Millennium Post

Primer for a new political party

Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and co. now have a name for their political party. They also have a platform: anti-corruption. This piece of writing will argue how they also possibly have an idea, how not to run a political party. Their pedagogical routes to the birth of AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) have produced for them a fund of goodwill.

As a political party, they have gained more democratic legitimacy than the catch all platform of ‘India Against Corruption’ (IAC) kind, representing myriad interests and varied ambitions. Till now, the news reports have shown that they have developed a ‘constitution’ for the party, which is quite apt under the circumstances.

But they also need an ideological document to differentiate themselves from other political parties. The Congress Party’s constitution survives in its breach and its ideology means to be everything to everyone; the BJP is apparently more democratic within the party structure but often gets directives from the parent, RSS, that have to be implemented. Its ideological documentation does not help increase the breadth amongst its numbers or of its influence beyond Hindu fundamentalism.

The communist and the Left parties in the country are democratically better managed as there is at least an attempt to create rules and resolutions, which are then voted up from the bottom to the top. Even the general secretaries the highest political authority within the party, is now allowed to act alone but function through a collegium of appropriate committee members, which meet at prescribed times.

AAP’s journey can be believed to have begun with all these examples in its members’ collective minds. They would surely know that it cannot be a single issue party; and instead think of creating a broader platform that gives scope for forming a social coalition. It will also have to answer the crucial question on whether it would be a cadre-based party or a mass-based party.

The new party will also have to decide where its political centre of gravity will lie: rural Bharat or urban India. They would have to ask themselves the question: do they focus on corruption on massive scale or do they tackle corruption in everyday life of the common people.

That will lead to decide whether they will invite with open arms all those who complain about corruption and seek social and penal justice; or do they have a way of screening. One of the rules of AAP about membership has reportedly been: one could enter the Party’s fold as an ordinary member, but the ordinary member would have to wait for four months before gaining voting rights within the party.

They will have to deal with the issue of women’s representation in the party. This is particularly important in case of AAP because of a theoretical assumption often made, that women are less corrupt than men. Women also possess the requisite sensitivity to detect oppression, better than men. They too are the barometre of social inequality, even when it hides its fangs. Empowerment of women within the party and without will be a major issue. Will AAP have regular internal elections? If so, at what periodicity? What will be the system through which this voting right will be exercised? By secret ballot?

AAP naturally plans to contest in elections. What will be the method through which it would select its nominees? Will the first element of selection be electability, or efficiency or integrity? Will it thus seek to junk the oft-held belief that the corrupt are usually more efficient?

What will be its stand on bribe givers? How does it propose to raise funds?

Though some of these queries seem premature, or even felt to be not discussable in the public fora, they need still to be confronted. Kejriwal, Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav draw their strength from the corpus of socialist politics in the country. The socialists of the yore have shown that each of them individually had a high-faluting sense of personal worth that led them to prove unable to work together in the collective sense.

While hoping that AAP will not go the same way, one still needs to know whether there will be institutional safeguards against centrifugal tendencies of the leaders. Or how else it can be achieved? The key to unlocking the electoral doors lie in hands of those who are perceived to be the best who can deliver public goods and services. Each of these functions have in them the allurement of rentier relations; and as the resources for delivering these goods and services are finite, it, in turn, provides decision-makers scope for indulging in discretionary allocations. That is a power, which can test the mettle of the best intentioned.

We shall have to see how AAP deals with these realities?

Pinaki Bhattacharya is a senior journalist
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