Posts Tagged ‘Arvind Kejriwal’

Defying the comfort of political realism and bordering on extreme populism of promising the earth, the Aam Admi Party has many of the political determinist in a state of intellectual limbo. Though so many of us continue to live in political simulation without any reality check based on credentials of our student-day readings — when theory was still not considered unprofessional part of education and yes was not optional — the emerging situation finds us excited yet disengaged. It’s like watching someone else’s fight and hoping for an unexpected result, beyond a win or a loss.

We often talk about options, and in political terms it meant different things often garbed under names of political parties and ideologies, but for most it has been about systemic change in broken fragments depending on where we live in the social and economic matrix of the nation. To some it took shape of access and mobility in aspirational virtues of  paid education, capitation fees, home etc. To others it was more basic. Almost like clinging to a string — you could read entitlements — of the massive fabric of the nation in the making, slogans and punchlines keeping alive desires of being connected with a political system represented by electoral process and netas.

The liberal, centrists and left spaces find fragments and pieces of engagement in AAP and its new-born legacy. The governance and accountability framework, the moralist stand on corruption devoid of power analysis, the promise of opening the ranks of political elites to do gooders of the neighbourhood and subverting the political system to change it — not replace it. This cocktail leaves, us political determinists, uncertain confused and enjoying the status of fence sitters.

I am plagued by some thoughts as I hear conversations around me — I have a fairly narrow and predictable surrounding of people who make living serving their passion of working in civil society, scholars working within institutions and activists.

This may border on political fiction but here it is:

The nascent history and trajectory of AAP’s political journey are mainstream and middle class agenda driven. The conversations on governance and transparency are about about affordable, efficient services and not equity that cuts across the larger questions of resources, land and social inclusion.

The support for AAP and its spans luxury car owners wearing the cap to urban poor leaving the days wage to add to the rank and file of the crowd. The key driver, however, or the vanguard of AAP is educated middle class with mixed sense of political commitments. To this class or section the agenda of entitlements, inclusion and poverty seem to far away from the priorities and one might even say untenable.

It is here that I see agenda of the temple in Ayodhya and a moralist fight back against corruption, by a class that has used and benefited from it, a diversion to what can be a broadest engagement sans systemic change or a power-shift. I remember being told point blank recently that the biggest corruption scandal underway is the sale and privatisation of peoples’ resources and taking away of assets that feed much larger majority than those debating for a particular from of growth.

Populism has mostly been an instrument of tricks than of methods in the political space for moving to a broader support agenda and based on what we have seen so far, AAP will inherit more of the old with an opening of ranks to allow the swell of new urban/middle-class/ groups into its ambit but not the disenfranchised and not the dispossessed.  In case you are wondering who does care among the political parties, the ones with base and electoral traction, about the other India, well that is precisely the point.

The emergence of AAP, its mixed legacy of anti-corruption legislation struggle, its extreme populism and aspirational slogans that promise change will hit the reality of political exigencies, of methods and not just tricks and of balancing a growth agenda with will always be narrow in its current form without a substantive agenda of change.

The search for options in Indian politics has always led us within…as voyeurs of this political change sensation, we must also remember that the adventurists have had a role. And in some ways the history is repeating itself. The space that socialists filled once,  AAP might fill in different times.