The middle classes’ handmaiden
In terms of the political economy, what the middle-class across the world fears most is progressive proletarianisation. The class knows that they are perched on the socio-economic ladder most precariously. For, their disposable income and, thus theirs’ consumption basket denotes their existence as a political and economic bellwether; so important for the liberal democratic politics which pervades now.
The rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi is based on being the middle-classes’ hand-maiden. Inflation and corruption – the two issues which defined the AAP’s politics in the city-state of Delhi – caused the middle-class that has grown in significant number in the country’s capital, to issues which erode the surplus value that the class appropriates for itself. In a liberal democracy where the citizens’ get a chance usually to demonstrate their power every five years, the middle-class has understood that in the interim, they have little control on the agenda of the state, run by the elite. Thus, whether corruption or inflation, eating away their marginal earnings, instills fear in them of dropping from the perch.
So is the case with the Indian youth bulge; a large section of whom seem to feel militated only by the so-called brand-building enterprises. In a post-economic liberalisation world, where they have grown a quasi-political sense of safeguarding their self-interest that is usually defined by the length of their nose, they are seeking from a government an assurance at providing the best shot at a lifestyle they see depicted in various forms of mass media.
These twin constituencies have upheld the AAP philosophy in the recent state poll in Delhi. Not known for any particular clarity of thought about their motivations, these two sections of the larger society thus reflect a rather whimsical sense of loyalty, shifting their allegiance from one AAP to another AAP at an opportune time, when they seem a shade better in delivering the goodies for them.
The leadership of AAP including Arvind Kejriwal, Prashanth Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav, Manish Sisodia etc know this for a fact. Hence, they have created a political party that is like Yadav’s and many other’s of his ilk’s, guru Rajani Kothari termed, the ‘Congress System’ for denoting the political scene in the country in the 1950s.
A simple explanation of this political philosophy is to recognise the ‘catholicity’ of the Congress Party that was defined by its catch-all nature. So AAP does not talk about an ideology – in fact as it has shown its fundamentals a bit in the last ten days after it came to power, it appears that it revels in not being ideological – but talks about ‘solutions.’ In other words, AAP can be something to everybody and expect their support on the basis of its problem-solving ability. A big lacunae lurks in this recognition. For, the BJP and of course the Congress Party itself believe in the same set of political thoughts. In 1999, Lal Krishna Advani had famously espoused that ‘governance’ should be neutral in terms of ideology of the ruling party or combine.
Rahul Gandhi’s trysts with Kalawati Devi and his other activities of spending nights at dalit households have been in the same matrix of managerial ‘solutions’ in the corporate sense. But unfortunately for all them, running the country is not like running a corporation. A country, especially the one, that to paraphrase, Yogendra Yadav, has a state in search of a nation, requires ideology. The party or parties that can define a class being its core strength needs to be able to communicate to it in a language of an ideology, which is common to both.
Any little chinks in that armour can be visible to all, especially in this hyper-connected age. The minor but collective media and people’s harrumph about Kejriwal’s initial choice of moving into a 6,000 square feet bungalow is a case in point. While it showed Kejriwal’s personal philosophy and his party’s, it caused protestations because all of middle-class India suffer from what can be truly and fully be considered a Gandhian legacy – the politics of ‘renunciation.’ Kejriwal merited that bungalow if a question was to be posed his twin constituencies of the middle-class and youth, which put such premium on achieving heights of supposed excellence. But the toxic mixture of hermitic behaviour and class contradictions, expected from the leaders of this country, is so hypocritical, that it falls beyond the realm of materialism.
However, the dialectic this can evolve does not appear to be the ken of AAP. In the last few days, the spate of eager beavers who have lined up at the AAP offices across the country only show an entrenchment of the bourgeoisie – both big and petit – into its ranks. If the AAP has to survive this onslaught, it has to become like the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) after it allowed entry to some of its new billionaires into the party fold. The CCP, led by Jiang Zemin then, had let the nouveu riche in, but bound hand and feet by internal party regulations. Can AAP have that level of regimentation? Doubtful, to say the least.
The author is a senior journalist