Millennium Post

Politics and votebank

For many aam aadmis, Arvind Kejriwal was their big hope against corruption and towards good governance. But once in power, he betrayed his people and played petty vote-bank politics, much like the other politicians he had so criticised.

While Arvind Kejriwal’s stubborn defence of Somnath Bharti’s illegal and racist attempts at vigilante justice against African women and Kumar Vishwas’s racist comment on nurses from Kerala were widely reported, the outgoing Delhi chief minister’s support for khap panchayats was sidelined. Yes, people are writing about how in his politics, women’s issues have been sidelined. But it is his support for the khap’s diktats – which are often shocking and shameful, and range from banning women from wearing Western clothes and using mobile phones to ordering the killing of young couples – that has hit women’s groups (especially those who want khap panchayats
dismantled) the most.

In India, politics has forever been about the vote-bank. That means, politics has always been aimed at helping those who are having some problem with the normal course of law and procedures. Politicians, by promising to help such people, by circumventing the law and bringing new laws/policies, have gained the votes of these groups.

Be it plans to set free the killers of a former prime minister, be it khap votes, be it minority votes or be it the votes of those who do not want to pay electricity bills – few bother about civil society, which actually has no onerous problems with the law and does not want any special favours. Civil society primarily comprises the middle class and upper-middle class, and all they want is clean governance.

For the first time, thanks to the Aam Aadmi Party, this civil society felt disencumbered, that it had a party of its own; and in Kejriwal’s noise about corruption, his vote-bank politics was hidden and no one took any particular note of it. Kejriwal’s party may be named after the aam aadmi, but his Delhi success was thanks to the middle class and upper-middle class – that is, those who form the civil society. They voted for him en masse. Every seat that had a concentration of lower income votes was more or less lost by the AAP.

But let’s analyse the message sent out to the civil society and the youth by Kejriwal’s antics of turning governance into a circus. His reckless resort to dharnas, calling himself an anarchist, and non-stop loose talk only made people wonder if he governance or gimmickry was his plan of action. It was almost as if Kejriwal wanted power without responsibility, leaving the civil society wondering if he even understood the magnitude, maturity and sobriety that must come with running the government. He actually became the rare chief minister who disrupted public life in his own state!

In fact, the manner in which he tried to smuggle in various AAP cadre into hospitals and schools, by abolishing the Rogi Kalyan Samitis and intimidating professionals, shows a totalitarian mindset, earlier experienced only during Communist rule. His Delhi Nagar Swaraj Bill proposal was one of the most totalitarian ideas. If that would have become law, then every locality of Delhi would have had their local committees selected without any constitutional election process. His idea of giving power to mohalla committees who could decide on policy issues, and would even have the power to punish government officials, is as anti-democratic as it can be. However much we all want the corporate-political nexus to be exposed, Kejriwal’s tactics of serial character assassination and the First Information Report he filed against against Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Veerappa Moily also didn’t go down well with civil society. These looked random, illogical and hastily self-created excuses to leave the government. The subsidies on power and water bills to citizens who did not need them and the wasting of public money on subsidising, in effect, his party workers who did not pay electricity bills, also hasn’t gone down too well with the civil society.

Moreover, the AAP, its ministers and government spokespersons have set uncomfortable examples for civil society by constantly heckling, using violence, abusing and deploying foul, ill-tempered and toxic language at various platforms, including, before the media. This has subsequently made the civil society – that trusted AAP so much – believe that the party was never serious about solving the people’s problems.

Kejriwal’s feudal mindset of summoning the public for a so-called durbar, like a Mughal Emperor, and then escaping from there when the crowds proved unmanageable, has left a bad taste with many concerned about the disastrous consequences, had a stampede or mishap occurred during the event.

All in all, one thing is for certain: The civil society and the youth are dissillusioned with the AAP, and the fact is that they had trusted it. Kejriwal had that historic chance of being a leader for the civil society. Instead of talking about growth and development, he massacred that huge opportunity by sloganeering about good governance... and in effect, not even doing that.

And now, women are getting equally disillusioned with the AAP, thanks to the way African natioanals were treated and due to the AAP’s support for khap panchayats. Having lost the civil society’s confidence and trust, the question remains: Will Kejriwal now succeed in the battle of vote-bank politics that he has already started indulging in? There are more capable players in that arena.

The author is a management guru and director of IIPM think tank
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