A few days prior to the Delhi assembly elections a colleague asked me whom I would vote for.
I said, “Aam Aadmi Party.”
She then asked, “Will the party win?”
I said, “No. They may get only a few seats, or may not get any seat at all. But this is a new party, they apparently have good intentions, beyond just winning seats and coming to power. So I would support them regardless of their winning or not winning any seat.”
I believe one should vote for the party whose ideals coincide the closest to one’s own rather than the chance of winning. Frankly, I did not think the party would win a large number of seats. But I was sure it was going to make an impact. And it did. The results are there for all to see.
In the recent history India has so far experienced three major revolutions.
The first was, of course, the non-violent struggle against the mighty British Empire led by Mahatma Gandhi. The battle was staged for several decades engaging millions of Indians. Hundreds of people sacrificed their lives for the noble cause. After independence, Gandhiji opined that the Indian National Congress be disbanded. For him the Congress was founded (incidentally by an English man named Allan Octavian Hume) for the sole purpose of acting as a forum under which to fight for freedom. Once the purpose was achieved, it was of no relevance. But the party leaders had other plans. They knew the Congress party had a deep influence over the minds of the people and wanted to exploit the goodwill to remain in power. Lord Acton had said, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Gandhiji preferred to stay out of power once India attained Independence.
The second is the Total Revolution led by Jayaprakash Narayan in the mid-70s. The movement started in Bihar as a protest against the widespread corruption in the state. It soon took a dramatic turn and spread to all over India as a strong movement against corruption of the then ruling Congress party. The movement gathered such a momentum that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared an Internal Emergency and began something of a military rule. Thousands of people were arrested and put behind bars.
In the general elections in 1977, the Congress party was routed. Mrs Gandhi herself was pathetically defeated by a till then unknown Raj Narain. The non-Congress political parties had come together and formed the Janata Party which had fought against the Congress. This party then came to power. It was formed by merging several other parties, which believed in different principles and policies. Theirs was a marriage of convenience, with the sole purpose of defeating the Congress Party.
Like Gandhiji in 1947, Jayaprakash Narayan, too, preferred to stay out of power politics and left things to be handled by the new leaders. But due to lack of an effective (or having a multi-cornered) leadership, the experiment tragically collapsed and the party and the government withered away in just under three years. Mrs Indira Gandhi and the Congress Party stormed back to power again.
The third revolution, albeit in a smaller scale (at least for now) is the birth of Aam Admi Party (AAP). The party was born out of the non-political movement led by Anna Hazare against corruption. Though the movement received country-wide attention, it still remained a movement, and withered away after a few weeks. It was then that some people led by the vibrant Arvind Kejriwal realized that if one needs to clean the dirt, one needs to step into the dirt oneself. It was from this realization that AAP was formed as a political party. Once the party was formed, it had to act fast, and it did exactly that. It took part in the Delhi assembly elections.
How did AAP, a party formed less than a year ago, manage to win 28 seats relegating Congress (which ruled Delhi continuously for 15 years) to the third position with just eight seats in the Delhi elections? Remember, Congress is more than a century and a quarter old and was the main forum under which our leaders fought and won Independence from the British. The history of Congress is also the history of India’s struggle for independence. The party has been, and is, so much attached to our minds. And yet ...
There is just one reason: AAP looks and sounds different!
AAP is different in several ways from mainstream political parties. I do not consider AAP as a political party at all. It is a concept, it is a movement, it is activism to the core. None of its current leaders are politicians. They are all professionals in one way or another. They have noble intentions. They are willing to work, and even resort to activism, towards the general good of the common people. Their goal is not to come to power at any cost. This new party is the hope of the future. The leaders are ready to come down from glass houses and mingle with the common people, like you and I.
They are our voice—the voice of the frustrated people. Frustrated due to corruption, nepotism, power- and money-hungry politics, criminalisation of politics, and so on and so forth. We have been travelling through a dark and fearful tunnel for several decades. Now we see a spark of light at the end of the tunnel. No wonder we eagerly embraced and supported the movement. It is a brand new refreshing idea.
Corruption has become an integral part of our life. The ‘habit’ has gone deep into our blood. It is no big deal if one has to bribe for any, I repeat, ANY, activity. It is the norm.
During elections, political parties make several promises, development being the most common among them. ‘Development’ is a magic word which encompasses the people’s hopes and aspirations. But none, to my mind, have talked about eradicating corruption from public life. Wisely so. Because things have come to such a pass that without organised corruption and crime, no political party can exist. True, a few cases have been filed against top politicians including some ministers. Some have been arrested too. They spent a few months in jails (converted into five-star suites for them). But no organised efforts have been made to eradicate corruption despite cases involving hundreds of crores of rupees coming to light. How many of them have been punished?
If corruption could first be checked and then reversed (which at any cost is no easy task because it is so deep rooted), economic, social, and all other developments will automatically follow. Through swaraj AAP intends to bestow the common man with the power which has so far been vested with the politicians. Politicians, however, have their own interests, their families’ interests, and the party’s interests to keep. The common people, who elected them, are usually not even remembered. Till the time of the next elections, that is.
One can attribute several reasons to the phenomenal growth of AAP in a very short time such as (i) to be seen on the winning side, and AAP is now the winning party, (ii) a natural attraction towards anything new, (iii) as easy access to power and fame, (iv) a genuine inclination to serve the people and the country and to fight against corruption. The party should guard mainly against the third group. Mostly politicians from other political parties fall in this category. They might be disgruntled elements rejected or sidelined by their original party. These people will look forward to highjack the new party for their personal advantage. The unprecedented and tremendous public support is an added reason for these elements to join the party.
Criticism against the Party should not be given undue importance. These are bound to happen, when working opposite to two of the most powerful parties in the country. However, there is no doubt that the support extended to the party by the general public has got others panicked. The passing of the Lok Pal Bill which had been pending for 44 years; the Congress Vice-President’s call to eradicate corruption; his criticism of the Maharashtra government on the Adarsh report rejection; are all pointers to this fright. Welcome change, indeed. But, however, a late realisation. Late realisation that people will react, that they cannot be taken for granted, that they have grown up from being a donkey (“Public is donkey”- old saying).
It will, however, be better if AAP keeps a few points in mind. It should go slightly slow. It should not try to gobble up more than a mouthful which will choke them. While the party probably has presence in most of the states, it should not burn its fingers at the 2014 elections. It was different in the Delhi assembly polls. The party used the whole of its resources in Delhi and could concentrate in the small state. But the effort may be diluted during the Lok Sabha elections because of the enormity of the task involved. While the party should contest from as many seats as possible, it should assess its winning chance and restrict contesting from only those seats. Winning 50 out of 100 contested seats is better than 55 out of 200.
A Malayalam saying goes like this: If one eats slowly one can eat even a palm tree.
Those who criticise the party should remember that no one, NO ONE, is perfect. If AAP says it is perfect, one hundred per cent pure, etc. it is trying to fool itself. No human is perfect. No party is perfect. No organisation is perfect. Every party or individual have positive and negative qualities. Haven’t even Gods made mistakes? It is only a matter of comparison – who is better? Or at least, who looks and sounds better?
There has been severe criticism of AAP’s recent dharna. This reminded me of a few movies in different languages where an ordinary man (‘aam admi’) gets the chance to become the chief minister of his state for a day or a few days. Through extreme bold actions he fights against corruption and crime and cleans the system. I am sure people might have said, “Oh! This is a movie. Nothing like this will happen in real life”. I said so to myself. You couldn’t have hoped against hope.
But I feel this is exactly what happened in Delhi, minus the accompanying stunts and drama in a commercial film. But I, however, feel that the reason for such a huge show, the dharna, involving the whole cabinet has been belittled. Instead of asking for action against a few police officers, if the demand had been for a much bigger issue such as bringing the Delhi Police under the state, it would have been more meaningful and the criticism could have been avoided.
It may be wiser for the party to keep away from unnecessarily criticising the media. Don’t forget that the media had an important role in the phenomenal publicity that the party got in Delhi. All officers in the Delhi Police may not be as corrupt as it has been made out. But, yes, a few bad elements are good enough for bringing bad name to the whole force.
At this moment Aam Admi Party sounds and looks better than other parties. It holds a lot of promise. I hope and wish and pray that it is here to stay, it is here to rewrite the history of Indian politics, and it is here to realise the true meaning and power of democracy. I hope that this government will complete its full term of five years and make a deep and permanent impact in the political scenario of the country as a whole.
For the first time I have taken membership of a political party. I am now a proud member of Aam Admi Party. Also I shall vote for AAP in the next elections. I feel we should at least give a chance to this young and vibrant party to prove itself. Let us give them some time to sit down and relax (though they don’t seem to be in a mood to).