Monday, December 30, 2013

The Rise of AAP

First let me take some credit for myself  - for rightly predicting a rise of a political force after the Anna Hazare movement in 2011. (

I am also glad, I used the word "Catalyst" - meaning Anna Hazare would facilitate a formation without being a part in it.

Now that you are impressed - let us get going.

The rise of the AAP is simply spectacular. Historically, a rapid rise of a political power in Independent India was always due to a larger than life image of its leader. NTR and MGR are notable examples. They were people from the screen. The face recognition was there., and they capitalized with a favorable personal image. The next line of new netas where mass leaders. They came out of  vote bank politics. They adhere to their base (religion, caste) for their political ascent. L.K Advani, Kanshi Ram, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lallu Yadav are notable examples. In both cases, unlike the AAP - the leader was bigger than the party. The rise in AAP however is amazingly different. AAP was more or less a leader-less grouping to start with. It was a group of people who reflected a big section of Indians - who were upset with the status quo of the political apparatus in the country. The frustration and anger at established political parties and their unwillingness to change., and the peoples sorry state of helplessness - were fundamental reasons of the formation and rise of the AAP. When they decided to contest the Delhi state elections., we all knew it is going to play a role. But it was difficult to predict that they would win 28 seats. As the campaign got into momentum it was successful in convincing the people of Delhi that they were honest and more importantly - one of them. Because it was their first election - the people in other parts of India had serious doubts about their survival. The Delhi results were stunning. The BJP not able to get a majority on its own was a blessing in disguise for AAP. This new party suddenly in lime light now. The phenomenon has evolved., and it took just over a year. Unlike the film stardoms or vote bank political leaders, the AAP leader, Arvind Kejriwal is still very much unknown even today across the country. The principal he stands for are getting noticed. His involvement and evolvement as the face of AAP is tremendous progress. His name is not "pronounceable" to most south Indians like me. (Before the NDA PM's name hit households repeatedly in south India, there were times when you asked who Vajpayee is - the immediate question is - in which film has he acted?) His simplicity and thought process looks promising.

Now that the Delhi government is in place, it is time for AAP to give good governance. It does not have to be a perfect government - but should be vastly different from current establishments. The Congress would support the initial vote of confidence. With a heavy defeat, the wounded grand old party is looking to save its face. It is highly unlikely it will withdraw support to the AAP., even if it means its targeted for corruption in the 15 year old Sheila Dixit government. So I believe AAP party is here to stay in Delhi government at least till the Lok sabha polls. BJP would function as an opposition and blame the AAP, even if something minor goes wrong. It too has the may-election in mind. It will try not to spoil its name and would just concentrate on the Modi magic somehow take it home to 272 seats. So for now it looks - the BJP would be a silent opposition for the next 6 months.

Arvind Kejriwal oath taking was impressive. The symbolism of taking the metro to get to the swearing-in ceremony has been well received across the nation. Also having it in Ramleela maidan was symbolic too. Unlike the crackers going bizarre and people in white and white netas running in their scorpios, safaris, Benz and BMWs with a hooligan crowd dominating the proceedings  - this gathering was different. The speech by Arvind Kejriwal was also impressive. He made people take a oath that they would not give or take bribe. No political leader has done that in recent memory. At least we have someone who talks about it. The common man is looking forward to it.

There are low hanging fruits that can be done without much effort. They are not controversial., but will have deep impact on society. It is also positive step to ban all the red-beacons and personal security to people. They are completely useless and in more than one way "spoils' the society and the perception of a politician. We have got to realize that no one needs a police security. Why in the world you need a police personnel coming around you when you are walking or riding in a car - where everybody goes in the road? It is not that they are going in a dense forest with wild animals around. It is really ironic that elected law makers, even village chairman go in fleet of cars. Not sure - when it got introduced., and people started accepting it was OK.

AAP effort to tackle this menace and identity itself with the common man is unparalleled to ethics of other political parties. The introduction of Lokpal is next goal. This should reflect Zero tolerance for corruption in public offices. System in place to report bribe seekers. Strict punishments to start with immediate loss of Job. Heavy fine and jail term., if proved guilty. It should also Increase fines to abnormal levels. Even petty traffic violations., should cost lot of money to the people. This will fund the state's coffers and judiciary. Strict enforcement of law and order is vital and the whole system has to change.

On the government financial level, it should concentrate only on Bijli, Sadak, Paani, Education and Health. Reduce ALL unwanted expenses of government. Ban ALL subsidies that goes to people of age 15 and above., and age 60 and below. Only Children and old people should be entitled to government subsidies. Also streamline taxes. Make them low and simple in procedure. Tax consumption but not income. (We got rid of the British because of taxes.)

AAP with its media hype surrounding it should not play into their hands. The time has come to leave the camera out and do efficient governance. They don't have to be sitting there and clapping for every move. And more importantly the government doesn't have to impress the public every single day. All that matters is a systematic change for a better livelihood for the people. Three months from now, if the people of Delhi see visible improvements in how the society operates - that would be the only gauge to measure the new government's success.

There is a charge against AAP - that its pursuing the now outdated communist ideals. Personally I do not think so - but there is a feeling its going to shower freebies on the poor and going to tax everyone else for it. Since the movement identifies itself with the common man - and the majority of the common man are poor - policies needs to be done according to reality. Arvind Kejriwal I believe understands that. But at the same time - it is not possible the government can supplement their hard work. The nature of the society has to evolve such that everyone can get a job and pursue a living with hard work and make a decent wage with basic freedom. The government should try to create this kind of society. Flushing out free rice, wheat, bulbs, saree, dhoti, television laptops (by the way - have no idea how this benefitted) etc. is just repeating failed policies. It will only make poor people worse off.

The AAP government seems to be on-ground and getting its act together. Let us wait and watch and see how they are able to make it better. A long way to go.

What would be AAPs strategy for Lok Sabha has become the next point of interest. I will not be surprised if they pull north of 200 seats with the current momentum in place.  The party has left the nation guessing on this. Unlike Delhi, the rest of India is lot different. Delhi being a small state and fully urban - AAP mode of reaching to the people has clearly worked out in its favor. This approach cannot be replicated in the entire nation simply because of vastness of the country and its diversity. More importantly - with just six months away for the election. Just wonder - if India had a presidential system - Arvind Kejriwal would definitely become President. (Even Modi or Rahul Gandhi would agree!) With representative form of government still in place - the number of MPs is what matters. AAP needs to employ a different strategy. The following are some options that they might consider.

(*) Contest ALL seats and hope for the best.
(*) Contest realistic seats only - say 150 seats (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and other urban cities)
(*) Contest realistic states - say 150 seats (Delhi, Maharashtra, UP, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu)
(*) Align with parties like Lok Satta and create a genuine seat sharing agreement in some specific states.

I am not going to guess any more - let AAP surprise us more.

With the rise of AAP - both the national parties in the Congress and BJP have been left thinking. Congress is the worst hit. Poor assembly election results have exposed its vulnerability in the national election. Modi - who until now seemed to have capitalized on the anti-Congress feeling in the country is suddenly feeling just not strong. The assembly election results have proved that people are against the Congress. But if there is a non-Congress, and non-BJP alternative - then people would opt for it. This is where AAP filled the vacuum in Delhi. This is a good news for AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu and the YSR Congress's Jegan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh. With current mind-set of anti-Congress and anti-DMK (with multiple scams to its name and the perceived vision of not doing enough in the Sri Lankan war against tamils) AIADMK should sweep the state. Modi is not a factor in the state, I believe. (goes back to which film he has acted!!)

 The rapid rise of the AAP is because of "lack of will" in the Congress government at the center particularly in the last five years. In UPA-1, the policy hurdles and lack of major progress in decision making was pin-pointed to the Communist parties in the coalition. But the UPA-2 was without them. Congress had a better margin of seats. But the complete lack of will in the part of the government to enact strict / ground breaking laws really cost the party. They could have changed the face of the society by vital reforms, such as Lokpal and would have taken 100 percent credit for it. Rahul Gandhi coming out now and pointing out the problems is probably too little too late. The government underestimated the anger of ordinary Indians., who were suffering because of lack of change. In India - the so called spring Arab revolution did not topple any ruling heads, but it created a new wave of leaders to lead this nation to a better destination. At last we see some light. Power was lying on the ground for someone to take it, and AAP took it. Good Luck AAP.


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