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Thursday, December 26, 2013

AAP: The Road ahead...

Now that Arvind Kejriwal and his party have bitten the bullet and finally agreed to form government in Delhi, the question in everybody’s mind is what next?

I had met Arvind for dinner at a friend's place almost 10 years ago and he was idealistic then too. But not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I was meeting the future Chief Minster of Delhi. 

I personally supported AAP and was also a contributor to the fund raising by his party. Many of my friends and colleagues wondered and asked me the reason for supporting AAP. Their question was very pertinent – What is it that you want in Delhi that AAP will do and the other parties have not done?

When I pondered over the question, my immediate, on the spur answer that would have been  "development", did not hold valid. Development in Delhi has happened irrespective of the party at the helm. We, sitting in Delhi, crib but just stepping out of Delhi will give one the idea of what a privileged lot we Delhiites are. We get almost uninterrupted power, most parts of Delhi - at least the authorised ones - get water, the roads are by far well maintained, we are close to having a robust public transport system in the next three years, there is proper sanitation and the list can go on and on... 

So why AAP and not the regular political dispensation?

Well, I did not have a proper answer but I still wanted AAP. It is like a whiff of fresh air, true they still seem too idealistic in  today’s time and people believe they have a magic wand, they speak a language which nobody else speaks. Their idealism strikes a chord with, I guess, every well meaning Indian.

The deciding factor is the feeling of empowerment that people in Delhi feel today. For the first time perhaps, they have a class of politicians who belong to the common class. The people of Delhi believe that the elected representatives of the AAP party will actually be their representatives and not their lords and masters. 

A true example that I heard today was when one young lady of 22 yrs was assaulted in Mukherjee Nagar Area and the police refused to file a FIR. The husband who resides in Pitampura area called up the MLA of Mukherjee Nagar (who was not known to him, but whose number was on the AAP website) and the MLA immediately went to the Police Station and forced the SHO there to file a FIR.

These are however lofty benchmarks for the AAP party and its supporters to uphold. Only time will tell whether these incidences where just a flash in the pan or it is something which will dictate the political discourse in the future.

The days ahead for AAP are going to be challenging, indeed daunting. The biggest being that there is only one  Arvind Kejriwal. The others faces are known yet unknown. Most of those who have supported AAP have done so because of Arvind. Would I have voted for say Manish Sisodia or say Prashant Bhushan were it not for Arvind? - Very unlikely. So the question before Arvind and AAP is how to build the next level of leadership and how to give the organisation a shape. The beauty of AAP lies in the chaos, the spontaneity and the unstructured form of politics. However if AAP has to increase its geographic footprint and go national, then these are the questions that have to be resolved.

Many AAP supporters believe that it is going to be a cakewalk in rest of the country. The belief has also led Arvind Kejriwal to announce that AAP will fight the Lok Sabha election in Gujarat against Modi. This could be very ambitious and a dangerous strategy. To fight against Modi is not going to be easy, more so because I believe that Gujarat will vote for him whole heartedly for the fact that they would want one of theirs to be the Prime Minister.

I think AAP is on the right path of going National because their ideas have universal appeal. Also unless they go national, they will fall in the trap that other regional parties have fallen – being confined to specific territories. However, they will have to have a more definitive approach to issues besides the Corruption plank if they want to fight the Lok Sabha poll. Unlike the local elections, National elections should be fought on a policy plank which covers larger National and International issues e.g. What is AAP’s stand over the ongoing India – US diplomatic row over strip search of an Indian diplomat.

They will also have to project other people who the public can trust as much as they trust Arvind Kejriwal. I am sure Arvind Kejriwal who is as astute as anyone else will already be weighing these in his mind. We wait to see what will come out of his fertile brain.

I must admit he is right in at least one aspect that people of India are looking for a credible alternative which can really empower them or at least leave them feeling empowered!!!

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