INDIAN Political scene, even though fractured and patchy, is acquiring
a shape of sorts. The emergence of the Aam Admi Party (AAP), founded
by NGOs, sneeringly called the johlawalas, has changed the scene. It
has provided the much-needed alternative to the Congress and the
Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) which are the same wine in two different
Regional parties, which have a sway in the states, look like the
biggest losers. Their appeal in the name of language, area or religion
has lessened in effect. The success of the AAP in the Delhi assembly
elections has hit the polarization the most that the party has
transcended caste, creed and such other considerations.
When both Congress and the BJP admit that they have to learn from the
way the AAP has come up, they should transform themselves. Yet they
remain the citadels of status quo. Whether the AAP has the Marxists
and Naxalites within its ranks does not matter as long as they are in
tune with the people’s aspirations. Ultimately, the test is how soon
the AAP eliminates poverty which encompasses half of India’s
population even after 67 years of independence.
One thing sure is that the Left has been trampled upon mercilessly. It
is a loss, no doubt. But the communists and the nascent Socialist
Party have to blame themselves because they are no more tethered to
the grassroots. Espousing the cause of progress and egalitarianism
cannot be confined to slogans or rhetoric. The AAP has come out with
an agenda and time frame for uplifting the lower half.
When the communists could not improve the quality of life in West
Bengal in their 35-year-old rule, they have proved that the Marxism of
their type is only a veneer of progress. Scratch their skin, they are
found part of the establishment. What they could not do—arouse the
poor to have their say—for decades, the AAP promised to do in about 12
The two main parties, Congress and BJP, are like mahants in temples.
They have learnt nothing, forgotten nothing. Instead of correcting
their policies, they consider the AAP an aberration or a bubble which
will burst by the time the Lok Sabha elections are held this April.
They are mistaken because the party has caught the imagination of the
people and it has spread like a wild fire. Lakhs of people who have
joined the AAP show that.
The manner in which the wave of Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime
ministerial candidate, has waned indicates that he does not command
the crowd he once did although media continues to play him up. That is
the reason why the RSS is frantically telling the BJP to stop the AAP,
not the Congress, which has been its opponent for years. The attack by
the leaders on every step the AAP takes in governing Delhi confirms
the perception that the Congress has slipped to the third position.
The Congress has reportedly come to the conclusion that it should
unofficially support the AAP to stall Modi. It also means that the
Congress has realized that it cannot come back to power. In fact, it
may try to marshal the different parties in the states along with its
own strength in support of AAP to form the government at the centre.
The Congress will leave no stone unturned to keep Modi out of power.
The most disturbing aspect of political scene is the corruption. Both
the Congress and the BJP, the latter especially, have no hesitation in
getting the support of tainted leaders. The Congress refuses to take
action against Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbadhra Singh who
allegedly favoured a company in which his relations have a large
number of shares. Modi, otherwise talking about cleanliness in public
life, retains in his cabinet a minister who has been convicted by the
court. Both Bihar’s Lalu Yadav and Rashid Masood of the Congress
ceased to be members of parliament as soon as they were convicted.
Why the BJP is shielding the convicted members in Modi’s government in
Another disturbing feature visible is the personality cult. The
democratic polity is sought to be changed to the presidential form.
Modi is to blame the most because he has raised the slogan of a strong
man and a strong government. A ruler, who presided over the massacre
of his own citizens some 12 years ago, can be dangerous to the dissent
that the constitution guarantees.
It is not surprising, however shocking it is, that the police refused
to register a First Information Report (FIR) against Modi at
Ahmedabad. The snooping scandal which implicates Modi in having a girl
under surveillance raises many questions. An FIR is in order to
determine the truth. A centre-appointed commission may be able to dig
it out. But the state machinery is not willing to cooperate, as is
obvious from the attitude of the local police.
The Congress should have seen through Modi’s game to convert the 2014
elections into a clash of personalities, not of issues. But the party
is guilty of projecting Rahul Gandhi as if the contest is between the
two. Rahul Gandhi is too often speaking on important policy matters
and having the government’s decision reversed. One example is that of
the ordinance to save politicians from the Supreme Court judgment that
a legislator would cease to be member once he is convicted.
Yet another issue is that of the housing scandal in Maharashtra. Rahul
Gandhi has partly retrieved the Adarsh Housing report which was
rejected by the Congress-led government in the state. Still the
politicians have gone scot-free. Only bureaucrats will have to bear
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal should realize that the AAP
government is not coterminous with him. Strange, he retains 16
departments. The Janata Party in the wake of a movement by Gandhian
Jayaprakash Narayan did not last. But it saw to it that there would
be no emergency. Democracy was deeply entrenched. If the AAP could
clean the system and makes sure that it stays that way, this will be a
great contribution even if the AAP does not last. EOM