Millennium Post

Welfare Politics

AAP’s political narrative of prioritising welfare schemes, as opposed to traditional ideological schools, has helped push welfare politics to the forefront of Delhi elections

With the election around the corner in Delhi, all the political parties are set for the mega show. The political narrative in India is changing over the past few elections and mostly in the state elections. With the changing political narrative across the country, we now have the Delhi election where education, healthcare, electricity, environment, sanitation and other welfare-oriented schemes are the key talking point.

The Aam Aadmi Party has a clear vision on their welfare policies and they have successfully turned this election in their favour with the narrative of "welfare schemes vs what". It is a significant change in the political space for India. It would be difficult to remember in India which was fought in the name of giving better education and health care.

To boost up this new narrative, Delhi Chief Minister and AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal has now come up with the Kejriwal guarantee card. Apart from providing 'world-class' education to every Delhi student and free health care in modern hospitals and mohalla clinics, the AAP chief promised to provide in-situ rehabilitation to slum dwellers. Besides 24 hours of uninterrupted power supply and pure piped drinking water in the next five years, the chief minister promised to continue the ongoing scheme of providing 200 units of free electricity and 20,000 litres of free water.

The AAP has promised that the air pollution would be reduced to a third and over 20 million trees/saplings would be planted to make Delhi greener. For women's security, the party has promised to provide 'mohalla marshals' which is similar to the concept of bus marshals. These marshals will be deputed in residential colonies so that women feel safe. This initiative is in addition to the ongoing projects of installing CCTV cameras and removing dark spots by putting up new street lights.

For the transport sector, the AAP promised to increase the strength of the bus fleet to 11,000 in order to augment the situation of public transport in the city and said the Metro network would be expanded beyond 500km. The free bus ride scheme would be extended from women to students as well.

The Delhi Assembly elections are considered prestigious, given that it is the national capital and the centre of the Union government. The AAP had defeated BJP in 2015 and the saffron party has been itching to wrest back power. The high-profile elections matter all the more to the BJP, which has in recent times been losing out in various Assembly elections.

In the outgoing Assembly, the AAP had won 67 seats which came down to 62 after five of its legislators were disqualified. It lost one more seat in a by-poll after the sitting AAP legislator quit on getting elected to the Punjab Assembly. For the BJP, which has been out of the driver's seat since 1998, it looks like disappointment is in store yet again. In 2015, the BJP managed to win just three seats and later won a by pol, taking its tally to four. The Congress, which failed to win even a single seat in 2015, can look to win no more than three sets in the current scenario if the results of the survey are any indication.

AAP is the only party in the recent political history of India which was not formed on the basis of caste politics or regional politics. The AAP was formed based on a bigger issue of anti-corruption but that is not the whole ideology of the party. The reason because the welfare schemes played a major role in their political narrative because they had no typical ideology to rest on. The flexibility of the AAP has caused many internal harms to the party but at the same time, it has helped them to make a shape of their politics. On the other hand, the AAP had no clear position on the left, right and centre of the politics. Some people called them anarchists, others called them the soft right and still others called them Naxals. But the reality remains that the AAP is free to move at any side.

This mobility of politics is rare in India right now and that is why despite many ups and downs, India today has an election which will be fought for better education, healthcare, sanitation, water availability and environment. If this model of politics works, then it would be a new model of politics indeed.

Sayantan Ghosh is a Delhi-based policy research fellow and a freelance journalist, who writes on the issues of governance and politics. Views expressed are strictly personal

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