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Issue No.: 560 | February 2014
 

Can the Aam Ami Party bring the change?

Nitin G. Raut
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Populism is not a substitute for statesmanship and subsidies are no panacea for economic development. Both have played havoc with the Indian economy.

On 25th December, 1991, in his last address as the President of the U.S.S.R. Mikhal Gorbachev said "The Society was suffocating in the vice of command bureaucratic system, doomed to serve ideology and bear the terrible burden of arms race. It had reached the limit of its possibilities. All attempts at partial reform, and there had been many, had suffered defeat one after another. The country was loosing perspective. We could not go on living like that. Everything had to be changed radically.”

India also needs the ‘radical change’. The change was eagerly looked forward to in 1977 Janata Party rule. Expectations were raised in 1989 under V.P.Singh. And now it is the Aam Admi Party [AAP]. Every election appears to be a season for anti corruption conundrum.

The emergence of AAP as the second largest party in Delhi in the December 2013 Assembly elections may not have eclipsed the spectacular performance of the BJP but it has certainly created a stir in the Indian politics. A corrupt and a tainted Indira Congress (IC) will have nothing to loose with AAP’s onward march but a resurgent BJP will have reason to be wary of it. Can AAP’s performance in Delhi be an indicator or have any domino effect? And will there be a change?

Déjà Vu?

The formation of AAP and the Janata Party has some striking similarities. In the early 1970s, the Nav Nirman Movement formed the nucleus of the anti-corruption agitation. Following Jayaprakash Narayan’s [JP] clarion call against corruption and Total Revolution, the foundations of an apparently invincible Indira Congress were shaken. As JP’s movement gathered momentum, the Allahabad High Court judgment unseating Indira Gandhi for electoral malpractices lead to the imposition of Emergency. Democracy was crushed. Opposition leaders were gaoled, press muzzled and Fundamental Rights suspended. Out of such political convulsion and under JP’s moral leadership the Janata Party was formed by uniting the fragmented Opposition parties – Congress (O), Bharatiya Jana Sangh, S.S.P, the Swatantra Party and the Congress for Democracy. It dislodged the IC in 1997. But what followed thereafter will hopefully not be the script of the AAP.

The AAP is also an inadvertent spin-off of Anna Hazare’s anti corruption crusade. Demand for the institution of Lokpal received massive public support. Coupled with the horrendous rape of Nirbhaya and administrative callousness, it triggered a spontaneous and massive public outcry. Although Anna Hazare had no political motives, his protégés like Arvind Kejriwal, gauging the anti-Congress mood, seized the opportunity to lunch AAP by tapping Anna’s goodwill. 

Falling into a Trap

For AAP which made anti-corruption its political mission, the logical corollary would have been to shun any association with the IC. Following BJP’s refusal, for AAP to form a government with IC support – outside or inside, conditional or unconditional – is fundamentally flawed and instantly raises a query. Can corruption be fought with a party AAP accused of corruption? Can AAP implement their agenda of instituting inquiries against Congress ministers of Delhi? For AAP to say that any move by IC to pull down AAP will expose the IC is to beg the question whether AAP is so naïve to be ignorant of IC Machiavellian politics. AAP has mounted a tiger that will be difficult to dismount without being bruised and battered.

The IC has a notorious track record of instigating political instability when not in power. In the post-Emergency following infighting within the Janata Party, Charan Singh lured by the IC with a Prime Ministership, bit the bait. Allowing him to get the coveted crown and to fulfill his ambition of making a speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort, the next thing the Congress did was to pull the rug under his feet. The AAP in its quest for power has conveniently overlooked the IC game plan and has also compromised its core objective of fighting corruption. AAP has not only overlooked that as a second largest party it does not have a mandate to rule, it has compounded its credibility crises by accepting IC support. If that is not enough, many discarded and disgruntled elements of other parties are flocking to AAP.

It is also doubtful if AAP, which is essentially an urban phenomenon, can replicate Delhi where Anna Hazare’s crusade and Nirbhaya’s rape provided a constituency and a reservoir of foot soldiers for AAP’s dramatic doubt. In Mumbai the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena have a strong social and political base which even the Congress has not been able to dent. In Tamil Nadu the game of political musical chairs is the exclusive monopoly of Dravidian parties. The bipolar politics in many other States will also test AAP without Anna Hazare’s patronage.

The first act of AAP in Delhi to slash electricity tariffs and provide 720 litres free water to each house has generated the same euphoria that Akhilesh Yadav, as young CM, had when he assumed the reins in Uttar Pradesh. Today UP has become a lawless state where while Muzaffurnagar burns, Akhilesh Yadav and his Samajawadi Party revel in Bollywood festivals at Saifai. It appears that modern day Neros are in every Party.

APP’s economic policy is anybody’s guess. Populism is not a substitute for statesmanship and subsidies are no panacea for economic development. Both have played havoc with the Indian economy. Just before 2009 Parliamentary elections, UPA nonchalantly waived Rs. 60,000/- crore farm loans. Whom it benefited was never disclosed? How its distribution was done or audited, nobody knows. In any event, who gives the elected the right to fritter away tax payers money? In a "Quick Editor” (Mint 2.1.2014), it was revealed that the UPA in the last decade has splurged Rs. 11 trillion on subsides, the beneficiaries of which were the big farmers (fertilizer) and middle class (fuel). The editorial lamented that if the amount had been invested for roads, schools, hospitals, irrigation and perhaps even for environment and clean energy, the impact on the economy would have been salutary.

AAP’s concealed Marxist oriented economy will even turn the clock backwards. It has consciously avoided articulating it for fear of alienating the middle class and urban voters. The AAP is perhaps deluding itself by indulging in theatrics of using social media to gauge the response for its government formation in Delhi. Was it a people’s ‘mandate’ the AAP was seeking or just pretence to deflect the accusation of taking support of a corrupt Indira Congress? Did IC not describe Anna Hazare corrupt from head to toe? If AAP considers itself as conscience keeper does it not owe an explanation for taking support of   the IC? 

The AAP brand of participatory democracy may have been possible in city States like Rome and Athens but cannot work in a large nation like India. Such process will not only be abused, but will lead to chaos and anarchy. Prashant Bhushan, the AAP member’s suggestion that a referendum be held on the issue of deployment of the Army is not just trivializing grave issues of national security but also reflects political immaturity. If self-declared results of public opinion and referendum become a practice, it will make a mockery of electoral democracy and degenerate into an instrument to subvert legitimate authority or corner power by undemocratic means.

Delhi may have inspired AAP to go national but can AAP make the change? Can it make a breakthrough in the complex permutation and combination of caste regional and linguistic vote banks? AAP is aping the IC in targeting Narendra Modi but it will lack the cutting edge given AAP – IC proximity in Delhi. It will lack conviction on the issue of corruption and may even boomerang on AAP. 

In 2014, more than the Parties, it will be comparative preference of leaders heading the Parties – BJP by Narendra Modi, AAP by Arvind Kejriwal and Congress perhaps by Rahul Gandhi – that will count. Personality factor is bound to overlap and transcend Party lines. Modi has had a head start. AAP can give a run for their money, and Rahul Gandhi by all accounts is in a dilemma to follow the AAP or the IC.

The AAP’s show has put the nation at a critical cross road. If AAP had the foresight it would not have joined IC. By doing so it has put itself on the cross roads of principles and promises. In Delhi it has clearly compromised on principles of anti corruption. The IC is on an irreversible decline is may prove to be a Trojan horse for AAP. IC has also become Achilles’ heels of AAP. For the IC, AAP is a merely a game changer to outwit Narendra Modi and the BJP. The chaos at the Janata Durbar of AAP showed that it is easy to make promises but difficult to deliver. Utopian ideas have its limitations. AAP has trapped itself in the world of Alice in Blunderland.

NITIN G. RAUT is an advocate by profession and a member of the Editorial Board of Freedom First, Email: nitingraut@gmail.com
 
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When Ambition Mocks his Useful Toil

S. V. Raju
 

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The Aam Admi Party (AAP) - the New Neo-socialists !

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Can the Aam Ami Party bring the change?

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Is This India’s Spring Revolution?

H. R. Bapu Satyanarayana
 

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