Because Delhi is not India

The new dispensation headed by Arvind Kejriwal, president of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), is taking over as chief minister of Delhi on 28 December 2013 and this is for the first time that a non-Congress and non-BJP government is taking over the reins of power in the national capital, albeit with the support of the Congress. The victory of AAP in the recently held elections to the Delhi state assembly has been instrumental in envisaging the rise of a new phenomenon in party politics in contemporary Indian polity.
The AAP is an offspring of the social movement built on the anti-corruption plank. Political groupings or parties emerging from social movements have to tread a cautious path for sustenance by adhering to the very ideals cherished during the course of the movement. Even a slight deviation from the
chosen path can put the cart before the horse.

Undoubtedly, the AAP’s success can be interpreted as having transcended the barriers of caste, class and community, which have been the traditional trade mark of political system in India. Besides, the AAP’s candidates have uniformly won from middle class colonies as well as from poor segments of Delhi society and they have been a beneficiary of the prevailing mood in urban Delhi. However, Delhi is not India and feasibility of AAP strategy at village level may not cut much ice in rural India.

Whether the AAP’s emergence could spell the beginning of the end of politics segmented along caste and community lines in the countryside is anybody’s guess.

The AAP victory can be construed as an articulation of symbolic reaction to the traditional politician and therefore could unfold new political norms and standards in other parts of the country; subject to its sustenance in the turmoil and turbulence of Indian politics. Some skeptics have dismissed the AAP’s role outside Delhi, though it has already established units in over 300 districts of India.

The Delhi election can catalyse the rise of a new force nationally, which may entail the potential of preventing the Modi juggernaut in its tracks; however, it can happen only if AAP succeeds in delivering some of its promises before the 2014 parliamentary elections.

The emergence of the AAP has seemingly been an unexpected phenomenon for the mainstream parties and the media, especially in an atmosphere where the dominance of elections by the money and the muscle power of the professionals has been a regular feature. The AAP has reaped electoral dividends on the basis of tall promises made in its manifesto and owing to regular grassroots linkages with the masses. The realities of living the real political life are coming in due course for the AAP leaders once they assume power.

The common man’s ‘connect’ with the AAP has been based on many promises made by the party because those promises have been exploiting the common man in the name of fulfillment which never was in the past and the courage of AAP to focus on them elicited it whole-hearted support from the
common man.

The AAP cannot be expected to be a harbinger of ‘Indian Spring’ like the Arab Spring, because it is an urban phenomenon whereas bulk of India’s population resides in rural areas where socio-economic, cultural and political ethos is entirely different from the Metropolitan ambience. Broadly speaking, the emergence of the AAP is not a unique phenomenon in Indian politics. The emergence of Janata Party in post-Emergency period, Telegu Desam in Andhra Pradesh and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) in Assam and V P Singh’s Janata Dal has been the past precedents and these political groupings also emerged from the movements, but their survival was transient.

The fall of Janata Party could be attributed to inner groupism, infighting, witch-hunting and half-hearted approach to fulfill tall promises it made to the people. N T Rama Rao’s Telegu Desam had a far more impressive debut winning a massive majority in its first attempt; however, it remained confined to Andhra Pradesh in spite of its short-lived ambition to transform Telegu Desam into Bharat Desam. Similar had been the case with AGP in Assam and Janata Dal of V P Singh.

The stunning debut of the AAP may have set a challenge for the national and regional parties if they are faced with an AAP alternative, they would have to be more careful about the kinds of candidates they would field in the electoral fray. The national political parties cannot be expected to overhaul their political ethics overnight and the well-entrenched vested interests and steel framework of bureaucracy may dislike to part with their clout, power and privileges thereby thwarting attempts by new dispensation in that direction.

The author is executive editor, TV Today
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