Turn on the TV, flip the pages of any newspaper or any current affair magazine or walk the streets of Delhi, one thing that you are bound to notice these days is a lot of noise about the Aam Aadmi Party. Some call it a corruption brigade while others term it anarchist. But needless to say, the AAP effect is seen everywhere. Is AAP here to bring a political revolution? That’s the question even the current ruling party has no answers to. But they have been able to form a government at Delhi and this feat for a party that was formed in late 2012, speaks in itself that AAP has the potential.
In terms of how important this topic is, any topic that has anything remotely to do with AAP is a burning topic this year. So, before I take you to the positives and negatives of AAP, let us in brief talk about its history and some dates (there aren’t many). I know most of us already know this, but please bear with me. It’s a short and interesting read.
The origin of the AAP can be traced to a difference of opinion between Arvind Kejriwal and Anna Hazare, social activists who had both been involved in “India Against Corruption” movement in 2011-12. Hazare had wanted to keep the movement politically neutral but Kejriwal considered that direct involvement in politics was necessary because attempts to obtain progress regarding the Jan Lokpal Bill through talks with existing political parties had, in his opinion, achieved nothing.
Hazare and Kejriwal agreed on 19 September 2012 that their differences regarding a role in politics were irreconcilable. Kejriwal had obtained support from some movement activists, such as Prashant Bhushan and Shanti Bhushan, but was opposed by others such as Kiran Bedi and Santosh Hegde.
On 2 October, Kejriwal announced that he was forming a political party and that he intended the formal launch to be 26 November, coinciding with the anniversary of India’s adoption of its constitution in 1949.
The party name reflects the phrase Aam Aadmi, or “common man”, whose interests Kejriwal proposed to represent. A party constitution was adopted on 24 November 2012. The party was formally launched in Delhi on 26 November 2012 and in March 2013 it was registered as a political party by the Election Commission of India. The party’s first electoral test was in the 2013 Delhi legislative assembly election, from which it emerged as the second-largest party, winning 28 of the 70 seats. With no party obtaining an overall majority, the AAP formed a minority government with conditional support from the Indian National Congress. Arvind Kejriwal took office as Chief Minister of Delhi on 28 December 2013.
So, from “nothing political” in Nov 2012, AAP has managed to form a government at the capital of India. But with this feat, comes a lot of controversies around AAP. Let us take a look at the plus-es and minus-es of this party. I am sure you know all the points already; I have just summed them in one place. It is going to be a long one, but please also look at the importance of the topic!!!
POINTS IN FAVOUR:
A political relief: A section of Indians, who are sick and tired of the corruption and Hindu-Muslim politics of mainstream parties, such as the Indian National Congress (INC), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the likes, see the AAP as a breath of fresh air and a ray of hope. AAP, with its refreshing ideals, is setting the rules of the game for others to follow. The rushed passing of Lokpal Bill on Dec 18 by the parliament is an example of how even the ruling parties have come to acknowledge this change. Some agendas like Right to Recall a politician in power, Internal Lokpal in the party (working. Click here for example), Political Decentralisation (Swaraj) can all help root out corruption completely.
Transparent Party Funds and Donations: The party is against any form of black money usage. All donations are posted online immediately. All the donations above 50,000 need to come with a PAN card. AAP does not take money from corporate honchos. Political parties are funded heavily by certain corporates and wealthy and numerous unaccounted donors. The seed money for most political parties is black. Once accepted, the political parties have no choice but to do as their investors order them to. AAP is free from such pressures. It has, so far, collected about Rs.67, 000,000 post Delhi Elections and this information is publicly available.
Political Decentralization: India is a huge country with dialect changing every 50 KMs. Having a pan-India scheme is the easiest way for the government to waste money. Something applicable for Nasik won’t even apply in Mumbai, forget Chennai! Instead of these schemes, AAP would be sending the money directly to the Gram Sabhas (for example). Now this is where decentralization comes into picture. The local body, compromising of all the citizens of the area will now take the decision on how to spend this money. This is one of the goals of Aam Aadmi Party – to give the power back in the hands of the people of India; in other words, SWARAJ or self rule. With citizens using the money of their own taxes, and everyone involved in the process of decision making, the chances of corruption would hit zero.
Against VIP culture in Politics: With a few exceptions, the so called VIPs have made sure that there is a clear divide between the people and their representatives or that they are superior. Roads are blocked and jams are created for the sake of a few. AAP is against this. This is picked directly from AAP’s website “No MLA or MP of this party will use red lights or any other beacons on his or her vehicles. No MLA or MP of this party will use any special security. We believe that elected people’s representatives need the same security as a common man. No MLA or MP of our party will live in opulent and luxurious government housing.” Even Rajasthan CM decided to cut security for MLAs and ministers.
Fair ticket distribution: Today, election tickets are being given to those who are either loyal or close to or family members of the existing leadership. We have seen goons and sycophants come into the governments. In AAP as well, any citizen of India can apply for an election ticket, provided he has written support from 100 people of the area, but the applicant needs to be completely forthcoming about his income sources and judicial cases. The selection is done after thorough screening. Also, No two members of the same family will be eligible to contest and become members of the Executive Body. The AAP effect is seen when Rahul Gandhi recently pushed for more transparency in poll ticket distribution.Commendable Post-election work: There is no news in the media of how the winning parties are performing in other 4 states (You forgot Mizoram) where the recent elections were held. The fact that AAP is treated special is because it has brought a sort of a political revolution with its revolutionary post election work. Within just a month of government formation in Delhi, a lot has been achieved. Some of which are 20kl free water, 50% subsidy in electricity, banned vip culture, simplification of vat, stricter punishments against nursery schools asking for donations, anti-corruption hotline, abandoned buses converted into shelters for homeless, stopped all constructions on Yamuna river bed and there have already been an announcement to make all contractual posts permanent.
Bad Economic policies: How can AAP afford policies like providing free water to all, instead of focusing first on fixing distribution leakages or improving overall availability of water through universal metering of all water supplies? How can AAP oppose foreign direct investment in the retail sector in the economic environment that prevails in this country today? How can AAP reduce power tariff by half to please the common man, without undertaking a proper audit of the actual costs and revenues of power distribution companies?
The same common man will turn against the party when such economically imprudent policies over time will deny him uninterrupted power supplies. AAP clearly needs to rethink party’s economic policies.
Short Lived says History: History is a proof that whenever a new government is formed as a consequence, it doesn’t last long. Looking for comparisons, old-timers recall the Jayaprakash Narayan-led movement against Indira Gandhi’s Congress that eventually led to the imposition of the Emergency in 1975 and the formation of the Janata Party. There is then the V P Singh-led movement against Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress and the Bofors deal. In both instances, a new government was formed as a consequence. The Janata Party trounced the Congress in 1977 to form the short-lived government led by Morarji Desai. And in 1989, V P Singh led a coalition of parties to form the National Front government, which too had an even shorter tenure of a little less than a year
No respect for Law: High on self-righteousness, AAP minister, Somnath Bharati (also Delhi’s current law minister) violated all laws and basic decency recently by rounding up and humiliating African women in the middle of the night in south Delhi. A law minister took law in his own hands by saying the police was doing nothing about the alleged drug and prostitution racket. Does that entitle them to enter women’s homes without a search warrant and, worse still, at night? This type of vigilantism gives indication that AAP will take form of a fundamentalist party, for whom every government office/officer is corrupt and inactive, a dictator of moral policing. There were many other ways in which a law minister could have handled this issue. The National Commission of Women (NCW) is rightly to have demanded his resignation.
Immature supporters: On Jan 22, ‘Main Bhi Aam Aadmi’ campaign boasted of crossing 50 lakhs members. But if these member’s and volunteer’s jottings in Facebook and other websites are anything to go by, they abhor complexity of thought, an engagement with ideas, and particularly, a reference to political history. They represent the alarming anti-intellectualism of a section of the middle class, and are, in all likelihood, students or products of engineering and management institutes (lol) whose biases have remained intact in the absence of an exposure to liberal streams of thought. If the core sensibility of AAP will be driven by these majority members, it will lead only to anarchy and more efforts will be required to handle this anarchy than corruption.
Immature Leaders: AAP, specially its current face, Arvind Kejriwal, needs to realize that the days of the protest are over and now it’s time to govern. Creating chaos in the capital by staging his sit-in at Rail Bhawan for suspending 5 police officers, causing traffic snarls and indirectly bringing to halt 4 metro stations is not governance. That is abdicating governance. Not just their leader, the senior AAP leader Prashant Bhushan favored lifting of AFSPA from Jammu & Kashmir, saying it alienates people and gives immunity to the army in human rights violations. Of course he had no idea how sensitive the issue of Kashmir is and how essential AFSPA, 1958 was for the national security and still is. These leaders lack experience, but moreover they lack the vision to govern. There is no long term policy and things like running a government cannot happen with “go with the flow” attitude. Government cannot be run from the streets.
Impractical Ideology: Most of AAP agendas are highly impractical. The no security for AAP ministers makes the governing members highly prone to terrorist attacks, who are looking for just the opportunity to strike. For every little matter of governance, you cannot go to the people and conduct opinion polls. The concept of “Janta Darbar” cannot work in a populace country like ours. Rather than controlling the nation, we are looking into a situation where we might have to vend off resources to control AAP.
Very High Expectations: It’s not the dissident voices from within the party, such as that of Vinod Kumar Binny and Tina Sharma who seemed to be disgruntled for not getting posts of power, nor the ambitious new recruits in other parts of the country who are speaking out of line, that will discredit AAPs rise, but the inability of the AAP top leadership in regulating its growth that ordinary people in Delhi have set off. Now, they have a double burden of meeting the sky-high expectations that they themselves had set in Delhi, and scaling up across India to fight in over 400 Lok Sabha seats. For an urban mass movement of common people, with an organizational history of less than a year, this is unreal and absurdly ambitious.
If a litmus test was needed for the impact of the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party’s victory in Delhi, it can be found in how political leaders across India are now falling over each other to show that they’re ‘somewhat common’ too. For once in Indian politics, it has become fashionable to be ordinary. So the effect of AAP on Indian politics is clearly visible. However, only good intentions and neat candidates are not enough to root out corruption or bring Swaraj. India’s diversity, caste equations, social engineering, and parliamentary structure may not allow something as dramatic in such a short period of time. Leading a nation is a big dream to work for and without a long term and feasible plan; it would create anarchy over disappointment of the masses, who are currently enjoying the winds of change but inexperience cannot be used as an excuse for long.
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