AAP Halts BJP Advance in Delhi

Over a year ago, I had written on Kafila about the (Ir)resistible rise of Arvind Kejriwal,  a phenomenon thoroughly misread from the beginning to this moment, by free radicals and Left devotees of Congress-style politics. Taking the risk of saying ‘I-told-you-so’, some lessons need to be underlined, learnt from the political developments of the last three years. That post said – referring back to the days of the Anna Hazare movement (itself dubbed reactionary, casteist, even RSS-sponsored and fascist, by pundits of all hues) –

But here was the political class  and the intelligentsia from Left to Right taking the protestors to task – asking them to tame their dissent and channel it through ‘proper channels’. Contest elections and let us see how much support you have, they challenged. Anna Hazare stuck to his guns, refusing the bait. Kejriwal however, seems to have decided to call their bluff. And much before the last hunger strike failed, his political mobilization started moving away from the single point agenda of the Lokpal Bill. Apparently taking up the challenge and moving towards the constitution of a political party, Kejriwal has entered the field in a manner that might even begin to pose an electoral challenge to ruling as well as opposition parties. How much of a challenge it will be we cannot say. However, one thing is quite clear: It will probably introduce an element of serious uncertainty in the coming elections, whenever they are held. Old formulas will cease to work. Equations are bound to change with new imponderables entering the scene.

As the trends of the Delhi election results become clear this morning, it is evident that a major dent has been made in the way electoral political calculations are generally made.  With Congress hubris reduced to ashes and the BJP’s advance halted – a new political force has made its entry in the turbulent waters of Indian politics. It is a new force, with people who seem to be ready to learn and who have, at every step so far, responded by taking seriously all the criticisms that were levelled at it.

From all available indications, Aam Aadmi Party has drawn huge support from the poorest inhabitants of the city, even while it has drawn equally substantial support from the middle class sections – especially middle class youth. Naysayers and Facebook radicals apart, anyone who has any feel of the ground, could see well in advance that this was coming.

It was coming not only because of the charisma of Arvind Kejriwal – though one must not underestimate the fact that the gathering storm of anger with Congress corruption and arrogance could well have dissipated or worse, pushed the BJP upwards to something in the region of 50 seats (out of 70), had it not been for Kerjiwal’s determined leadership.  This big shift was coming because, in the wake of mass scale corporate loot of public resources, every other party had been seen to be lying prostrate or grovelling before the same corporate houses that were involved in the loot. Natural gas, mining, land, forests – all thrown to capitalist wolves. The 2G Spectrum scam, the loot in the name of Commonwealth Games. The Niira Radia affair. Everything was stinking – and yet our free radicals, the custodians of political propriety and correctness, could see nothing. Except their own fears that were projected, as always, to some external enemy. These radicals are always comfortable with power and all their free-floating bile (of which there is a surfeit in the virtual domain) is always reserved for those who come out and fight. They could not see what the common person on the street has come to understand long ago: that the entire political class is a surrogate of the rich and the powerful. The rich and the powerful it is who fund their election campaigns, and keep their political machines well-oiled. And in a perverse way, all parties from the Left to the Right have come to believe that only by groveling before capital can they run their governments successfully.

This was the context of the Anna Hazare movement. The profound energies unleashed by the movement were what appeared once again on the streets last year during the mass protests in Delhi against the 16 December gangrape incident. Thousands of young people out on the streets, demanding justice, were met by a hubris-ridden, undignified government with water cannons and police repression. A government that did not even have the grace to come out and accept that all that these people needed was reassurance that justice will be seen to be done. The memory of that repression and the rapid political education of the youth involved in that protest movement is what took the shape of the political storm that is blowing the Congress government away.

On the day of the elections, a friend of mine tells me, his Congress friends were out in cars with crates of Bagpiper Gold and wads of currency notes in their pockets. At the end of the day, having finished their work, when they sat in their own addas, they confessed to having voted for the jhadu. This is only a small indication of the shifts that have been taking place.

While our more studied analysis will have to wait for the final results to be out, there is no doubt that a new force has arisen that is not constrained by the pathetic helplessness of the Left and the free radicals.

Personally speaking, I think it is a good situation for AAP to be in if it remains the second largest party. In Opposition it can work better and learn the nuts and bolts of government. More importantly, it will be now left free to build its base in a couple of other states for the final round – the 2014 elections.

46 thoughts on “AAP Halts BJP Advance in Delhi”

  1. “On the day of the elections, a friend of mine tells me, his Congress friends were out in cars with cartons of Bagpiper Gold and wads of currency notes in their pockets. At the end of the day, having finished their work, when they sat in their own addas, they confessed to having voted for the jhadu.” Wow.

      1. I thought the point of the story was self-evident, but clearly I was wrong. I tried to test this and of the ten people I told this story to, not one thought it was about morality. But nevertheless, for Tiwari’s benefit, I should not assume that all people understand things in the same way. So…what is the point? The point is NOT that these Congress campaigners are corrupt people (which they might be), but that they too, despite their Congress affiliations could not but feel the impact of the new wind that was blowing. For anyone who follows politics seriously, this is an important lesson. Unlike the media which uses terms like ‘wave’ in a thoughtless fashion, a wave in favour of any political formation really manifests itself in unexpected ways. A wave is a wave precisely because it upsets standard calculations, because it ‘draws’ people not generally inclined towards it, to itself.

  2. I’m not sure I quite understand the logic here. There were objections to the Anna Hazare protests and other such mobilisations from many who were not armchair radicals. These objections are not invalidated by AAP’s electoral victory. AAP deserves great credit for the enormous amount of work involved and their manner of fundraising and mobilising. None of that means that their agenda is going to advance left politics, or that their agenda is particularly radical. It also does not make other forces “pathetic”, unless we have started to believe that electoral performance is the sole indicator of political importance; this article almost seems to be saying that the people who said “Team Anna should stand for elections before making demands” were actually right, since what matters is elections. But the whole point was that that position itself was wrong. Rather than tarring all critics of the Anna andolan with the same brush, it would be helpful to have a more nuanced debate.

  3. @ shankar
    Is it so difficult to understand what AK has said and done? Seasoned leaders and observers have not understood what the helpless common man has understood. The other parties are here to seek your mandate and rule as if they are kings. AK has chosen commoners who have leadership qualities and they have won. Their aim is not to to make a political career but to serve the common man

  4. In terms of the good for the public at large, a similar culture of corruption and illegitimate moneymaking by hook or crook pervades both major parties, Congress and BJP. The culture of both parties is to fool the common voters who are the majority by clever populist slogans and speeches. Congress does it by harping on the uplift of and justice for the poor and minorities. BJP does it by harping on India’s ancient culture and the Hindu religious theme. Both parties have repeatedly made promises to their bases and to0 others on these themes. But every time these two parties gained power either in states or at the Center they set upon crony capitalism, looting the system, filling their own pockets and ugly slandering. BJP ruled Delhi and Karnatak earlier and we know how much corruption and abuse of power occurred then. In recent years Congress ruled in Delhi and at the Center and we know how much they abused the system with corruption and lawlessness becoming the major profile of the administration.

    The voters of Delhi sick of this fatigue have now given maximum advantage to the AAP which has at this time promised to undo the culture of corruption and lawlessness. It was not easy for AAP to convince the voters about them being different, what with the BJP exp-loiting the religious feelings of Hindus and Congress exploiting the insecurity of minorities and havenots. BJP took maximum advantage of anti-incumbency wave in a state sick of bad Congress governance and exploiting Hindu religious nationalism. The AAP wining almost as many seats as BJP is in a position to form govt with outside support. That will be the best thing as it will encourage AAP-like forces in other states to gain confidence that they can also succeed in keeping in check both BJP and Congress. There is some resurgence in the hope of the common people that in India’s democratic polity there is an alternative to both the Congress and the BJP style of corrupt governance.

  5. Delhi election results are historic not just because a newly formed party has produced results never seen before but also because it practically had no religion/caste based agenda or even definitive left/right leanings (they did not start well but purging off of many right wingers during transition from IAC to AAP helped) – rather issues like corruption which are non-issues for most Indian politicians.

    Plus, the deadlock that AAP has created (and is expected to create with the party likely to fight seats across India in 2014), will start talks of BJP coming into power with someone like Jaitley as PM next year in order for an alliance to form (Modi being not acceptable to a lot of parties); or more interestingly perhaps even a third front alliance if the Congress continues to weaken further as expected.

    While AAP could degenerate once more powerful, perhaps display its right wing affinities more obviously soon and do a poor job of leading since it has young/naive officials; I am happy that it has ignited hope/change.

  6. You forget that it sent sent Sheila and Cong packing. BJP is still the largest party in Delhi and might still form govt.

  7. Shankar,
    What the Anna Hazare movement faced from the radical intelligentsia and Congress-besotted activists was not ‘objections’. It was an attack so vicious that even when the UPA government denied it permission to hold a peaceful fast, and instead arrested Anna, these blessed souls did not so much as squeak. My elementary political education tells me that even if I am opposed to someone’s politics, I fail in my commitment to democracy if I fail to speak when basic democratic rights are denied to her/him. But that was not the end of the matter. The radical intelligentsia and the pro-Congress activists did not bat an eyelid in propagating lies dished out by Congress sources – including the canard that the plan for this movement was hatched by the RSS.

    Even more important is the fact that they danced to the tune of the Digvijay Singh-Manish Tiwari-Kapil Sibal band in establishing an argument in the public domain that was to become the mainstay of Congress/UPA attack on all opponents thereafter: Who are you, and who do you represent?, was the question thrown at the movement. These people thereby colluded in the ruling party’s endeavour to deprive ordinary, non-party-affiliated citizens to protest or criticize the government. Go and contest and election and let us see who supports you, they had challenged, as you will surely remember. And much as I was opposed to the idea of the formation of a party, I still welcomed its formation in the article referred to above. Precisely because I felt that, if successful, this wold call the bluff of the Congress politicians.

    Finally, I am not impressed by high-sounding Left rhetoric about whether the movement will advance the cause of left politics. Left politics of all hues has remained, to my mind, a helpless spectator to the limitless plunder and loot we have witnessed over the past two decades (at best) and an accomplice of this loot at worst. Even when it has not been doing either of these two things, it has remained ensconced in its ‘safe mode’, taking no risks and being contented with producing critiques – which is about the only thing they can do. So, it is not electoral success alone that is important for me; it is also the fact that for the first time in decades, ordinary people have been galvanized into action, breaking the pessimism that electoral politics had reduced them to: The pessimism of being shunted like a football from one goalpost to the other. That is the big gain of this movement.

    1. Brilliantly stated, Aditya. While I am deeply averse to rigid ideologies of any kind (right or left) I can at least respect ideologues who are honest and non-hypocritical. Unfortunately
      what one sees more often is selective criticism or silence, as you have pointed out.

    2. Absolutely….

      It’s time for nationalistic professionals to take charge of policy-making and business enterprises! Next agenda for the nation!!!

    3. Aditya, again, it would be good if you would state who you mean by ” the radical intelligentsia and Congress-besotted activists.” Certainly there were some – Prabhat Patnaik comes to mind – who took positions that sought to “defend Parliament” and so on and about whom your points make eminent sense. But these hardly constitute the entire “radical intelligentsia” of India – in fact you sound a little like Perry Anderson and his fulminations about the “Indian Ideology” and every Indian intellectual endorsing it :). Indeed on this very site a statement was published, signed by many of us (most of whom, I should note, are field activists of various left and progressive organisations, not “free radicals”), which took a position different both from the Prabhat Patnaik line and the position you’re taking (http://kafila.org/2011/08/24/a-great-opportunity-a-serious-danger-signature-campaign-on-anti-corruption-protest/). At least let us recognise that the debate is larger than the straw men of “Congress-besotted leftists” on the one hand and “Kejriwal besotted intellectuals” on the other (both of whom, incidentally, accuse the other of being “armchair” in character).

      You seem to be measuring political action based on “galvanizing ordinary people” and “stopping the loot.” Do you really believe, though, that the Anna movement / AAP are the only formations in the country that “galvanise” “ordinary people”? The posts on this site itself are enough to disprove that, and there’s a lot happening that doesn’t make it here or anywhere else on the Internet. As for “stopping the loot”, if that’s your measure, neither AAP nor Team Anna has achieved anything in terms of concrete changes so far. In fact both other non-party movements and the parliamentary left have achieved more, if, again, the measure is merely “stopping” policies or actions.

      The point is not to dismiss AAP / Team Anna, but to recognsie that they are one among many broadly progressive / popular organisations and to understand their character. What distinguished Team Anna from other movements was not “ordinary people” or “stopping the loot” but the involvement of the mainstream media (indeed that’s why it suddenly became about “ordinary people” – whereas every other movement is reduced to a sectional interest by the same media). AAP capitalised on this through building an organisation, but it also inherited the contradictions of any media driven mobilisation, and all of those contradictions will gradually grow. Analysing them is no mere intellectual exercise too; for those involved in organising, we have to decide how to respond to these deevelopments in a way that advances struggles, and cannot afford to just uncritically celebrate anything (including our own movements).

  8. Should we have a provision for elimination round elections in case of a hung house? The two top contenders would slug it out, and of course NOTA should be there as well?

  9. To get a sense of Kejriwal’s early work; here is a 2005 story I wrote on his NGO Parivartan and how they dug out the documents that halted Delhi’s water privatization plan: http://www.frontline.in/static/html/fl2217/stories/20050826003903100.htm

    I was too far away to monitor the campaigns in Delhi, but was intrigued to see AAP promise 700 litres of free water per household per day. The water issue was an early Parivartan issue and they arrived at it via the RTI campaign route (another early Kejriwal preoccupation)

    An interesting way to look at AAP’s focus on basic services – ie water and electricity – is to follow the “Service Delivery protests” in urban South Africa: http://mg.co.za/article/2013-08-09-chaos-on-soweto-streets-as-protests-continue

    1. Thanks a lot Aman for this very important story. I actually worked in the water supply workers union for many years in the 1980s – in fact in the very Municipal Workers’ Lal Jhanda Union that you refer to. At that time it was still the Delhi Water Supply and Sewage Disposal Undertaking (under MCD) and not the Delhi Jal Board. Rumours were rife in those days about the impending formation of a separate Jal Board and possible privatization. Thinking back while reading your story, I was struck by how little we knew of the machinations going on at that time. Kejriwal’s success in exposing this plan was a result of the use of the right to information as you rightly say, and unions like the water supply union would have benefited immensely from an interaction or alliance with Parivartan.

    2. It hardly matters when the use of RTI stopped privatization. Using RTI you can foster privatization as well. Had there been a private jal board involved in corruption, AAP would say that we should not nationalize it, but remove corruption in the jal board and things will be ok…To Kejriwal and other demagogues the issue is not government or private sector, the issue is corruption! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J900hfE0CTg) So that is what the debate has been reduced to! Corruption and dishonesty! No debate on growth, economic or employment models. No debate on human freedom and the abolition of all classes by establishing dictatorship of the proletariat. Just get rid of corruption! The people supporting AAP are showing bankruptcy of their minds and desperation to do something. Jhaadu can only clean some dust here and there, it cannot clean the mud that has been stuck structurally by cohesive forces. Neither any new comes out of Jhaadu, we need peasant-working class-small businesses to come together and decorate the country. Let us be critical and not reduce the debate to hollow victories…

      1. Amit,

        I think your comments are symptomatic of everything that has gone wrong with the Left movement in the country. The Left has shown itself incapable of responding to the challenges of the neo-liberal paradigm and providing new alternatives and now sticks to academic rhetoric that has no meaning for the overwhelming majority.
        AAP doesn’t only have a single point agenda, it isnt only about ending corruption. It is about decentralization and moving towards direct democracy to the greatest extent possible. This wont lead to radical transformation, but may be, it may help create new avenues for social movements in the future. This is why AAP deserves support and solidarity from all those who stand for social justice.
        PS: Not everyone is a Leninist who wants a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ led by a vanguard party of ‘intellectuals’. Perhaps some of us think that such frameworks are the reasons for the failures of Socialist countries in the twentieth century.

  10. India should be thankful to Arvind Kejariwal and his TEAM– to force upon political parties — a new demand — shift power at all levels within, in hands of individuals of integrity. Over past 3 decades, Indian politics gradually moved into hands of self-serving deal-makers, at functional levels. Indian polity desperately seeks course-correction! The existing power-centres in each party will not easily let it go. Then how this shift will take place?

    While Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi did say after defear that ‘Congress needs to learn from AAP’, but does he really mean it? Does anyone believe in his ability and intent? In the past few years of major scams such as Commonwealth, Telecom, etc he kept mum and Soniya Gandhi constantly appears as silent leader of merky deal makers. Why else would one allow scamsters to continue? BJP, with all its claim of honesty at the top, is not entirely spotless and free from dealmaking culture. Yet, being a party of cadres rather than one-family centered, it does offer greater possibility of course-correction. For instance, last minute shift in Delhi for Dr Harshvardhan as better choice.

    AAP is just created. How long it can retain honesty at all levels, once people taste power is matter of reality in future. Noone would disagree that at inception, both Congress and BJP had great nationalistic human beings of unquestionable integrity.

    The point is, how does one ensure that integrity becomes necessity for survival of any political party or political leadership? Conscientious intellects of the nation (whether in political parties like BJP, Congress, etc and those who may not be active in politics too) need to find answer to this vital question collectively!

    Arvind Kejariwal alone cannot be burdened to ensure honesty for all future politicians! However, we should all honor him for his guts and conviction to initiate such a process, that too in indidual capacity!


  11. This is not surprising that people have started supporting a party which has absolutely no understanding of class. The fact that they have gotten votes across classes should be a matter of critical concern. Has class struggle ceased to exist? How come a group/party can garner votes from all sorts of petty-bourgeoisie, bourgeoisie and even from the working class? This means that some demagoguery is going on which evades class politics from the scene and forces the people to reduce economic and political problems to corruption and dishonesty. Cleaning the sewers, focusing on water and electricity, reducing corruption in the offices — these issues should be raised, but the bigger question is whether the working class (and not the upper bureaucracy and CEOs of companies) is going to own and control means of production and services. The question should be always upon how any party is going to reduce high inflation. The answers like reducing corruption in the oil market and ‘let people decide’ is absolute demagoguery. Those who believe in the markets (efficient or corruption less) to take care of ills of inflation and employment know nothing about capitalism. So why are we giving pass to a party which has no understanding of economy? The supporters of AAP can claim that once they get enough base they will start tilting more towards left. But that is pure opportunism where they have been asking people to underestimate the big capitalist powers. This sort of politics which boasts of ‘class-less’ and ‘caste-less’ rhetoric is doing nothing but to promote the ideology of “methodological individualism”. AAP has always said that they are interested in reducing the role of the governments and they are no socialists. Taking these into considerations how socialist and left parties are going to support a party which is full of anger, which pontificates upon ideology-less politics, and promotes bourgeois ideology of individualism? In this environment the traditional organizations of lower castes and classes, who no doubt place their politics between pragmatism and opportunism, lose credibility among upper caste petty-bourgeoisie. And perhaps that is the whole purpose of AAP. The upper castes have always been looking for opportunities to regain the lost space after Mandal and Naxal movements. The efforts of Youth For Equality, Anna Hazare movement, and the rise of AAP party should be seen in this context. Its outcome is absolutely negative for the working class and lower castes in the long run. Undermining the belief in traditional political bases like socialist parties, communist parties and unions, they do nothing but open the space for fascist parties like BJP to sweep the space. The formers are of course to blame, but after the dissolution of Soviet Union, which has been the greatest failure of 20th century, the socialist and communist parties have not found the proper answers. Yet the space is far from discouraging. One has to look to Venezuela how they have been fighting against inflation. And then the example of Cuba is for everyone to see. But in India, the peasants, working class and small businesses have yet to find the common platform on which they can fight the onslaught of capital, imperialism and creeping fascism. They cannot rely upon demagogues.

    1. Are you for real?? You guys really live in lala land, don’t you? Wake up and smell the coffee! There is no set in stone “class of bourgeoise and proletariat” other than in your empty heads nor are they good or bad based on which “class” they belong to. The effort of the government should not be to make everyone equally poor or equally rich (doesn’t happen). The effort should be to ensure a minimum standard of living for every citizen (basic education, healthcare and employment opportunities). This cannot be done by providing sops to people. The country needs to first generate money through economic growth, then use that money to ensure these basic facilities. That means private sector needs to be encouraged too.

      1. Well said Sarah!
        It is like in sports… Institutions need to build common facilities such as stadium, while any player from anywhere has a fair chance to showcase one’s talent! No glory without excellence! Likewise, government needs to ensure policies in action that keep food, shelter, medicines… Affordable even at minimum wage level. Personal excellence taking one to greater riches and recognitions!!!

      2. Don’t know why it was not published…Is it because I invoked ‘labor aristocracy’ theory of Marx and Lenin!! Well, if that is the case then please publish my three queries at least.

        So you live in the land of imperialist countries perhaps instead of living in lala land! That is why class does not matter for you, because the fordist and Keynesian models have ‘corrupted’ your working class so much that they associate more with their own capitalist classes than the wretched of the earth found in the third world countries..

        Anyway, I ask you three questions and give me exact scientific answers: (a) Can you stop inflation and eliminate unemployment completely by relying upon your corruption free growth and private-sector-encouraging model? (b) Can you get rid of crises inherent in capitalism which time to time disrupt all the policies that can be made within the confines of market system? (c) How come the income of the first world and the third world has been diverging when the privatization in the third world in some way or another has been going on for the last thirty years, when precisely it was said that they will converge over time? ( faculty-staff.ou.edu/G/Kevin.B.Grier-1/twinpeaks.pdf‎ )

        1. Hello Amit….
          I am attempting to answer your question (a). Questions (b) and (c) are NOT very clear to me. Maybe you can rephrase them a bit.
          YES, it is possible to stop inflation of basic needs and achieve near full-employment in any society and nation through private sector through proper policies. let me explain. Firstly, the term- inflation itself is not fully scientific. let me explain…All the things that we consume,are of TWO kinds: one, things which are necessities for survival with dignity, say food, shelter, medicines, etc. Two, all other things such as comforts, conveniences, entertainment, etc… which provide pleasures, happiness, grow knowledge, etc.. are surplus-wealth. When we refer to term – inflation- what we really mean is that prices of survival-goods should not be increasing. Rather, they should become available at prices that are easily affordable by minimum income population too. Price increase of surplus-goods (say, having food at restaurant) is the only way of making people do things where they use their talents to add value and sell value-added things for personal-profits. Everyone who earns private profit then has purchasing power to spend on value-added goods produced by another person in private sector. this is the only way Society’s total-wealth grows, through new generation of wealth. The new wealth (or money) in society is a result of “conversion of human-time into various types of goods, that can be sold to other people in society by earning private profits”. Private sector profits through genuine wealth-creation alone lead to increase in purchasing power of those who wish to work and earn. those who gain money without adding new wealth are either parasites or thieves. Government has no way of generating wealth. it only collects part of created-wealth as taxes, by the power of laws. Left to government sector alone, where is the drive from individuals to work harder and create greater new wealth in society? Where, I believe you are concerned is that whether private sector always generates new wealth, when it benefits itself? This is to be clearly seen through. In private sector, there are always two kinds of players.. One, who add new wealth when they make personal profits; Two, those who steal wealth created by others, through manipulations in policies or playing speculative games… This is intellectual fraud. So, there exists, two kinds of markets: free, fair market and manipulated-market. Near full-employment is definitely possible in free, fair market. Allowing intellectual corruption through subtle policy making is the prime cause of ‘concentration of capital in fewer hands’… that is NOT private sector enterprise… that is simply… stealing or looting. With every increase in created wealth by private-sector enterprising, society continues to achieve deflation (not inflation) in prices of survival-goods and continually growing employment, indeed. I hope, you see the science of wealth-creation!

    2. Hi, I am not a frequent visitor to the left bastion, but I do need to ask : ‘bourgeois ideology of individualism?’ These are your real thoughts ? Your whole post is not a satire of some sort? And you do realize that you are in 2013 India and USSR no longer exists and their massive failings are still remembered?

      1. Sigh! @Amit’s comments illustrate why the organized Indian left is always on the wrong side of history – Quit India, Independence, the Sino-Indian conflict…..

  12. The dramatic victory of aap in the recently held delhi assembly elections is not so dramatic if seen in immediate past context of what has been happening in delhi during the last three four years.there is no doubt that scams after scams exposed by cag in the upa government gave birth to strong hatred against congress leaders..manmohan singh has virtually become the hate object in this process.the congress leaders only miserably failed to read what was brewing at the ground level.now it seems it is too late in the day.definitely there is a gang-up of anti-congress forces of all varieties in the country.bjp is surely not the choice before these forces.that is why aap became the easiest available one at hand.the strong resentment against corruption was seen during the rallies held by anna team.aap is the child of that resentment only.it is not at all an alternative.the way it is refusing to be called a party in the traditional sense ,and preferring to be called a movement, only makes itself susceptible to criticism.it has to be a part of the government formation in one way or the other without compromising and diluting its position.it is only then it can exhibit its capability and sincerity in fighting out corruption.

  13. Looks like our leftist armchair intellectuals wants to ride Kejriwal bandwagaon . I remember Anna and AK movement was criticized by none other than reining deity of ultra leftism -Arundhati Roy .
    AAP success is wake up call to all kind of traditional politics and that includes right,left and center

  14. Can somebody pl explain what is meant here by “free radicals”? I understand it is a term from chemistry — but who are the kind of people this is supposed to refer to? Has it been left unexplained because a person who doesn’t understand this usage is not worth communicating to?

  15. the critique of the ‘left’ in a single stroke- without acknowledging the various hues is grossly unfair… the left also launched an anti-corruption struggle- a more nuanced one at that, that witnessed massive mobilizations and yet for the discomfort it created in terms of not stopping at corruption as a ‘ghoos’ but locating the root cause of it, there were obvious limitations in its appeal in ‘certain sections’!!- the left is shoulder to shoulder with people’s struggles against land grab in Nagri and several other places… against land and sand mafia from Bihar to kerala… of course those struggles do not get the media glare and am not even complaining… but seriously- the day after the appalling verdict that let the killers of Bathe walk free-left groups organised two huge protests in delhi on a single day- next day what appeared in papers was- AAP protests Bathe acquittal (with pictures of left activists of holding placards)! AAP hadn’t come on streets, so they had to use our photo.!! I am not grudging AAP its moment… but yest, not being ideologically driven, they have licenses that we don’t. We can’t have a Prashant Bhushan and a Kumar Vishwaas at the same time- we can’t have one talking of ‘akhand’ bharat and another talking of ‘kashmiri’s right to self determination’ at the same time. I am all for giving AAP its due credit… but single stroke brushing aside of all left (Without any distinction what so ever) is definitely problematic. Left has tremendous introspection to do- collectively and also as separate groups- not just because AAP won in Delhi, but also cause we need to champion people’s struggle!! To say this is the only time people have galvanized is to say people of Koodankulam are no people for us…. women and children who lie down on the ground in scorching heat in Jagatsinghpur are no people for us… we were blind to their assertion and we will remain blind to them!! And this is where- the class characters of all- media, analysts, commentators-just find their way out. Also regarding 16 december- was it only AAP that came out? is the author ignorant of the left intervention in the movement or is it convenient forgetting. The movement became a movement from mere fight for justice to movement from women’s ‘freedom without fear’ because of ‘pathetic’ left intervention…!!! The JVC document looks the way it is because of left intervention. SO while lot of reasons as I again concede for left to introspect and find better ways of reaching out… their criticism cannot be located in gross ignorance!!

    1. Shivani,
      Please notice that I have referred to two categories of people throughout: (a) the free radicals/ radical intelligentsia (b) Congress-besotted activists. I have not, either in this post nor in the earlier posts on the Anna Hazare movement, attacked the Left parties in this respect – though it is true I have many very strong criticisms of them which I have often made elsewhere. In fact, I have openly acknowledged the positive stance adopted by the CPI(ML) Liberation and AISA/ AIPWA in this regard. I will not burden this comment with all the links to those articles but they are all there on kafila.
      Some others have also asked who these ‘free radicals’ are. I do not want to name people but they are generally people whom one could call the non-party independent left – of which I see myself also as a part (though to many, an embarrassing part!) Many members of this independent nonparty left have had a solid history behind them and I respect them for that. Many of them are friends – some of them temporarily estranged but friends nevertheless. With them, I see myself sitting together once again, once Modi and BJP are back in power. These people live in India and have taken serious risks in their lives. They have stakes in what happens here. There are others in this category whose radicalism is but a badge they wear – they have nothing to show for it except verbiage. Many do not even live here and their long-distance radicalism does not really bother me. So let us forget about them. The second category is that of the pro-Congress activists. These people are not pro-Congress in any ideological or party sense but they have been reduced to becoming helpless accomplices of the Congress in the face of the Hindutva assault of the past two and a half decades. Some of them also have a closer relation with the Congress because they feel they could use the UPA’s good offices to get some good laws passed. Among these people too, there are some very good friends.
      The problem of the helplessness of these two categories of people has to do with something else, which is where the pathos of the party Left comes in. The reference to the ‘pathetic helplessness’ of the Left in my post comes in this context, at the very end. This helplessness and pathos has to do, not with their intentions but with the fact that in the last 88 years of their existence (if one takes 1925 as the date of birth), they have produced the following record in the 2013 Delhi elections:
      CPI(M) – 3 candidates:
      Mukesh Chaudhary (Dwarka) – 684 votes
      Anmol Choudhri (Karawal Nagar) – 1199 votes
      Ram Kanwar (Shahdara) – 121 votes

      CPI – 11 candidates:
      Absaar Ahmed (Babarpur) – 794
      Shiv Dutt Sharma (Chhattarpur) – 745
      Shyam Kali (Mangolpuri) – 789
      Sanjeev Rana (Narela) – 643
      Pronab Haldar (Okhla) – 660
      Saroj Bala (Palam) – 498
      Kehar Singh (Patparganj) – 362
      Ram Prasad Atri (Seemapuri) – 699
      Bajinder Singh (Timarput) 637
      Khubi Ram (Trilokpuri) 476

      CPI(ML) Liberation – 4 candidates
      Ramrup (Kondli) – 203
      Rohtash (Narela) – 338
      Vinod Singh Gautam (Patparganj) – 146
      Munna Yadav (Wazirpur) – 172

      Need I say more? It is because of this that whenever there is an election, the Left party members find themselves perennially in the situation of having to choose the lesser evil.

      Finally, with regard to the 16 December protests, this is what I said in my post:

      The profound energies unleashed by the movement were what appeared once again on the streets last year during the mass protests in Delhi against the 16 December gangrape incident. Thousands of young people out on the streets, demanding justice, were met by a hubris-ridden, undignified government with water cannons and police repression. A government that did not even have the grace to come out and accept that all that these people needed was reassurance that justice will be seen to be done.

      To this you respond:

      Also regarding 16 December- was it only AAP that came out? is the author ignorant of the left intervention in the movement or is it convenient forgetting.

      I have not even mentioned AAP in this context but you choose to read what you want to – erecting a straw man to demolish. I have only referred to the energies unleashed by the earlier movement. The readers can draw their own conclusions.

      1. thanks for the detailed reply. I concede that I was hasty in my 16 december comment. Also, I do admit that the failure of the several in the left spectrum to simply reduce election as the only platform of struggle, which was evident in their non willingness to tap the anti-corruption sentiment in the people and be the champions of it, is something they’ll regret for long. There definitely is a need for introspection among those who constitute the left, yet the flood of anti-left posts on social media post AAP victory, somehow ends up giving the impression, that the yardstick for evaluating an AAP that is extremely eclectic in its ideology and thus does not have certain obvious constraints are also being simplistically applied to all left in one stroke.

  16. I feel AAP is like Maoists in Nepal.Too much noise but nothing to deliver when they come to power. AAP manifesto reads like that of left parties that destroyed West Bengal…

  17. Much as the AAP victory in the Delhi state election is a tremendous event full of high hope, it must not be forgotten that the size of the electorate there was very small and the location was one of India’s mega cities, that is very media conscious and where a large number of people are very conscious of their rights in the democracy. The public situation in medium size and small cities is very different. The situation in the provinces that each have their own deep regional and cultural identity is very different.

    Parties that use religion or caste or money patronage to swing votes are dominant in the provinces, medium and smaller cities. In fact those social strains are several centuries old in those places, and people hardly understand what is democracy and how ordinary people can use votes to change their leaders and rulers.

    So the AAP experiment can perhaps be similarly replicated in about a dozen largest cities if a set of truly dedicated volunteers set themselves to work like they did in Delhi. But going outside those dozen cities is a totally different animal.

    Obviously we have to be optimistic but we should also be conscious of the realities.

  18. While our more studied analysis will have to wait for the final results to be out, there is no doubt that a new force has arisen that is not constrained by the pathetic helplessness of the Left and the free radicals.

  19. I arrived in Delhi (from Chennai) the day when the votes were being counted. My dad in law and I were glued to the transistor as the prelim results started coming in …..we were keenly following the Delhi counting. Almost everyone I know in my family and extended family had voted for AAP. The atmosphere was electric with anticipation at home and in the neighbourhood (a former BJP strong-hold, feels great to say the word ‘former’)…And the rest is history. I decided to do my own little ground truthing. This morning I asked my auto driver, a muslim man from Uttar Pradesh, who doesn’t particularly like Delhi but has been staying in Delhi for 15 years “Kis ko vote diya? kyun?”. Pat came the reply “Jhaadu ko. We want change…I have been a ‘congressi’, but am no more” He of course talked about issues of rising prices and general discontent etc, but his emphasis was on ‘bahut ho gayi in puraani partyon ki, thak gaye hum log’. I talked to a few more and same sort of reply came. “Madamji, agar fir se dilli mein chunao ho gaye to dekhna is baar hum AAP ko hi jeetwayenge. Jin logo ne is baar jhaadu ko vote nahi diya, woh sab pacchtaa rahen hai”..said a former BJP supporter in whose electric scooter I was riding in Raghubir nagar, a BJP strong hold in northwest Delhi. He chuckled and told me that he was ferrying voters on behalf of BJP (who gave him dehaari of Rs 800) to polling booths on the day of elections and was infact told to instruct his passengers (who were getting a free ride) to vote for the lotus..”par madamji sabhi ne jhaadu ko hi vote diya, unho ne bhi aur mein ne bhi. Baat yeh hai, hum ko parivartan chahiye, in puraani partyon ki aur nahi chal ne wali”. He told me about money being distributed in JJ Colony where he lives by the congress and BJP men, ‘logo ne paise to liye, par vote to jhaado ko hi diya”. You can tell me what to do, but I have a mind of my own, I will do what I want to do, its my choice, said he as he dropped me off at the bus stand.

  20. The fear that AAP will become just another prop for the interests of a particular section of people at the expense is a real one, even if that set of people contains people from different classes in a particular location, at a particular time. There is nothing wrong with a party reflecting just one point of view, but AAP has the potential to achieve a lot more.

    India is facing an unprecedented social and ecological crisis. All classes in the cities want electricity, but are detached from how that electricity gets to them. We want clean streets but dont want to know on whose farms our garbage is being dumped. We want bottled water but are ignorant of whose water is being stolen to be bottled.

    Arvind Kejriwal has both an understanding of these issues and credibility among the urban folks. I am not trying to portray Kejriwal as a hero or some kind of savior. But there is no one else I see at the intersection of India’s political and intellectual arenas who is prepared to deal with these issues without resorting to old paradigms that have been proven to be ineffective, and are undemocratic. Everyone else wants to speak for the people, but not actually go to them and enable them to speak for themselves, which is what Kejriwal and AAP have done in these elections.

      1. How amusing. Form a government when you have only 28 seats in a 70 seat legislature and depend on parties like the BJP and the Congress to pass any type of legislation, including the budget, legislation related to the lok pal, electricity, water, and so on. Yeah, that makes sense!

  21. It was some time during 2001-02 when in an evening editorial meeting ,my then editor ( who is now a Rajya Sabha Member of the main opposition party of the center ) thundered that “ In India , like US there should be Presidential Democracy and there should be just two political parties i .e. BJP and the Congress (read Republican and Democrats) and the time has come that we should accept the fact”.
    And, for a ‘Super power’ in making, It’s more than obvious to toe the line of the ‘only’ world superpower .The media , being a part of the whole game is doing it’s best to establish the fact that there are just two parties exists (In the national politics) that is, BJP and the Congress. Otherwise how can one explain the media reports which segregates all the political developments and their headlines under just two sub sections –BJP and Congress or why it’s that any trivial remarks by any of the heavyweights of these two parties becomes news headlines . How one can explain that the policies overshadowed by personality cult, be it NAMO or Rahul?
    But alas! Voters of the largest functional democracy cast their votes otherwise and that is the real problem .Instead BJP or Congress, it votes for AAP in Delhi , SP in UP , TMC in West Bengal , AIDMK in Tamilnadu and so on so forth .
    Recent results of AAP in the Delhi polls does not go with the larger game plan , that is , the two party structure of the democracy , which our modern days master( read US) is practicing.
    And that’s why the results are ‘disturbing’ .

  22. Does ideology really matter to today’s youth when there is so much pressure majorly on their life from consumerism ? All the fruits of the development are being cornered by the privileged class and there is a lot of anger and resentment among the youth against the political class – including communists whose leaders benefited personally from their collaboration with the Congress party. AAP is an effort of all those idealist Indians and NRIs (who have seen how merit and honesty is rewarded in foreign lands) lacking any political idealogoical base and wantin every section of society to get its share of development gains.

    Fortunately, AAP has attracted a new class of leaders who live in the real world, know
    what the people on the ground want and how to find the common ground between the poor and the middle class (the success of their mobilisation of competing sections of society is a great tribute to them), are media savvy (as a former newspaper reporter I very well know that most of the politicians of today – including Communists – owe their rise to the then press media), and have been able to attract a dedicated team of leaders in the making.

    AAP has turned out to be a fast-track university of leadership and anyone who has worked with them actively should be considered lucky for having the kind of intense exposure they have had in terms of public policy making, devising ways to understand public sentiment and catering to them without having any qualms in paying back the political class in their own coin in many ways like thinking of freebies. It is nodoubt a mixture of experience (of their advisors) and enthusiasm and energy.

    I live in China and I am glad that a kind of China party cadre school has been provided by AAP. No wonder, Kejriwal calls the present politicians novices and brokers because none of have the capacity to work hard and intelligently because of easy success they have had all along.

    Freebies: It is a fact that majority of Indians love freebies and the concept of baksheesh which was devised by the colonial masters to control Indians is majorly responsible for corruption.Paradoxically, AAP has used this baksheesh concept to make themselves heard probably as a matter of tactic. India boasts of pongy schemes in every street and it is not difficult for even a small-time crook to attract gullible customers. AAP is aware of this appeal of freebies.

    Now that the tactic has worked they will be faced with two major challenges soon:

    1. If they keep promising freebies they will never be able to control corruption. So they will have to differentiate between different kind of corruption level they can put up with . In existing successful model of capitalism, lower level of corruption which affects the working class and the middle classes is not tolerated. Higher level of corruption is considered acceptable.

    AAP will be able to control lower level of corruption through the instrument of Citizen Charter. I can vouch for its efficacy as I live in Hong Kong which implemented it two decades ago.

    2. The major problem facing India today is that political class has no clear idea as to how to develop the nation without offering freebies. They are interested only in their privileges and positions. Nothing else matters to them. They just want to be the rulers. All parties are clones of Indira Congress party.

    Who is then responsible for creating wealth? The political class have outsourced the exercise of creating wealth to corporate houses (modern day Patwaris) who, in my mind, are doing an excellent job because of the sheer huge rewards they get.

    Even a small-time businessman like Ponty Chadha could win the support of the ruling parties in UP (whether it was SP or BSP) and Punjab (NDA) because he delivered huge excise revenues to the government unlike other contractors who wanted to line up their own pockets at the cost of government revenue. Ponty delivered much-needed revenue to the government upfront and collected it later from the consumers. This is perfectly acceptable as liquor is not a necessity.

    AAP is against crony capitalism and how they intend to address this dilemma of producing wealth remains to be seen. I am glad that they are going to face this challenge when they try to tackle the power producers.

    AAP is full of optimists (most importantly of doers) and so I am hoping they will find a way out of involving honest and capable people in creating wealth who are not as greedy as the crony capitalists.

    My ideal revenue model is capitalist Hong Kong where the government has outsourced a group of property developers to pay upfront government revenue (land auctions accounts for almost 70% of the government revenue) and sell the properties at lucrative rates. They have been able to contain social unrest by supplying Govt subsidized flats to the lower and middle class. From time to time they try to lower income disparity but the efforts don’t make much headway.

    Benign bureaucracy, support to small and medium entrepreneurs, effective corruption control, Citizen Charter (performance pledge for time-bound delivery of government services), low taxes (because indirect revenue collection cost is very low), swift dispensation of legal justice, and the rule of the law is Hong Kong’s governance model.

  23. Dear Aditya,

    How do you think one should ‘read’ the following video clip to think about Aap and its politics?

    …as some aberration perhaps or as an exception maybe? Because surely the views of Aap leader although expressed on a non-political platform does not seem to indicate any ‘new force, with people who seem to be ready to learn’ as you suggest.

    Warm regards


    1. Taha, I discern your sarcasm here. I have not yet seen this particular clip but I have seen many of Kumar Vishwas that keep circulating in radical/secular circuits. They all go to show that this man is a sexist, patriarch, communalist and so on – which is what comedy and jokes in our country usually are. So I am not surprised. However, I am struck by those with the capacity for sophisticated political analysis, reducing political analysis in this particular case (AAP) to specific individuals and their misdemeanours.
      A more detailed response to this issue awaits, but what strikes me is that none of the radical/ secularists who shower scorn at AAP via Kumar Vishwas have ever thought of checking out their great secular progressive heroes on their views on sex, rape, gender equality, Muslims – not to speak of caste and Dalits. You want me to provide a list from the Congress and SP onwards, to CPM – name any party and I will give you instantly as many names as you want. And these parties still get the secular votes.
      Where does this mode of political analysis go? And why so selective?

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