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Niraja Gopal Jayal
The anti-politics of the original movement haunts the party and government.
Today, it is exactly one month since the Aam Aadmi Party leadership was sworn in as the party of government in Delhi. It has been a month in which the party has been under intense scrutiny by its admirers and detractors alike. It has also been a month in which the AAP has, frequently tripping over its shoelaces, tried to grapple with its new role as a party of government.
A month may be a short span of time in which to assess the performance of a new government, but then everything about the AAP has been astonishingly precocious. Indeed, its own chief minister has boasted that more has been achieved in the first 20 days of this government than in a similar time frame by any government in India since Independence.
The AAP’s journey from movement to party to government has been swift, beginning as a movement in January 2011, becoming a party in a year and a half, and a government a year later. In the matter of a mere three years, Arvind Kejriwal has gone from being the chief lieutenant of Anna Hazare in the India Against Corruption campaign to chief minister of Delhi.
The transition from movement to party is still unfinished, because the AAP has not yet become a political party in the fuller sense of the term. Its official objectives remain closely tied to those of the movement in which its origins lie: “Our aim in entering politics is not to come to power; we have entered politics to change the current corrupt and self-serving system of politics forever”. Its programmatic vision has yet to be unveiled; as of now there is little, beyond this critique of corruption and the idea of decentralised democracy, that can be definitively associated with it.
To some people, the arrival of the AAP signals that we are in a post-ideological phase, but this is a debatable virtue. In the absence of a clear programme, the AAP has been invested with the hopes and aspirations of very diverse social constituencies. Each of its myriad supporters has imagined the AAP in their own way, imbuing it with their personal political wishlist. When spelt out, these wishlists may, and very likely will, pull the party in different and even conflicting directions.
In principle, to have a broad coalition of social classes supporting a party is an advantage. The continued…