Why one should not vote AAP

It is not that I dislike Congress less, but that I dislike AAP more.

Written by Surjit S Bhalla | Updated: January 17, 2014 11:58 pm
The belief in referendums is strong within the philosophy of the AAP; it seems to have a contemptuous disregard for leadership and believes that all knotty problems can be solved by a mohalla vote.  IE The belief in referendums is strong within the philosophy of the AAP; it seems to have a contemptuous disregard for leadership and believes that all knotty problems can be solved by a mohalla vote. C R sasikumar

It is not that I dislike Congress less, but that I dislike AAP more

Most of last year, until the very end, the conventional and universal belief was that Election 2014 was an old/ new two-way fight between Narendra Modi of the BJP and Rahul Gandhi of the Congress. Ideologies were balanced into their respective boxes but the weight of economic evidence at the Centre and the radically different economic performance of Modi in Gujarat meant that the odds were in favour of Modi winning the general election. Most believed that the Congress would be hard-pressed to cross a hundred seats, more than halving their 2009 tally. The BJP under Modi was likely to get 180 seats (upwards of the first opinion poll forecasts of 120 seats) and even with 20-odd seats by its allies in Maharashtra (Shiv Sena) and Punjab (Akali Dal), BJP+ would be hard-pressed to cross 200. Given 73 short of requirement, there was healthy talk of the Third Front leading from behind.

And then Delhi happened and the Aam Aadmi Party arrived on the national scene. Suddenly, the Third Front idea is no more idle chatter, but a distinct possibility. Forget the Third Front, there are many who argue that the AAP will get close to 100 seats. So Prashant Bhushan, senior member of the trinity ruling the AAP (along with Arvind Kejriwal and Yogendra Yadav), can be forgiven for indulging  in a bit of hyperbole when, on the day the AAP announced it was going to contest only 300 of the 543 seats, he proudly boasted that there was no reason why the AAP could not get 400!

The AAP party has been in power for only three weeks, but it has not been sitting idle. As befits
a national party (though at this stage strictly a wannabe one), it has made pronouncements on economics, law and order, and foreign and social policy.

The AAP has been busy — but has it been good? The party has several “natural” advantages over old workhorses like the Congress and the BJP. It is refreshingly young, modern and media savvy. The last attribute seems to be part of a well-thought-out strategy — enrol and give senior positions to journalists. Journalists control the media, and incestuous journalists are extremely loathe to criticise fellow travellers.

Possibly the most distinguishing feature of the AAP is its commitment to eradicate corruption. Though eradication may not be feasible in the short run, the goal is clearly a lofty one. Who amongst us does not want an end to petty, medium and large corruption? So one yardstick by which to assess the AAP is to see whether its policies will enhance or reduce corruption. Two policies enacted by the AAP with much fanfare and bravado deserve comment — free water below 20 kilolitres per month per household, and half-price electricity below 400 units per meter per month. Regardless of the question of who benefits or who should benefit and/ or who pays and who should pay, the most important question remains to be answered: will these policies leave corruption unaffected, increase it or decrease it? Given that the pricing of both these services is not on a marginal but lump-sum basis, the room for corruption is greater than that required for an Indian elephant to walk through. Experts throughout the ages, and importantly both within and outside India, have arrived at marginal pricing, that is, you pay more as you consume more, and perhaps pay a higher charge for higher consumption. But nobody has yet devised the AAP method of payment for water and electricity. Why not? Because it leads to distortions in pricing, which is an economically polite way of stating that behaviour will be (naturally) oriented towards greater corruption.

The social policy pronouncements are also populist and exceedingly against the liberal ethic of the middle class that the AAP party is theoretically meant to represent. And on these issues, the behaviour of the media has been less than noteworthy. When the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra asks for the immigrants to Mumbai (Bombay?) being sent back to where they came from, how different is it from the AAP call for admission to Delhi University being restricted to 90 per cent of those residing in Delhi? And how liberal or reformist or progressive is the following call by the AAP’s Yogendra Yadav to extend job reservations to castes, the disadvantaged, women and on “class”? Who are these women who are not covered under disadvantaged, lower caste and lower class? Find them.

Noticeably, the “progressive” Yadav did not explicitly specify the need for affirmative action, let alone reservations, for Muslims.
There is also the strange obsession the AAP has with conspicuous austerity. It is that I will practice nobility as defined by austerity, and it is my birthright to stuff that “knowledge” down your throat. There have been plenty of chief ministers who have practiced austerity in their accommodation, shoes (Mamata Banerjee’s slippers), wardrobe, government cars, etc. The media never thought it newsworthy to highlight such noble behaviour before. Why the need, or what’s the motive, to glorify the AAP?
And there is the audacious and arrogant attempt to pronounce on policies not even indirectly under the purview of a chief minister. Prashant Bhushan (third member of the triad ruling Delhi) asked for referendums to decide both whether the army should stay in Kashmir and whether extra police was necessary in Maoist areas. This belief in referendums is strong within the philosophy of the AAP; it seems to have a contemptuous disregard for leadership and believes that all knotty problems can be solved by a vote — worse, should be solved by a mohalla vote. The new AAP membership form will state: Only Bean Counters Need Apply.

To this long list of policy actions by the AAP, a new one is added every day. Vigilante justice. Vigilantism naturally arises when law is deemed ineffective. But civilisations eschew vigilantism because once one crosses that bridge, one falls off the cliff.

There are at least 10 questionable policies and/ or policy pronouncements that the AAP has made during its three weeks in power. It has been extra bold in making its presence felt. The fawning and pseudo-liberal media and intelligentsia thinks it should be given more time. When I directly questioned Yadav about the unthinking nature of their water policy, he confidently replied that not only had the party thought about this policy for a year, but also had inputs from several committees and well wishers and mohallas.

I believe he is speaking the truth — which is why I strongly believe that the excuse of “too little time in which to judge the AAP” is inapplicable to its policy decisions, direction and ideology.

Make no mistake about it. What you see is what you get, and will get, from the AAP. Which is why I have come to the following conclusion: If you put a gun to my head and said “Choose between the Congress and the AAP”, I will unhesitatingly choose the decrepit, corrupt and failed Congress party.

The writer is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory firm, and a senior advisor to Zyfin, a leading financial information company

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First Published on: January 18, 2014 12:24 am
  1. S
    Sri
    Jan 19, 2014 at 10:08 am
    Why is it wrong to fight corruption in all walks of life? Why is it wrong to support austerity in politics? If the police are ineffective why is wrong to suspend them? Yes they are a new party and will make some mistakes in the language but their actions are honest and well meaning. You seem like an intelligent man Mr Bhalla but do you have a hidden agenda?
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      Archana Das
      Jan 20, 2014 at 6:23 am
      In democracy, we have to tolerate Bhalla's jhalla
      Reply
      1. R
        Ramyavaran Vasu
        Jan 18, 2014 at 9:20 pm
        Well said Surjit and the country will soon witness the real face of these Leftist Arvind
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          sm_krishnan
          Jan 18, 2014 at 3:48 pm
          At last some one from the media with guts to call a spade - spade !
          Reply
          1. V
            Vinay
            Jan 18, 2014 at 2:34 pm
            You are right. Congress is bad, AAP Is turning out worse. Time to defeat both congress and AAP conclusively
            Reply
            1. M
              Murthy
              Jan 20, 2014 at 2:49 pm
              "Not that I dislike AAp, but that I don't like it" will be more apt, to put it in the words of Shakespeare in "Oto". AAP is ambitious and tries to fly everywhere even when their wings are clipped. My fascination for the party has completely vanished and I am sick of their "holier than thou" atude. It is this kind party and performance, which, indirectly helps the Congress in the following election with a false hope that there is no alternative to it!
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                Ajay
                Jan 20, 2014 at 11:00 am
                Saty: AAP buffoons maybe media savvy but do not have any fresh ideas as they also believe in racism, vigilante justice, reservation system and giving out doles. nothing new or fresh YAWN!!!!
                Reply
                1. T
                  Tom
                  Jan 18, 2014 at 1:53 pm
                  stupid article by a stupid person! AAP belongs to common people and not to the cl which author belongs. People have made up their mind to bring change in this country through AAP,
                  Reply
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                    Ramesh
                    Jan 21, 2014 at 9:06 am
                    Lol, this was even *before* they started their drama of protests for suspension of three police officers.
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                      ajit
                      Jan 21, 2014 at 11:03 am
                      100% true..
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                        ajit
                        Jan 21, 2014 at 11:21 am
                        For suspending 4 police men which denied to follow a minister's unlawful, in human, against women order.. Now even the CM of the AAP is blocking Delhi residents life..
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                          ajit
                          Jan 21, 2014 at 11:19 am
                          If you ask to vote for marriage age of a prominant minority community to their mohalla sabhas they will vote for 10 or 11. If you ask to vote for a separate country creation for some the state based on religion and language the mohalla sabhas in that state may vote in favor of a new country...if you ask to vote for a the uniform of girl student in a high profile school in delhi the so called mohalla sabhas may say only panty and bra (its done for fun once..you can see in net)..if you ask to vote for a hindu candidate in a UP muslim dominated village, not even one percent will do that...Ultimately the ruler which people selected by casting vote should be able to decide what is good for people, unity of the country and humanity , he should not follow a particular crowd's shoutings. How can you say it is delhites selection of choice when only 10 or 15% of total potion voted in your sruvey.. I am sure God will save Delhites and India from the evil hands of AAP...Anyway I left AAP from day before yesterday. We have heard some of your leadrers old speches in teliviosn which what they consider as women even a nurse and no action taken from AAP ( Only Man (Admi) party). It is worst than any other political parties in India.
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                            ajit
                            Jan 21, 2014 at 10:05 am
                            The problem lies in the top 4 heads in AAP are already long time friends (as already told by their own MLA)and act like they are not knowing before..it is a well planed strategy to get in to power showing the fault in existing system and from the first day itself seeing that they are totally doing against what they told previously..an politically not intervened police..now should follow oral order of a minister and his so called honest followers!! and also stand for women safety which forcing women to urinate in public and goons of the minister running behind women which minister decides himself as prosutes (###).. and now they says police no need even warrants to arrest a women or to go to a home which only women staying..
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                              Ajit
                              Jan 21, 2014 at 10:01 am
                              The problem lies in the top 4 heads in AAP are friends from childhood and it is a well planed stratagy to get in to power showing the fault in sxisting system and from the first day itself seeing that they are totaly doing against what they told priviously..an inipendant police..now should follow oral order of a minister and his so called honest goons!! and also stand for women safety which forcing women to urinate in public and goons of the minister running behind women which minister thinks prosutes (###).. and saying now police no need even warrants to arrest a women or to go to a home which only women staying..
                              Reply
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                                Amit
                                Jan 20, 2014 at 4:11 am
                                may be it is difficult to like anything when you have periods.
                                Reply
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                                  Arvind
                                  Jan 22, 2014 at 4:29 am
                                  Still requires proof. Besides a witch hunt does not benefit the people
                                  Reply
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                                    Arvind
                                    Jan 22, 2014 at 4:33 am
                                    The congress scam went to the scamsters. AAPs 200 crore goes to the people. Big difference
                                    Reply
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                                      ankit mrankitanks
                                      Jan 18, 2014 at 8:28 pm
                                      can you be patient atleast till they come up with a manifesto?
                                      Reply
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                                        Suresha
                                        Jan 20, 2014 at 5:30 am
                                        Absolutely, look at you, for sure you will not like AAP, and your euphemistic antonym, "It is not that i dislike CONGRESS LESS" clearly shows you in proper light Surjit, whoever you are!
                                        Reply
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                                          Rajesh
                                          Jan 18, 2014 at 12:49 pm
                                          A nice article bringing to light the short sighted thought process of the AAP leaders.
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                                            BAPTY.s Seshasayee
                                            Jan 18, 2014 at 10:49 am
                                            Mr Bhalla,i have seen your tv programs & personally appreciate your views & ideas.,& your way of analysis. a small request you are delving into a very important aspect for the nation & giving your comments on parties & our elections.i would suggest & request if you could make your language simpler & easily understandable for supporting your views.i for one is ABJP/ MODIJI MAN and have very little confidence in AAP ETC, with no experience nor credibility. thank you.
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