‘We were never a force of the city-state of Delhi. For us,Delhi was a deliberate choice’https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/we-were-never-a-force-of-the-citystate-of-delhi-for-us-delhi-was-a-deliberate-choice/

‘We were never a force of the city-state of Delhi. For us,Delhi was a deliberate choice’

Yogendra Yadav spent the most part of Christmas Day meeting individuals,nearly 60 in all,involved in people’s movements across the country.

Yogendra Yadav spent the most part of Christmas Day meeting individuals,nearly 60 in all,involved in people’s movements across the country,in the capital’s Constitution Club. These men and women had been invited to Delhi by AAP,of which the academic-psephologist-politician is a key member and ideological mentor. The December 25 meeting wasn’t incidental. Among AAP’s several claims to a new kind of politics is this one — while AAP would not look for a coalition with other parties with whom it shares a relationship of mutual suspicion,it seeks to both increase its footprint and become a coalition in itself by drawing in movements so far disconnected from mainstream politics. Excerpts from an interview with Vandita Mishra:

On AAP’s outreach to people’s movements

This is not the first time that we’ve got in touch with people’s movements with a view to integrating their energies into AAP. Even before the party was formed,in August-September last year,we had similar meetings. I travelled all over the country to speak to people’s movements.

For me,these movements are important not only for the numbers they might bring but because they bring experience,leadership,skills,sense of direction,an ethical filter. A movement that grows so rapidly — as our party has — runs the risk of losing direction.

Much of the positive energy that has come in the last three decades or so has been from outside the political establishment. It has been released by people’s movements,including classic radical movements like farmers’ movements,women’s movements and green movements,those involving struggles for jan,jangal and zameen and new movements like for RTI. While the third space in India’s politics has expanded to include new issues and energies,the Third Force has shrunk in politics. This disruption of the party-movement dialectic led to a moral vacuum and the emptying of politics of real life substantive questions. It should be the ambition of AAP to be the inheritor and heir to this political space.

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On the model for AAP,and where it stands vis a vis Left and Right

We’re trying to look beyond the existing models. If I say the Left and Socialists connected to people’s movements in the ’50s and ’60s,it would be an incomplete statement because they connected only to certain kinds of movements. The African National Congress is a somewhat closer model — as an umbrella for all kinds of movements. Better models would come from a mix of movements in Latin America,Italy and Egypt.

People with conscience but open-minded to what is the best way to give expression to its voice and deeply suspicious of radical ideologies of the 20th century,the Left being predominant in them. People who are deeply agnostic in the best sense of the term. This is the ideological space we want to occupy,not the middle ground between Left and Right,but transcending this binary. In any case,the Left-Right spectrum never made sense in the Indian context. The Right cannot have a viable politics here and the Left did not have an intelligent economics.

When we say aam aadmi,it is a gesture towards the least advantaged person whose needs,interests and aspirations must guide our politics. But we must not bundle a commitment to the poor with a certain instrumentality of bringing it about. My commitment to the last person is a value,it is non-negotiable. But if someone says the public sector or subsidies are non-negotiable,they are confusing ends with means. The Left in our country must be credited with infusing democratic content in our democracy. But they also became a carrier of dead wood in terms of ideas,policies and personnel. It would be a pity if AAP were to replicate that experience.

On coalition strategy

Politics is inherently coalitional,be it within your party or with other parties. Our aim would be to turn AAP into a coalition of all those forces that represent the best in public life. We feel social movements would help us to connect to those energies and leaders that normal political parties don’t,while also expanding the talent pool. Much of the leadership of people’s movements has come from women — Medha Patkar,Aruna Roy,Pratibha Shinde,and none of them is leading a “women’s movement”.

There is no talk with any mainstream political party for an alliance. Why should they ally with us? Till yesterday,we were an unlisted firm. Why would they invest? Even today,what is our worth outside Delhi?

And it dilutes our brand. We are not an anti-BJP or anti-Congress party but an anti-political establishment party. Even in Delhi,where we have no tie-up or alliance,but because we are forming a government supported by the Congress from outside,it has hurt a section of our volunteers and supporters — 26 per cent had said no,even though we don’t know if all of them were our voters. This is a small but critical proportion of our voters who said “don’t touch them (mainstream parties) with a barge pole”. There is a deep and undifferentiated disgust. Our visiting card is we are not from the establishment. We are anti-establishment.

Also,coalition is something you get into once you realise the peak of your potential and stagnation sets in. For us,even to contemplate political alliances would be suicidal.

On 2014 and the possibility of joining the Third Force

No one in the Third Force recognises us as a player in the Third Force. And then,Third Front politics is a politics of substitutes. Ours is a politics of alternatives. Third Front politics is premised on the ideal that Congress and BJP are two evils of the polity and everyone else is a shade better. But how is the SP,RJD,TDP better? We don’t see the difference.

On the bigger enemy for AAP

At the moment,no one. For a political party,such a grading must represent the minds of the people it seeks to represent. The traction for us comes from an undifferentiated disgust — the perception that entire politics is of the same hue.

Our biggest source of strength is the fresh untapped energy that is now connecting to politics. Mostly young,and more young than any other party would have — but it is true for all new parties that they draw the young. Among our cadre,60 per cent are youngish — under 30. But many people are coming to us post-retirement. Ab main desh ke bhale ke liye time de sakta hoon,they say.

On persisting strains of anti-politics

Moving from the Anna movement to AAP,those who hated politics of

any kind left us anyway. Anti-politics used to bother me. I felt politics was part of the problem,but it should also be part of the solution. That sort of

I-hate-politics strand left us anyway. Those who stayed back did have an unease. But people learn. A lot of learning is taking place,of leadership and cadre.

On the AAP voter and Narendra Modi

In our internal poll,30 per cent of our voters said their PM choice is Modi. It used to worry me a few months back,the vocabulary of volunteers and local leaders. But when I sat and talked to them,I found it was a surface belief overlaying a deep disgust with the UPA. Modi offers a ready-made substitute to a government that has lost legitimacy,sense of direction. Modi brings energy,some sense of direction,appears to be honest.

In the first instance,substitute and alternative may appear to be the same.

The Congress is in no position to challenge Modi. But the way to challenge him is not merely by pointing to the wrongs he has been implicated in,but also by offering someone better than him. It will be possible once we are seen as a national alternative — at the moment we are not.

On growing beyond Delhi

For us,Delhi was a deliberate choice. We decided not to contest in Himachal Pradesh or in Gujarat,we skipped Karnataka. We have units in all the four states that went to polls recently (apart from Mizoram),but we chose Delhi.

We had a better footprint here,it is geographically compact,and more media dense. And there is better visibility for the Delhi message in the country. But we don’t exist only in Delhi. We have functioning units in more than 300 districts. The Anna movement was strong in Bangalore too. But we wanted a big bang,not a small voice in more places. We were never a force of the city-state of Delhi.

Outside Delhi,obviously,the issues will change. In Haryana,we will talk about farmers. As for cadres,we didn’t have them in Delhi either. In Delhi,too,we had to bridge the gap between,and connect top leadership with the underground current of support. I’d rather we’re seen as the underdog.

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Next year,we will divide our energies between Haryana and Maharashtra,both of which go to assembly polls in October. We will,of course,fight the Lok Sabha elections,but if I had my way with the Election Commission,I would ask them to postpone the 2014 polls by a year!