponents if it suits the purpose. They also have in-fighting when it comes to ministry berths. They also are unable to stand by their own high moral grounds, though they just started. So though they want to change the politics of the country, they are just the same as any other party. Additionally they too support reservations, in fact Yogendra Yadav wants more reservations for some sections, they also support Khaps and if convenient they will also meet with Maulvis during election time!! So what is the difference.
On the face of it, it does seem that maybe the revolution has fallen flat on it’s face. But that would be a wrong statement and it would undermine a lot of good things to emerge from this AAP movement. For starters, the politicians of the other parties got the scare they needed to put some control measures and bring back some level of morality and decency to proceedings. It has also helped veer the political discussion on some of the more meaningful topics and we are seeing some rearrangement of the political class with the pseudo secular tone dropping and people like Pawar suddenly remembering court verdicts.
On the other hand for AAP and other revolutionaries it is a big moment for introspection. Emotion is a very strong sentiment and it could result in unexpected and quick gains. But emotions also tend to tire individuals very quickly and hence they can change quickly. To hold on to the initial gains gathered through emotions, long term processes driven by logic need to be put in place. Emotions can build a euphoria that can place one at the top of the pack. But then once one reaches there he needs to have the logic and processes in place to build on the emotions and gather sincere respect and following. For long term success this is essential.
So to me, AAP was a welcome revolution. But whether it is the utopia which was promised or a flash in the pan, it would depend on how they move forward from here on. They have disappointed me and probably a lot of others with the way they handled the Delhi job and their bail out was more a political stroke than a real attempt at helping the Aam Aadmi. In many ways I think they are prisoners of their own success. Had they recieved a lot fewer seats and sat in the opposition, they might have been better served at the start of their political journey. At this moment their reaction was like a thin fuse wire receiving too much power and short circuiting dramatically. But I look forward to their next step, though I am sure that they are not ready to be handed over the reins of the country yet!!