Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2013 > Electoral Nightmares of an NGO

Mainstream, VOL LII No 1, December 28, 2013 - ANNUAL 2013

Electoral Nightmares of an NGO

Sunday 29 December 2013

by Arun Srivastava

The former BJP chief, Nitin Gadkari, has described the Aam Aadmi Party as Right-wing Maoism. Probably through coining this phrase he intended to send the message across that the AAP was an anarchist organisation, as the Maoists are being described by them and other political parties. But sorry to say he is mistaken; in fact his attribution makes it clear that he does not know what Maoism is. Undoubtedly the AAP leadership would prefer to maintain distance from this attribute. In fact Maoism can never be a Right-wing political system. More-over while Maoism is for class struggle, the AAP is for class collaboration. And this tenet got reflected in its move to seek referendum on the issue of participating in the process of government formation.

If at all the AAP was committed to cleaning the mess in the political arena and eliminate the element of corruption which has turned endemic from the political institution of the country, it should have grabbed the opportunity to provide the alternative policy. But in contrast the AAP is for only providing an electoral alternative. During the phase of globalisation when the catch-phrase has been neo-liberal economic policies, corruption is bound to acquire a much bigger dimension. The beneficiaries of these policies are primary the middle class, who constitute the backbone, rather are the vanguard of the AAP. One ought to not forget that they are not the product of a French Revolution or created out of an industrial revolution. They owe their creation to crony capital. They crave for an ideal state. The AAP has borrowed the phrase from them and is also speaking their language. But it is an utopian concept in India. The middle class must have to turn its back on the gains of globalisation and reforms, which is not at all possible, in fact it is out of the agenda for debate. Even if we argue that in the recently held Assembly election the voters of Delhi preferred the concept of ideal state and voted for it, notwithstanding the fact that they made the BJP the single largest party, the question arises: why was the AAP withering the opportunity offered to it?

The electorate has spoken and has voted a mandate for change especially with regard to corruption, people’s economic problems and mounting criminalisation. The BJP retained its mandate in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and wrested Rajasthan but failed to win Delhi where the AAP registered a triumph relegating the Congress to a poor third place. This victory of the AAP has generated euphoria and some people have started looking at it as a revolution which even boasts that it can be carried out in other States. There is no harm in dreaming. Dream has been the mother of success. But they must realise that a revolution must have some kind of ideological orientation. It must have alter-native policies.

Winds also change direction; some time it is easterly, the next moment it is westerly. The cool breeze that swept across Delhi in the first week of December was a pleasant one and had a soothing effect but it would be utopian to believe that that would be a permanent feature. Nature changes according to its sweet will and no manmade rule or dictate can change it. Undoubtedly the stupendous victory of the AAP was a historic event and none, not even the AAP leadership, would have ever imagined it. Post-announcement of the results they might prefer to boast that they had visualised this thumping victory but the fact remains that it was unexpected. Had the leadership visualised this scenario, they would have been ready to face the situation that has arisen in the wake of the results and moved a step forward to form the government.

The reluctance of the AAP leadership to form the government made it amply clear that it lacked the moral conviction to go ahead. Behind the façade of seeking referendum they have been putting the onus and future blame on the electorate of Delhi. In case they fail to perform, they would have the option to quit blaming the people: ‘You asked us to rely on the Congress.’ This is a cruel joke being perpetrated in the name of participatory politics or democracy. The leadership must refrain from using the language of the NGOs. They must be pragmatic and take recourse to parliamentary and democratic phrases. But the manner in which the AAP leadership has been behaving on the issue of government formation makes it clear that they were not psychologically prepared to take up the challenge.

The Congress had extended support to the AAP for forming the government. No doubt it is a well-planned trap laid down by the two parties. But the AAP should share the blame for creating this situation. It is also a fact that the AAP owed a moral responsibility towards the people of Delhi to provide a government. The AAP cannot shirk its responsibility. In this back-ground Arvind Kejriwal sending a set of 18 questions to the BJP and Congress was surprising. He just wanted to create an impression in the minds of the people that he is the cleverest person, in fact the cleverest politician, in the country. Forcing President’s Rule and a fresh poll without an honest effort at government formation would be to rebuff the democratic process. It tried to change the practice of democracy from being only representative to being participative. The AAP’s decision to ally, seek support or even form the government is being decided by a referendum of sorts as it has sought to subvert the old style of politics. This move of the AAP points to the utter confusion that prevails in the party on the issue of participatory politics. What the AAP is pursuing could not at all be put under the bracket of participatory politics.

The AAP leadership should realise that the government is not an NGO and an NGO cannot run a government. India has thousands of honest and credible NGOs committed to people’s cause. But it is only the political institution that rules the country. The difference between the government and NGO should be understood. The AAP leadership intends to change the corrupt political functioning, not the base of the political system which is an integral part of the democratic system of the country. But this denial mode is simply a manifestation of the escapist attitude and orientation of the leadership. The people of Delhi have voted. Like the BJP you too could sit in the Opposition. Let there be a re-election. Kejirwal must not nurse any utopian notion about his strength and the people’s support to his party.

One small example would suffice. He should be aware of Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, the youngest Chief Minister India had in the eighties. He had led the AASU movement and in the wake of the movement he had come to power. Ultimately what happened to him? We also have the 1967 experience. For the first time in independent India the Congress lost to local regional outfits, something akin to the AAP phenomenon. But within a couple of years the scenario completely changed. These forces scattered into caste and class groups

It is an open secret that there is no unanimity on many issues within the AAP. Kejriwal must understand that the AAP was launched to carry forward the movement against corruption. It is not a political outfit. But he turned it into one much against the wishes of Anna Hazare; something akin to the Congress continuing to be a political party in spite of the suggestion otherwise of Mahatma Gandhi. Unfortunately like Gandhi to the Congress, Anna has lost his relevance to Kejriwal and the AAP. This was crystal-clear on the issue of the passing of the Lokpal Bill by the Lok Sabha. Kejriwal did not mince words in denigrating the stature of Anna while he continued to mouth that Anna was his Guru. No disciple, a Shishya, could use the language he and his partymen used for Anna.

This development showed that Kejriwal and his friends were not morally committed to bring about basic change in politics and its functioning. Truely speaking what followed over the next week was completely unscripted taking the Delhi people by shock, awe or disgust. The AAP impact, much to the annoyance of the majority, was playing out in the open even at the cost of subverting old politics.

Undeniably the result imbibed renewed faith in politics for many. It also tried to underline that idealism still has a chance as elected legislators of the AAP stuck together resisting alleged overtures to team up with other parties. People felt that an alternative model of honest politics had made an entry. There is little doubt that while the present and the future of this new political force is as volatile and unsure as its birth, it has however created a distinctive space in the political discourse. None can deny that the moral high ground adopted by the AAP, which managed to win the people’s imagination, has helped reinforce faith in the country’s polity.

But it is most unfortunate that the recent developments, actions and speeches of the AAP leadership have started giving rise to cynicism. The use of mini-referenda to decide on issues of government formation and governance could set off an unhealthy trend in democratic politics. This raises the question: would the AAP Government every time and on every issue take a major decision only after going through the labyrinthine process of referendum? Does it imply that 26 lakh people represent all the voters in Delhi? The AAP was chosen by the people who were fed up with the established parties. Are these ‘people’ qualified to make decisions on all the issues that a government will have to deal with presumably with the advice of experts? The AAP leadership must not forget that the AAP came on the scene with the promise of clean governance and to articulate the concerns of the aam aadmi.

   Kejriwal is contemplating to spread his party in other States. He is free to set up units of the AAP anywhere. But he ought not forget the harsh reality that the AAP is a product of the need of the people of Delhi. Did the AAP leadership ever thought of why the AAP or for that reason even the Anna movement could not be built up in other States? Setting a State unit with fifty persons as its members is one thing but launching a party or a movement is entirely different. Kejriwal must understand that to make impact in other States it is imperative that he should impact the psyche of the people of that State through his governance in Delhi. He must not treat the people as a bunch of naivetés. The AAP must lead by example. Only by keeping and fulfilling its election promises the party can think of an effective intervention in the Lok Sabha elections. Mr Kejriwal and his comrades must also think seriously: would the people of Delhi again repose their trust in the AAP if Assembly elections are held along with those of the Lok Sabha?

The author, a Kolkata-based senior journalist, can be contacted at sriv52@gmail.com

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62