To err and to recover

The AAP has made a few mistakes, which it must acknowledge and move on.

Written by Shanti Bhushan | Updated: May 26, 2014 8:33:28 am
AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal

By: Shanti Bhushan

The Congress has been totally decimated in the 2014 elections and there is a distinct possibility it may never rise again. But Congressmen and women don’t seem aware of what caused this catastrophe. Let them understand that it is the massive corruption that they indulged in that has resulted in their total and irreversible collapse. The Anna andolan, led and orchestrated by Arvind Kejriwal, though its public face was Anna Hazare, was the first to give vent to public anger against corruption. This was aided by various pathbreaking judgments of the Supreme Court and exposes by the then comptroller and auditor general.

It was not the BJP that carried out these exposes of large-scale corruption, including the one against Robert Vadra, which implicated the Nehru family itself.

Narendra Modi is a man of sharp intellect and a powerful orator. He immediately recognised the political potential of the momentous work done by the AAP, which smoothly emerged as a political party from the Anna andolan. With the help of huge sums of money and the RSS cadres, he launched a campaign against the Gandhi family and the Congress party. Apart from the family, there’s no leadership in the party — there are only foot soldiers who are given patronage by the high command for their loyalty. No one in the country, especially not Congress leaders, can even imagine a Congress without the Gandhi family at its head.

A leadership whose sole claim to its position is the decades-old contribution of late members of its family can have no place in modern India. Modi shrewdly reinforced this in the minds of the public by calling Rahul Gandhi a “shehzada”, while projecting himself as a former tea vendor born into a poor family. Modi, and not the BJP, has got a massive mandate all over the country, and the AAP has been humbled in all seven seats in Delhi, which was supposed to be its bastion.

Does this electoral setback make the AAP irrelevant? I certainly do not think so. The AAP represents an idea whose time has come. It is the idea of the restoration of clean politics in the country, of bringing people from all castes and creeds together, identifying the needs of different segments of society and framing appropriate policies and programmes after consulting the people so as to fulfil their needs and aspirations.

Let us also look at what the AAP, merely an 18-month-old party, has achieved in spite of what many people are calling an “electoral debacle”. In its debut Lok Sabha election, it has won four seats in a state where it had no presence until two months before the election, simply due to the twin factors of committed, hardworking volunteers from India and abroad and the complete political vacuum that the Congress and the BJP-SAD had left in Punjab.

In contrast, in its debut election in 1984, the BJP won only two seats even though it was not a new party — it had emerged as a faction of the Janata Party. No other party has had this kind of success in its debut election. Moreover, the AAP has secured 2.2 per cent of the vote share — over 1.2 crore votes across the country — even though it had meagre financial resources and was heavily reliant on volunteers. Even in Delhi, AAP candidates performed quite well. Each secured at least 3 lakh votes, and some crossed 5 lakh. However, the Modi storm swept them off and helped each BJP candidate win by a margin of at least 1 lakh votes.

The success of the AAP is only on account of the yearning in the hearts of most Indians for politics to change. Can the Modi-fied BJP effect any meaningful change? In my opinion, it can’t. Like the Congress, it is also steeped in corruption and collects funds through illegal means. It is amply evident that the BJP has spent a huge amount of money on advertising and publicity for the 2014 election.

Nobody donates thousands of crores to a political party without a quid pro quo. Even the most honest BJP chief ministers will privately tell you the percentage amount of every big deal that goes into the BJP coffers. Further, how can we expect the man responsible for showering undue favours on Adani and other big industrialists to fight against the menace of crony capitalism?

So far as uniting people of all castes, creeds and religions is concerned, a discerning observer of the Modi campaign would have heard the speeches of Amit Shah in western UP in the wake of the Muzaffarnagar riots. It is noteworthy and worrying that not a single of the BJP’s 282 MPs is a Muslim. Modi himself has continuously tried to exploit his backward caste status throughout the campaign. It certainly required great oratory skills to construe Priyanka Gandhi’s comment on “neech rajneeti” as an affront to backward castes. The yearning for a new kind of politics cannot be fulfilled by Modi and the BJP.

The AAP has made mistakes and must own up to them. Arvind Kejriwal’s two biggest errors were to sit on a dharna as chief minister and to subsequently quit without anybody bringing a no confidence motion against the government. This alienated the middle classes, particularly in Delhi. However, they will surely come back once the Modi euphoria dies down.

The AAP has to be patient. Transforming Indian politics may take time. It must concentrate on building up its all-India organisation. With the irreversible collapse of the Congress, the AAP is likely to replace it in the states in the not too distant future.

One significant consequence of the elections is that the AAP’s voice and views will not go unheard in Parliament. Each of its four MPs is highly educated and articulate. They will set new standards for parliamentary behaviour. They will never disrupt proceedings in the House or stage walk-outs on every subject. They will speak clearly, forthrightly and voice the views of the common man of this country, which the AAP seeks to represent.

Whenever the government comes forward with a good policy, they will strongly support it. However, whenever a proposed policy or law is perceived not to be in the public interest, they will stoutly oppose it by making a well-researched speech on the subject.

Let us again emphasise that the AAP’s objective is not to gain power for its own sake but to change the way politics is practised in the country.

The writer is a founder member of the AAP

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