Aam Aadmi, Khaas Politics: Satya Sagar

   Guest Post by SATYA SAGAR                                          

From time to time in the history of every nation there emerges a maverick force that collapses the existing system by taking its logic to the extremes.  Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party are precisely that, a ‘wild card’ in Indian politics, threatening to turn it upside down in ways no one could have imagined before.

Ever since they were born out of the throes of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement, a couple of years ago, everyone has tried to slot the AAP in the regular political categories of right, left and center. Some have dubbed the Aam Aadmi Party as the ‘new Congress’ and others as the ‘B Team’ of the BJP. Supporters of the party have hailed its leader Arvind Kejriwal as a ‘modern day Gandhi’ while one opponent has intriguingly called his party ‘right wing Maoists’!

In my opinion though, if there is any one term that can be used to describe Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party it is simply ‘innocently subversive’.  I have no doubt at all now that they are simply the most dangerous political formation to have emerged on Indian soil in a long time – though they themselves obviously don’t realize it as yet!

So subversive and dangerous in fact, that for now AAP deserves nothing less than the wholehearted support of the people of India. For the threat they pose is not to the ordinary citizen per se but to the façade of democracy papered over the strange mix of feudalism, crony capitalism and rent-seeking bureaucracy India has become.

By forcefully promoting a cleaner, more transparent and participatory politics AAP is calling the bluff of India’s very claim to being a democracy at all and unwittingly pulling the mask off a system that hides beneath it a thousand dictatorships. Contesting elections with public donations, involving the citizen in decision making and calling for accountability from public servants and politicians AAP is testing the limits of the country’s long rotten, creaking political apparatus.

By its naïve insistence on implementing rule of law and ‘cleaning’ up political practice Arvind Kejriwal and his followers are bringing into sharp focus the complete disconnect between the rhetoric of Indian democracy and the harsh realities that citizens face in their daily life. If they can carry this process forward successfully over any period of time, they would have exposed the true workings of the Indian political process to everyone. Including the fact that almost every mainstream Indian political player has become an enemy of both democratic institutions and values as well as the rights guaranteed to the population by the Indian Constitution.

All these decades since Independence Indian politicians have basically paid lip service to this noble document emerging from the Indian anti-colonial movement, that underpins the very idea of modern Indian democracy, while wilfully violating all its principles in practice. Though mainstream political parties and media commentators have accused AAP of being ‘confused’ the fact remains that they themselves are the ones who have been most confused on the question of what Indian democracy should be all about.

For example, the Congress, which has ruled India the longest since Independence, has confused democracy with the task of promoting the same dynasty back to power repeatedly and using the ‘first family’ as a polite front to loot the public exchequer. While Congress spokesmen glibly talk of theirs being a party of ‘Gandhi and Nehru’ the fact is today they are basically a rabble of rank opportunists with no spine to protect either national sovereignty against imperialism or subversion of Indian democracy by both domestic and foreign corporations. And on the issue of communalism the Congress, despite protestations of being ‘secular’, has undoubtedly become the ‘B’ team of the BJP.

The BJP, on the other hand, has confused politics to be the perverted goal of keeping a Brahminical version of Hinduism dominant in Indian society- using every method possible- including regular pogroms against religious minorities- to achieve this. In their last stint in power at the national level the BJP’s mother organisation, the RSS, had openly talked of replacing the Indian Constitution and foisting a ‘council of sadhus’ at the top of the hierarchy of the country’s goveranance.

There is no doubt that this fascist plan is still alive on their agenda – something we will hear about more if Narendra Modi manages to become the Prime Minister of the country. Interestingly enough, when it comes to protecting corporate interests the BJP turns out to be the ‘B Team’ of the Congress, united with its rival by their common love for Mukesh Ambani and Ratan Tata!

On the theme of Indian democracy, the mainstream Indian Left is the most confused of the entire lot.  Spouting the rhetoric of X or Y  kind of ‘revolution’ in their party documents, in practice they are resigned to doing all politics within the iron framework of the Indian state. This gives rise to a strange ambivalence in their attitude towards the Indian Constitution and democracy itself, neither able to defend it vigorously nor transcend it with anything new and creative.(As Comrade Talat Mahmood put it once ‘Unse aaya na gaya, hamse bulaya na gaya…’)

The Maoists are an exception to this trend on the Left of course, with their open claim of trying to ‘overthrow the Indian state’ and obvious contempt for the Indian Constitution in both theory and practice. However, they have become largely irrelevant in the national context and remain merely of nuisance value to the Indian state. By choosing to hide deep in the forests and operating with methods that have no traction with a majority of the Indian population they have lost a great opportunity to creatively shape the future of the country.

AAP, on the other hand, has started the process of exhausting the possibilities of India’s Constitutional democracy. By fiercely trying to make the system work according to its own theoretical framework they are both helping realize the best of its potential and also exposing its contradictions. While it is too early to read their exact future they are at least paving the way for the creation of better alternatives to the current system and that too, with considerable public participation.

The emergence of AAP is historic for its ability to open up new space and fresh entry points into the existing theater of Indian electoral politics, hijacked for long by money, muscle and media power. What is attracting people to it in droves across the nation is the open nature of AAP’s project that gives them a say in the politics of power for the first time in a direct way.

By focusing on specific, tangible issues that affect the lives of ordinary folks- water, power, roads, health, education, interface with state agencies and so on- the AAP is politically educating the Indian masses on the fly in an unprecedented manner. It is upto the Indian citizen- all of them to the last person- to seize the opportunity to get involved and arm themselves with the ability to run their own affairs without reference to leaders or special centers of power.

And AAP is managing to do all this while appearing to be totally naïve in its politics and without any grand revolutionary rhetoric, save the slogan of ‘going back to the Aam Aadmi’ for its political inspiration and decision making.  In fact, to me, the AAP’s radical potential arises precisely because it has few pretensions or grand goals.

Instead it stresses ordinary processes to solve ordinary problems together with great faith in the wisdom of ordinary Indian citizens, thus restoring agency to them. All this emphasis on the ‘aam’ or ‘ordinary’ makes AAP’s truly khaas as this has never been attempted before, with the politics of the right being elitist and activism of the left mostly vanguardist.

Ok, maybe I am jumping the gun a bit and being too rosy about the AAP here, as very little is known yet about their stand on a variety of other issues. For example, it is not clear what stand the AAP will finally take on the idea of the ‘Indian nation’ itself, in particular regarding movements for autonomy and independence in Kashmir or the northeast. Furthermore, AAP with its base largely within the urban middle-classes has also not spelt out its position on class and caste – probably the most important political themes in Indian society.

Nor is it really possible to support the AAP’s narrow, accountant’s definition of corruption. The  Jan Lokpal Bill, it promotes is a somewhat laughable attempt to find a new ‘tough law’ along with a ‘few good men’ to fix the problems of Indian society and its goverance. As if in an age, where finance capital swirls around the globe like a tsunami, it is possible to keep one’s physical self, leave alone morals, tethered to anything stable!

There is much greater corruption, obviously, manifested in the deep-rooted caste system, institutionalised discrimination against religious minorities and women or the accumulation of wealth through inheritance of property. None of these can be sorted out through mere passage of legislation in the Indian parliament and need much larger social mobilisations and many hard battles.

There is also no telling at this stage of course how long AAP’s current streak of sincerity and zeal for a clean politics will last- tested as it will be by the dynamics of actually wielding power, even in a limited sphere to begin with. Who can guarantee that the AAP will not be ‘defanged’ by the very system they have taken on and turn out to be yet another failed promise, like so many in the past?

While all these doubts surely need to be answered the real question is whether one should be a passive bystander in this process and cynically wait for the AAP to make all the usual mistakes, collapse and disappear forever? In my opinion, what even those who don’t concur with the AAP on everything should do is to work with them and build upon those aspects they can agree upon.

Spurning the option of being a rocking chair revolutionary one should rather reflect on the harder question, “If the Aam Aadmi Party represents any hope for a better Indian politics and democracy what can we do to strengthen them?”

For given the barrenness of the Indian political soil in terms of new ideas, quality of participants and processes, the AAP certainly represents a positive trend that needs to be supported. As in romance, in good politics too, it is always better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all…

Satya Sagar is a public health worker, writer and human rights activist based in Santiniketan, West Bengal. He can be reached at sagarnama@gmail.com

21 thoughts on “Aam Aadmi, Khaas Politics: Satya Sagar”

  1. I fully endorse the contents of this article. Keeping aside its revolutionary potential, the fact remains that AAP is the only hope to stem the rise of fascism in 2014 and we must help them in whatever way we can.

  2. At this conjuncture it will be enough if AAP is successful as a “spoiler”..not to congress, but to bjp’s grand design of being the single largest majority at loksabha. .As matters stand it is more or less certain that BJP will take power in 2014. That this should no enable them in foisting their fascistic agenda can be possible only if it does not garner sweeping majority but are forced to take support from other parties. If AAP eats into BJP’s vote bank sufficiently, then it may even be possible that BP’s partners in the NDA coalition might demand/force a more moderate face than this psycho…this might give the left and other progressive formations some breathing space to get their act together for 2019…

  3. @In fact, to me, the AAP’s radical potential arises precisely because it has few pretensions or grand goals.

    Totally agreed…

  4. “….For given the barrenness of the Indian political soil in terms of new ideas, quality of participants and processes, the AAP certainly represents a positive trend that needs to be supported. As in romance, in good politics too, it is always better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all…” Well said, Satya Sagar Ji….impossible to disagree with this

  5. Well written. Indian politics has in the last few decades become a morass of many and seemingly ever-perpetuating evils, and the very fact that the AAP holds the promise of giving the system a jolt at its foundations ought to be celebrated. While their politics does reek of naivete and probably-empty bravado–not to mention the rank opportunism of many of the leading lights, including Saint Kejriwal himself–the way that it has seemingly presented an alternative, or even the hope of one, to the established rot (read the big two of Indian politics, and the tired Third Front) may ultimately result in a healthier political system. The AAP itself will probably get lost along the way in the many pitfalls–of greed, inexperience, etc.—which await it, but may the chord that it’s striking with Indian youth, and the possibilities that it’s opening up, spawn newer and better offspring that drag the political system out of its by-now cosy quagmire!

  6. Nice written, it has almost covered all important facts. actually, the people (from congress, BJP, media or left etc.) are basically unable to accept the fact that the party, which they ignored and tried to demoralize on media, is now ready to run Indian capital. Its not a party from any unknown person, party’s face Kejriwal was already a well known person (much before the anti corruption movement) in many youths who were aware about the work of “Pariwartan” in Delhi and his role in RTI campaign. in 2007 or 08, I had attended Kejriwal’s meeting at Kanpur on RTI’s importance and their struggle for RTI. there were only some 30-40 people in that meeting, some RTI activists of Kanpur, members of some NGOs and also some members of Bharat Punarnirman Dal (once got little attention for anti-caste based reservation policy & promises of good governance.) were there. I found Kejriwal’s way of talking very simple and effective in that meeting. I am not a hardcore supporter of him, but today when he and his party is gaining more and more popularity. Then definitely there is a need to tell people that he has already done many works to support good governance as an activist and neither he, nor AAP is a product of only Anti corruption movement. AAP party is a result of arrogance of our established leaders and parties, and ineffectiveness of leftist parties who are unable to provide an alternative for these two national parties. hope left parties will take at least some lessons from AAP that only criticizing & supporting movements are not enough, in a democracy we have to work for some concrete alternative efforts. and hope Kejriwal will sustain his earlier image of a simple activist or “Aam Aadmi.

  7. The writer has said nothing in substance. He is romantic . The issues he has raised are too tall for AAP to handle. Abstraction is not a subsitude for action. There is the grand poetry of inaction embedded in his attractive, but incoherent analysis.

  8. I fully agree with Satya Sagar. He has hit the nail on it’s head by saying… “As in romance, in good politics too, it is always better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all…”. Every citizen who has our Nation’s well being at heart should strive to get involved with AAP and do his / her bet to strengthen this movement.

  9. We cannot come out to any logical conclusion with regard to the rise of AAP in Delhi politics, where caste and religion hardly play in any role in electoral politics, but in remaining areas across the Union caste and religion do play a significant role not only in electoral politics but also in governance. People expect much from the AAP. If it could prove its worth in creating a new political space across Delhi with no caste and religion as space-forming processes, then it may open up a new political vista for the nation, tortured by corruption from the top to the bottom. Let us hope for a new beginning in the polity.

  10. You and I share very similar thoughts and you have put them across very well.Matter of fact, Arvind Kejriwal has allowed for venting of public anger and take decisions that are our people’s. There is plenty of exciting times ahead. We are coming of age and we will look back at this period with immense pride. Right now AAP is generating a lot of emotions and is therefore running on sentiment. From this process will emerge a structure and then there is no stopping this nation…nothing.

  11. What a brilliantly written article! The way BJP and Congress scorn about AAP and that will not do them any good, in addition their ideology and ignorance against true democracy makes me support AAP even more. All the hype around how AAP does not know how to govern is totally uncalled for. The fact remains that in their first 30 days of power Mr Kejriwal and his party have done a lot more than what congress and BJP have ever done. They can scream foul play about AAPs work as much as they want but they need to understand that AAP has brought a revolutionary stir in the minds of the common people. People believe there is still hope. Yes mistakes will be made but allow them to learn. AAP deserve support from the entire nation.

  12. Sagar Ji,every word expressed by you represent thoughts of a common man.Every body wants the system to be changed.Every poor Indian wants that kind of system which can take care of every citizen,not just of of capitalists.Conventional political parties are just playing game with poor and helpless common man.Only ray of hope in current scenario is Arvind Kejriwal.He intends to give a transparent system which will show a path for over all development of India.

  13. @In fact, to me, the AAP’s radical potential arises precisely because it has few pretensions or grand goals.:
    Surprising to read such sensible words in kafila, the land of grand theories,monumental obsessions and zero output.

  14. Constructive Politics – What is Destructive is Maoism and Fabrication of our society…I am with AAP now and till their last breath. Fight will be On. The others are terrorists attempting to strike the face of Indian Democracy.

  15. Excellent description of te change that Has come about in the form of AAP. This change, in my opinion has brought this country to the path of real democracy from that of what we were made to live in. This change should be welcome as most positive thing to have happened, for, it brings out more transparency and accountability in governance, something missing thus far. And this is thanks to AAP, a fact that it’s critics too would not be able to deny.
    The current set of political leaderships will have to understand that their arrogance will only take them to their downfall. Those who fail to read the new writings on the wall, will fall by the wayside and the nation will move forward, leaving them behind. Now AAP may move forward or be demolished by the existing corrupt political dispensation, people will not look back having moved forward to build a new dispensation, which gives them hope for a better tomorrow.

  16. AFTER HILL POST ARTICLE,THIS IS THE BEST ONE TO DESCRIBE aap FORCE.THANK YOU SIR,WE(COMMON MAN) WANT CONFIDENCE BY YOU(iNTELLECTUALS)

    1. Hi,

      I am sorry but I don’t think AAP has a chance to win more than 4-5 seats in Lok Sabha 2014. AK seems to be man with no clear intentions, he has no vision and no clarity in his thoughts. He seems ro be a very confused man! People don’t trust him any more. I would be really surprised if AAP wins more than 5 seats in Lok Sabha. They haven’t done there homework well. What they have done in Delhi has taken away atleast 75% of their supporters from them. I know so many people qho voted for AAP in Delhi elections but have changed there view now. AK seems to be a deaperate man. He is not stable. I just don’t understand why has he become so greedy!!

      Regards,
      Ashish

  17. Yes we all who have joined in wholeheartedly and voluntarily to give our support to AAP and its brave and honest team, we agree that the India needs to be shaken up both wrt its systemic apathy as well as its apathetic response to the democracy totting corrupts, criminals and scam asters who have been masquerading as politicians and leaders. Thank You AAP for appearing on the scene and showing the way. Our wishes are with your entire team. Thank You AAP for initiating and announcing this public endeavor of cleaning up the polity and economy. You did not give out tenders Arvind Kejriwal ji, but we all are here standing by you….for we have duly filled up and signed on this symbolic application. Our support and signatures are indelible. Just like you we promise to be bold and fearless. We promise to not rest till we take the reigns of democracy in our own hands peacefully and ethically . We await Swaraj. Lead us all the way. Jai Hind.

  18. Very well written article. I think AAP’s strength is in its organisational weakness. All political parties in India think that their and their leadership’s strength lie in their ability to enforce centralised decisions. Dissent or diversity of opinion is never welcomed. In a sense, all parties from extreme right to extreme left are dictatorial in nature. That is why the moment someone says something different from the party’s adopted line on any issue (never mind, most of these issues are so complex that even one individual may have several perfectly logical solutions!!), it becomes a big news followed by disciplinary actions. In today’s information age, when monopoly over information that our political class used to enjoy (which actually was their major source of power) is withering away, the leaderships of all traditional parties have become totally naked and people can see and communicate to each other about their mischiefs, ignorance and arrogance. AAP has provided a platform for everyone to take part in the solution-finding process where people can talk in different voices. The fact that even this article that discusses among other things about their weaknesses, mistakes and naivety has been put up on their site, shows their openness, which is their main strength.

We look forward to your comments. Comments are subject to moderation as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s