Day 13: Hope Tempered With Cynicism

…is how I would describe my own feelings towards the Aam Aadmi Party and its leader Arvind Kejriwal. I suppose election-time is an occasion for high voltage drama everywhere in the world, although nowhere is it nearly as dramatic as in our country. Events of the last month and a half, though,  have been pretty much unprecedented even by Indian standards–I would have been tempted to call it a revolution of sorts, except that I know well enough how quickly things can fizzle out here.

A fledgeling political party by the name of Aam Aadmi Party, hitherto not taken too seriously by the others on the scene, rose to power in the state of Delhi, defying naysayers and forcing everyone to sit up and take notice.

On the face of it, AAP’s meteoric rise wasn’t really surprising– Delhi  was after all, the seat of the hugely popular Anna movement, with which Arvind Kejriwal was intimately associated. When the AAP came into being in the wake of the Anna movement, it had a kind of halo of reflected glory around it. After that, it was merely a question of capitalizing on the prevailing anti-incumbency feelings in the electorate, which, to Kejriwal’s credit, he did very well and with great zeal and conviction.

What was very surprising was what happened in the aftermath of AAP’s win in Delhi– hordes of people across the country joined the AAP in the past month . These include artists (Mallika Sarabhai), journalists(Ashutosh of IBN7) and bigwigs of the corporate sector(Meera Sanyal, Captain Gopinath et al). Young white collar executives chucked their jobs to be part of this movement. The AAP’s message against corruption obviously struck a huge chord with the public –there has been a spectacular groundswell of hope and optimism across the country, the likes of which I have not seen . Kejriwal has became this messianic figure who is being looked up to by millions of his country-people as the man who will change the rules of the game forever.

The BJP, which had so far looked very likely to come to power in the Lok-Sabha elections, now feels the ground slipping under it’s very feet even as it looks on in horrified disbelief. The Congress anyway expected to face a rout, so there is not much of a heartburn in the Congress camp. And this is why I feel so thankful for the emergence of AAP–that it provided people with an alternative to the Congress , with which they were seriously fed up, without having to support Narendra Modi who a lot of people were not comfortable with.

I harbour serious misgivings about the way the AAP proposes to go about the problems facing the country. I do suspect that Kejriwal is either naiive or disingenuous, though I’d love to be proved wrong. I am very doubtful about his socialist agenda and the politics of subsidies. I am not sure he will be able to pull off what he says he wants to do. But I am thankful to Kejriwal for the gift of hope that he has given to so many people. No matter how big a cynic you are, it is difficult not to be infected with this hope. And most of all, I love it that the biggies on the political scene have some tough times ahead.

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9 Responses to Day 13: Hope Tempered With Cynicism

  1. आप यहाँ आए किसलिए?
    आप ने बुलाया इसलिए।

    I am reminded of this song from an old Hindi film कल आज और कल starring Randhir Kapoor (Karishma/Karina’s father) and Babita (their mother) and which had three generations of the Kapoor खानदान in it. Raj Kapoor and Prithviraj Kapoor too had roles to play in that movie.

    Of course the आप in that song had nothing to do with the AAP everyone is discussing today.

    I too have watched Kejriwal’s progress and have mixed feelings about this success.
    I have no doubt about his integrity and sincerity, but still doubt if he will be able to pull it off finally and become a national alternative to the BJP, Congress and other regional parties.

    Corruption is just one issue which he has latched on to and reached his immediate goal. But to capture the country, you need to strike a chord on several more. Economic strategy, foreign policy, defence preparedness, Agricultural and Industrial policies, handling extremists, handling fissiparous tendencies in our outlying states, reaching out to the far south and North East, etc. What is the AAP’s stand/strategy on all these? Do they have the talent and experience that the BJP and Congress have?

    Frankly, I would rather have a Congress or BJP minus the corruption and communalism than an AAP with no experience in all these.

    Besides, (this is trivial I admit) I somehow don’t like their election symbol.
    Left to me, I would have selected a Mango not a broom!
    Anyway, let us wish him all the best. Everyone deserves a chance.

    • LOL at the AAP songs. On the eve of election day in Delhi, there was this pic of Sheila Dikshit in some newspaper in which she was looking forlorn, unusually baggy-eyed and sleepy–with the tagline” karwatein badalte rahe saari raat hum, AAP ki kasam”!!!

      The way so many people have been flocking to the AAP, it may probably manage to put together a good talent pool. Lack of experience though is a big disability, particularly since they do not even have a roadmap in place.

    • Fem says:

      I understand the reluctance about the lack of experience, but I think a fresh perspective on the political scene is quite welcome, quite apart from the stand against corruption. If we worry about new parties not having experience, then we won’t have any new parties at all and we’ll be stuck with BJP and Congress forever.

  2. chattywren says:

    I do agree that AAP has started out with an activism angle, and wants to target rampant corruption. It certainly did start out as a compelling alternative. Not keen on its subsidy policy, approach to governance though. Nation-wide reach and presence in time for LS elections 2014 also not too sure. If Congress with AAP comes on top, it will be a total waste.

    • True. Their subsidy policy bothers me a lot. It reeks of populism which is a slippery slope at the best of times. I also agree that if the AAP and Congress join forces after the elections in order to cobble a government together, that will be the end of the dream.

  3. Sapna says:

    I so agree with you here. I am thankful for all the hope and optimism that AAP has brought and also now parties are thinking of fielding candidates with cleaner image and people are seriously talking about development among other issues.

    Having said that, I am not in favour of AAP being at the helm of affairs in the center. I don’t doubt their intentions but I don’t quite get their way of doing things. They have only one agenda corruption. Even for that they haven’t mentioned how they plan to achieve it. They are like all the other parties resorting to populist measures.

    • //They are like all the other parties resorting to populist measures.//
      You have a point. What AAP is doing is economic populism while what the BJP engages in is communal populism.The Lowest Common Denominator is the same. And all this talk of teaching people how to conduct their own sting operations is frankly quite silly.

  4. This was one of the most balanced (brief) analysis of the AAP phenomenon I ever read around!

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