Millennium Post

Time to walk the talk

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi has been in power for more than a fortnight now. Like any new government in the seat, the minority government led by Arvind Kejriwal and supported by the Congress from the outside, has been catching the eyeballs and getting the due media space. Like Kejriwal, Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government in Rajasthan has occupied office replacing the incumbent government.

She too like Kejriwal is attracting media attention. However, there is a difference between the two. The government of Delhi has so far been unable to unfold its plan for governance and it looks preoccupied with furthering its image of being a party with a clean image whose heart beats for the people. Nobody should grudge any effort by any political outfit for clean politics.

However does the desire for clean politics lead to lack of governance? Ordinarily it should not, as efficiency in governance can come only with a high degree of honesty. A government which is bedevilled with corruption cannot be efficient and it shall fail to deliver on the people’s expectations.

Therefore to deliver on his promises, Kejriwal has to deliver on the promises he made in the 71 manifestos, one for the each of the 70 constituencies and one for the state of Delhi. The challenge before Kejriwal is not to establish his image as a pro-people honest politician. He has come to power riding on this perception. The challenge before him now is to deliver on the promises he has made in his manifesto.

In matters of public administration, its general understanding that populism and good governance do not go hand-in-hand. When the government comes to power, its supporters put numerous demands on it. It’s not necessary for the party in power to meet all the demands, right or wrong, of its supporters at one go. The government of the day has the responsibility to act in the manner which would help govern the state. The attempts at rabble rousing indulged by the AAP government in the past few days, unfortunately, brings back the images of the early years of Lalu Yadav government in Bihar. The Rashtriya Janata Dal leader too for many months as chief minister lived in a peon’s quarter allotted to his brother on the campus of Bihar Veterinary College. When his family finally lost power 15 years later, the chief minister’s bungalow on Anne Marg in Patna had a personal stable and a pond with most delectable varieties of fishes.

This is not to suggest that the AAP or Kejriwal would go the Lalu Yadav way but certainly his early days in the office do make one recall the images created by the product of another iconic anti-corruption movement led by Jay Prakash Narayan against the Indira-Gandhi-led Congress government. Lalu Yadav lost the historic opportunity to introduce social justice in the backward state in real terms despite his party getting three-terms in office.

Arvind Kejriwal may not be so lucky. He has come to power espousing issue based and not identity based politics. The issues need to be addressed. The voters have become both demanding and ruthless as their expectations have been raised. Despite voting Sheila Dikshit to power for three consecutive terms on the development agenda, they most ruthlessly removed her from power on the issues of price rise and corruption. However, this is not to suggest that people who come to power through public agitation cannot govern. We have examples of Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi in Bihar, who together gave one of the finest state governments in the country, making Bihar among the better governed states. They both were the products of the same public movement as Lalu Prasad Yadav.

In an era when the media and several other research organisations regularly compare the performance of the state governments, the Kejriwal cabinet in the national Capital would be judged against the parameters of policy planning, formulation and its effective implementation. Its ability to create opportunities for a stampede outside secretariat would be sniggered at. He has a fine team of officers at his disposal and the task for him is to harness their potential.

The biggest challenge before any democratically elected government is to insulate its decision making process at the government level from the influence of party workers.  This is not to suggest to jam the process of feedback but one must keep the micro political interests at bay in deciding the macro matters. However, the way AAP volunteers have taken over the offices at Players’ Building; it has created an unprecedented system where the access to the government is being vetted by the team of volunteers, which has the possibility of creating alienation.

Kejriwal would have to ensure that he governs through the machinery he has inherited and try and improve and strengthen it. Any attempt at replacing the officialdom with the team of volunteers would only weaken governance. As the AAP leader himself has averred that there are good people everywhere, he should attempt and involve these good people in officialdom in matters of governance.

Kejriwal has been part of governance process during his years in bureaucracy. He has been part of NGO sector for several years. These have given him enough exposure to the strength and weaknesses of governance process. He has come to power with loads of good will and a clean slate. The stage is set for him to deliver; he cannot afford to not deliver.

The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post
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