Millennium Post

AAP’s distance from Vande Mataram

It is worth noting that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has dropped Vande Mataram from its list of slogans. At present, these are Bharat Mata ki Jai and Inquilab Zindabad. Behind the exclusion of Vande Mataram is an evident desire to reach out to the Muslims, who are not seen to be present in large numbers in the AAP’s meetings.

This is not the only change in the AAP’s outlook. Another is its leftward tilt, which has made a commentator describe it as the Tea Party of the Left and another as being left of left. The party’s own ideologue, Yogendra Yadav, has clarified that the outfit is socialist though not ‘silly’ to dispel any misgivings about its populist approach to economics, which may also be regarded as impractical.

The leaning towards the left is significant because when Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement was at its height in the summer of 2011, the RSS had claimed that many of those who attended the crusader’s rallies were saffron cadres. At that time, Anna did occasionally show a Rightist inclination, including a muted praise for Narendra Modi.

After the break-up of the movement, however, with Anna and Arvind Kejriwal going in different directions, the latter evidently decided that a Leftist stance was preferable to a Rightist one either because of his own inclinations or under the influence of colleagues like Yadav. Whatever the reason, the swing from one position to its opposite points to an absence of firm beliefs. Similarly, the discarding of Vande Mataram is patently opportunistic. If today’s AAP functionaries had any serious objection to the chanting of the slogan earlier, then they wouldn’t have allowed it at Anna’s meetings. The absence of rooted convictions means that the AAP will remain what Team Anna also was – a mainly Hindu upper caste, urban middle class organisation without a substantial base among Muslims and Dalits. Evidently, this limitation cannot but be a hindrance to its growth as a political party, especially in the countryside. In all likelihood, therefore, it will remain an urban outfit like the Shiv Sena with an indeterminate political and economic philosophy.

If the Shiv Sena’s driving force comes from its exploitation of Marathi parochialism, the AAP derives it from a widespread public dissatisfaction with the Congress because of the latter’s failure of governance, adherence to ethical norms and the economic slump.  It follows, therefore, that if the Congress can manage even a partial turnaround in these respects, the AAP’s forward march will meet a road bump. Much will also depend on the new party’s record of governance, especially if it finds it difficult to implement some of its seemingly impractical policies, such the reduction of electricity bills by half. In the immediate future, though, it is the AAP’s idealism which will carry it through. In the event of the fall of its government in Delhi, it will benefit all the more because the belief will be that the usual suspects of the political establishment have pulled the rug from under it feet because they cannot accept its rise. The next few months will see, therefore, the major parties like the Congress and BJP formulating their tactics to deal with the new kid on the block, who hasn’t cared to hide its contempt for them because of their alleged corruption and wheeling-dealing.

The party which has been most bewildered by the AAP’s rise is the BJP.  In 2011, the BJP had jumped on to Anna’s bandwagon to cash in on the popular anger against the Congress. Even today, Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, General V K Singh and others appear to be sympathetic towards the BJP. However, the party is unable to accept the fact of the AAP cutting into its urban base in Delhi to rob it of the chance of forming a government, which, as the results show, was its for the asking since 62 of the 70 seats went to anti-Congress parties. Not surprisingly, the BJP has seen a conspiracy between the AAP and the Congress to keep it at bay. At the same time, it is uneasy about the articulation of this view, as was done by Nitin Gadkari, because any attempt to tarnish the AAP’s current pristine image can rebound badly for the BJP. Hence, the decision to dissociate itself from it former party president’s comments. The fact that Gadkari himself had left the post of president under a cloud is another disadvantage for him.

Till now, the BJP – like any other established party – had been used to recklessly flinging mud at opponents in the hope that some of it may stick because of the poor opinion which most people have of political parties. But, the AAP’s reputation as a knight in shining armour has ruled out such tactics for the present. Yet, the BJP is scared that if the AAP eats into its votes in Delhi and the urban areas in nearby states in the general election, then Narendra Modi’s chances of becoming prime minister will diminish.

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