AAP and the Ideology Warriors

If ideology-warriors had their way, they would rather have Narendra Modi as the next prime minister than have their ideological purity compromised. Soon after AAP’s victory, many secularists rushed to declare, on Facebook and elsewhere, that they do not and will not partake of the AAP euphoria. ‘What is their stand on communalism?’, they asked indignantly. Some other friends insisted that Muslims need an assurance about AAP’s position on communalism and it should clarify its stand if it wanted the Muslim vote.

So what do the ideology warriors want? Just when the political agenda for the elections has decisively changed, throwing the BJP into a complete quandary, upsetting its strategic plans, they want the old familiar, secular/ communal divide back in place, opening up the political field once more to the same Hindu-Muslim polarization that we are so used to. The secular/ communal divide has been the millstone around our neck, preventing any other issue from being brought into public debate at election time and effectively preventing the emergence of any new force or formation. And let there be no mistake that in a communal polarization of Hindus and Muslims, secular forces will always, in the on-going drama of secular masochism, have to deposit themselves tied hand and foot, into the Congress party’s dungeon. The Amit Shahs will have a field day, creating one Muzaffarnagar after another, and erstwhile secular mascots like Mulayam Singh Yadav will vie with them in further entrenching the Hindu-Muslim divide. In all of this, the Congress will present itself as the saviour of Muslims.

The Congress, the BJP, the imaginary ‘third front’ – all have been able players and winners in this game.

For the first time in decades, an election was fought in Delhi and will perhaps be fought in the rest of the country where the key issues have decisively changed. If politics is above all, about agenda setting, then the initiative has been snatched away from the hands of the Congress-BJP combine. The agenda has been set against their wishes. Suddenly Modi is at a loss for words, he and his party no longer seem to have any credibility left. His only plank was a ‘Congress-free India’ and now his speech has begun to sound ever more hollow. Even the RSS has had to sit up and take notice.

But the secular/ communal divide is only one of the axes along which demands are being made on AAP to ‘clarify’ its stand. There are others who want AAP to state its position clearly on the class divide, on workers’ rights, on Kashmir’s azadi, on nuclear energy and so on.

During the debate on the vote of confidence motion in the Delhi Assembly, the BJP leader Harsh Vardhan raked up AAP leader Prashant Bhushan’s statement (made quite some time ago) where Bhushan had expressed himself in favour of a referendum in Kashmir. Harsh Vardhan dared Kejriwal to defend his comrade. Kejriwal, the quintessential ‘post-ideological’ aam aadmi, refused to take the bait, much to the consternation of the ideology warriors. His speech was a brief – almost Gandhian – intervention that simply thanked everyone who spoke, for their constructive and non-constructive suggestions, and then went back to the set of issues that his government wants to take up. He concluded the speech with the brilliant one liner: “I am not here to ask you to vote for my government; vote if you agree with our practical programme.” It rattled the radicals no end. He should have, according to these ideologues/ ideologists, come out ‘boldly’ and taken a stand.

It is not an inconsequential matter that both the BJP and the radicals want AAP to go the same way. One can understand why Harsh Vardhan and BJP want Kejriwal to come out with their ‘ideological position’. For they know that between them, communalism and the Kashmir issue can achieve a polarization that will be entirely to BJP’s benefit. Once again the familiar divides will appear and once again, fire-spitting rhetoric will take centre-stage. Empty words will spew forth at high decibel levels and the concrete everyday matters that are now on top of the agenda will once again be brushed under the carpet.

But what about the radicals? Why do they want this scenario to be resurrected? The answer is simple: they have no stakes in anything except their own ‘purity’.

The demand essentially is that the AAP should be what ‘we’ always wanted to be, but could never be and never can. For the simple reason that ideology-warriors are good critics and nothing else. Rest assured that if Kejriwal and AAP were to follow their advice, they too would be reduced to the position occupied by such critics – that of mere spectators. In saying this, I am not for a moment suggesting that AAP and Kejriwal should therefore just go with the flow of things. There are two very serious issues involved here that have to do with what I shall term the ‘dialectic of efficacy’ – one of these has to do with the logic of mass politics and the other with the logic of the party-form, both which call for a brief discussion.

First, the logic of mass politics. For a political formation that seeks to play a transformative role in any sense, it is of critical importance that it take the people along. For AAP to succumb to the demands of ideology and to ‘state its position’ in a ‘clear-cut’ fashion would be to reduce itself to complete ineffectivity, for the masses of people who are flocking towards it today are doing so precisely because its appeal is limited to ‘corruption’ – which in the language of the street is the code for loot and plunder with the active connivance of the government. For the person on the street, this covers virtually everything that life is about. But the word is capacious enough to allow other meanings to be filled in as well, and that allows middle class people too, in large numbers to flock to it. Many of these people who come to it on this agenda and prioritize this agenda over others, could actually be with the BJP or the Congress if fault-lines were drawn differently and other matters were to come to the fore (as for instance in a secular/ communal polarization). Their coming to AAP does nothing to change all that.  It is only the specific manner of formulation of the agenda that draws them to AAP. Start re-arranging them according to the demands of the ideology-warriors and they will start returning to their old grooves. If the transformative agenda has to be pushed and the new experiment in democratic politics is to fulfill its minimum promise of redrawing and re-ordering the limits of what ordinary people experience as the political, then the current momentum must be maintained. The most important part of this experiment is the fact that rank outsiders who speak the language of ordinary people have now taken charge, however temporarily. The beginnings of a new political culture are already becoming visible. For the first time in my memory, a government has openly challenged the might of the two biggest corporate houses – Tatas and Reliance – by demanding that they submit to a CAG audit or face a cancellation of their license. For the first time, the water tanker mafia that had close connections with the major political parties, has been taken on. This is unprecedented in a country where communist parties have ruled some states, in one case for three and a half decades continuously without taking on the really powerful. You don’t have to declare that you are radical and anti-capitalist to be able to take such daring steps; all you need – and the AAP government has shown this – is the guts to stand by the interests of ordinary people.

If this momentum has to be maintained, the government and Arvind Kejriwal will do well to leave rhetorical posturing to the ideology warriors and concentrate as they have been, on doing rather than saying. In the present context, it is of utmost importance that this process go forward, for that alone will initiate a process of change in thinking as far as ordinary people are concerned. New and different ways of doing things initiate different ways of thinking. As Lenin said, it is in moments of actual political turmoil that people learn in months, what they would in years in ordinary times.

But all this is not to say simply that all is well. These are also dangerous times for AAP.  It stands at the point where the headiness of its successes combined with the inexperience of its ministers in Delhi, and its leadership more generally, can easily lead it astray.

This brings us to the second issue, the logic of the party-form. There will be pressures to compromise in a myriad ways, as there will be attempts to trap the leaders in situations where they, despite themselves, become embroiled in problematic decisions. It is also clear that within AAP, there are elements whose instinct is to take the more conservative position that goes with the so-called ‘national mainstream’ in matters like national security and nuclear energy. They will try and steer the party in that direction. I have long maintained in various articles and comments on Kafila and elsewhere that, at the root of our political miseries is the specific creation of the last century and a half – the political party. In the spate of contemporary movements across the globe – from the anti-corruption movement in India to the Occupy Wall Street movement in the USA to the indignados and across countries of the Arab world, it is the political parties that have been the target of attack. Political parties have been identified as being responsible for the hijacking of the democratic impulse and for the transformation of democracy to an arrangement in which the rule of capital is entrenched through what all the movements refer to as corruption, thievery and fraud.

This is not an isolated phenomenon in India. Political parties perform, on behalf of the state, the aggregative function of reconciling diverse interests and most often in a way that is favourable to capital and the more powerful interests. In countries like ours they are also entrusted with the ‘responsibility’ of ‘national security’ – of rooting out ‘antinational’ forces. There is therefore, always a pressure on all political parties to mainstream themselves and become part of the ruling nationalist consensus. It is not surprising then that both the Congress and the BJP while attacking Prashant Bhushan and AAP on the Kashmir issue, underlined that AAP is no longer a movement engaged in activism or an NGO, but a political party proper. CPI (M) too, added to the criticism by stating that army deployment is a matter for government to decide, not the public.

Clearly, across the political spectrum, all parties are rattled by this new creature that insists on retaining elements of a movement-in-struggle – an identity that is meant to be dropped when you grow up and become a political party.

All these pressures will begin to tell on the party in different ways and resisting them will not be easy. At the moment, AAP embodies something that is a party and yet not one. And yet, it has been pitchforked into a position that demands increasingly that it become a full-fledged party. I am not very hopeful that it will be able to resist such demands for a very long time.

However, if there is one lesson that the twentieth century experience must teach us, then in my view it is that we must learn not to invest in political organizations as long term formations.  If the current experience continues through the next election and is able to transform political discourse in some significant fashion, enabling fresh thinking on democracy and politics, it will have laid the ground for a longer term change in political culture as well. If AAP were to suddenly disappear after that into thin air, it will have nevertheless have played its historic role.

29 thoughts on “AAP and the Ideology Warriors”

  1. AAP has changed the Indian political landscape forever. It has worked out a positive winnable formula touching every facet of the society. Emergence of AAP will see the meteoric rise of the highly talented Indian higher bureaucracy which has some serious image correction to do. But not everything is hunky dory. Will AAP increase the schism between classes? Will it create pockets of dissonant political thinking between the urban and rural areas? Whatever may be the output, Politics will no longer belong only to the taboo elite.


  2. If freedom from corruption was all that drew people to the AAP, then I’m unclear on why this would not draw them to Modi instead. I think AAP’s success owes much to its amorphous, but still clearly visible left-leaning ideological bent. In fact, I think, it was the AAP that in one sense re-appropriated the notion of the ‘Aam Admi’ from its middle class connotations enabling it to accommodate a much wider spectrum of people. According to me, the problem with the AAP — and I suppose this would lead you to label me an “ideological puritan” — is its reluctance to build on this ideological plank and challenge certain foundational assumptions on which the perpetuation of iniquitous power structures depend. Of course corruption is “bad” — no one denies that, but the question is: are we willing to interrogate the underlying systems that produce corruption, or will we continue to frame it as a moral issue? Can we argue that corruption affects all “aam aadmis” the same way? How much more bureaucracy will we need to create to monitor and punish the corrupt if we don’t address the structural flaws that pave way for corruption first? Old questions, I know, that have been raised repeatedly by mere “critics” like myself, but is it unreasonable to expect an answer? The AAP refuses to reject or even challenge the infrastructural and ideological constraints that safeguard the elite’s control over the country’s democratic apparatus. What I mean by “Infrastructural constraints,” for example, is electoral democracy’s dependency on money (call me a cynic, but I can’t help think it’s only a matter of time before the AAP is compelled to turn to people with deep pockets to finance its itself, especially if it plans to go national), and by ideological constraints, I mean the common sense assumptions that corruption is bad (meriting no further interrogation) nationalism is good etc.

    The AAP is certainly not the first to challenge Tata and Reliance — Swamy Subramaniam has done this too (at least prior to his merger with the BJP), so no, I don’t think challenging them amounts to much political conviction. You use an interesting phase for Kejriwal — post ideological; interestingly, that’s exactly how Modi appears to be fashioning himself. All of his pet issues — development, unity, good governance, no corruption — are all framed in putatively un-ideological terms even if not in a-political terms. Of course, it’s on focusing on Modi’s silences that his ideology becomes revealed. While I’m not equating Kejriwal with Modi, I think the potential for him to fall down the same path very much exists.

    The need to go beyond the exhausted communal/secular dichotomy, itself a convenient creation of both the Congress and BJP, does not displace the need for ideological commitment in politics, but in my opinion makes it more urgent. I’m not naive, I know that were the AAP to start professing an unwavering, oppositional ideological position, it would quickly lose the mass support it has built up, and forego any chances of retaining a fighting chance in the circus of Indian democracy, which is why I often feel that elections are not the terrain on which transformative politics can stage its struggle. It needs to be an effort to transform education, to destabilize the coordinates that pin down the extent of “public debate,” to transforming deeply ingrained habits in the private sphere etc. It will be a long struggle, with no visible results for many years, but if changing the country’s political/cultural/social and economic landscape is the goal, then one must eschew expectations of instant results (which I confess given my own privileged position is perhaps easy for me to say, given that I am not, at least for now, an immediate victim of the country’s worst cruelties).


  3. A very valid point made. Its almost like all these ideological warriors want the status quo to be maintained. While AAP does need all the criticism but it seems that most of these people want it to fail because they could never succeed significantly. I think there agnostic position towards policies and willingness to be open to ideas is a great positive otherwise how religions are created about ideologies is only counter-productive.

    The other important thing is that Aam Aadmi Party may primarily be known as an anti-corruption party but its core-principle is Swaraj(decentralisation). If we read Arvind Kejriwal’s book Swaraj (Full book available to read at http://www.swarajonline.in) its clear that the idea of Swaraj tackles issues which range from Naxalism(as community land/natual resources is taken away by Govt for selling to vested entities), poverty(the govt services dont reach to people because they cannot do anything about it), Disempowerment of tribals etc. Also Kashmir/North East issues are also about Central Govt having undue control over the regions.


  4. I got this philosophical insight while solving my daily Su Do Ku: Pragmatism is the same thing as muddling through. Without logic in Su Do Ku. Without ideology in politics. Let us see if AAP can solve the country’s problems without ideological hangups. I am willing to give them a chance. I will put my ideological reservations (needless to say, leftist) on the backburner. Lakshminarayanan, Bangalore.


  5. Only time will tell whether a successful AAP proves to be a Trojan Horse for the BJP or for leftists of various shades. Lakshminarayanan R, Bangalore


  6. Who are these secular I deology warriors you speak of? Name them, or we could conclude them to be imaginary.


  7. Kejriwal didn’t take action / oppose Robert Vadra when he ensured that the person who overtook him was challaned and harassed. This itself proves that Kejriwal is yet another politician who speaks one thing and does some thing else. He said he opposes VIP security and has now got Z category. It is sad that indian people have no choices other than people like kejriwal who are proving to be oppurtunists. Atleast other politicians are better as they not self righteous like AK and preach austerity while practicing opposite


  8. I don’t know who the author of this article is, but surely trying to peddle his ideology onto both the AAP and make the AAP supporters who are being constructively critical go on a defence. The problem is not just ideology, right now because of a lack of a clear stand you have people from both the extreme spectrums of the left as well as right joining the party, you have one of the leaders giving speeches which are anti-women, anti-muslim, anti-sikh and equating the nominated PM candidate of the right wing to Lord Shiva etc, and within the party you also have left leaning socialists and liberals. On the other side corporate honchos too are joining the band wagon… all this will be fine as long as the euphoria is high, but obviously there will be major difference of opinion among all these various members who will have their own stand and bias so the problem will come when they need to take a stand on any issue of importance…
    just as an extreme example let us say there is a carnage similar to 2002 or 1984, what will the position of the party be?, you may have some of the right wingers supporting such a carnage while the left wingers may want to take a strong stand against it etc, this can only lead to either avoiding taking stands (and loosing faith of the people) or party splitting due to the different points of view at some point… these are areas that AAP needs to look in the long run…
    a political formation or party cannot for long keep avoiding taking stands and walk on a rope as suggested by the article… this is what the mainstream parties do… AAP being on a crusade to bring about fundamental structural change needs to just say what it has in mind and not tread carefully… I think that is what made the Independence movement succeed, because the leadership voiced its stand all the time…


  9. Your observations are so true and free of any prejudice. AAP is basically a new-age party led by people who believe in ACTION rather than just glib talk. We welcome for whatever they can do to change the present political environment. AAP has set the ball rolling and
    if it gathers momentum we will be able to see some significant change not before 20 years
    when the existing generation departs from the scene.


  10. First of all AAP does have an ideology and its liberal democracy tinged with socialism and Gandhism which is what basically the Constitution is!! Secondly it uses rhetoric that the people can understand – that they will provide good governance and also cheap or free services. At a time when corruption and inflation have reached exasperating levels this is a message that goes down well. However, it is a little surprising that the masses have believed that the AAP will be able to deliver on these counts against powerful players. Possibly this is just the moment for Indian democracy and AAP and more so Kejriwal are the figures of the moment. There is no doubt that the unexpected achievement of the AAP is a watershed moment in our history as it has fundamentally shaken up not only the mainstream political parties but also the many mass agitational movements which have been slogging for years without being able to make a dent in the power structure.
    However, there is still a need for caution. Elimination of corruption is not easy and the AAP will face many obstacles. If corruption is eliminated then huge resources will accrue to the Government and the people and it will be possible for it to implement its populist measures of free or cheap services quite easily while cutting down inflation which is primarily being fuelled by the black economy which is more than 50% of the GDP. But possibly due to the imperative of having to make a good showing on the national stage also a few months later the AAP and Kejriwal have gone on a populist spree without first acting on corruption and this has caused some problems of resource mobilisation. Therefore there is a need for the AAP to sequence its programme properly. First act against corruption and augment the resources of the government and then go for populist actions. The people are prepared to wait especially if this logic is explained to them.
    Secondly the funding of not only elections but the general work of the party is going to be a problem. So far people have been putting in time and energy voluntarily but how long this will sustain is a question and also whether it will be possible to implement the same model all over the country. Some thought needs to be given to this.
    Thirdly there is the obvious problem of the inherent contradictions between the various classes that are now together as supporters of the AAP. It is nice to see CEOs and slumdwellers together in the same party but how long they will remain together is the question. Possibly the stress on Mohalla Sabhas and Gram Sabhas regarding decision making should be actualised instead of remaining at the level of rhetoric. So far it appears that the decision making of the AAP is centralised and there is a considerable ad hocism at play.
    Finally there is the question of whether Globally powerful capital will allow any serious challenge to its control of the world and India and will not move to sabotage the AAP in various ways in which they have shown themselves to be very proficient!!! After all Reliance, Tata, Goldman Sachs etc are not exactly pushovers.
    Anyway whatever happens in future I personally must say that I have been enthused as a political activist over the victory of a party in an election after thirty six years as I had last been even more enthused by the victory of the Left Front in West Bengal in 1977. On that occasion things deteriorated within three years and I was out on the streets as a young student protesting against some of its perfidies. Let us hope that this one endures longer!!!


  11. one big hope when kejriwal came to power was that action will be taken against corruption accused leaders from previous regime. But he has started asking where is the proof and asks people to submit proof . This looks like more escapism. He is only interested in self glory and doesn’t seem to work for the aam admi any more


  12. I am an unapologetic “ideological warrior”, if criticizing AAP makes me that! My politics is about celebrating diversity and being able to deal with difficult questions and not mere populism. In that sense I do not see how AAP is any different from the Congress or the BJP walking the plank of a grand nationalistic/patriotic stance for mobilisation – while I prefer smaller revolutions rather than generalising for a grand idea that is at the same time hegemonic, imperialist and unconcerned. One simple instance is the way Kejriwal immediately distanced himself from Prashant Bhushan’s demand for a referendum for withdrawal of AFSPA in Kashmir (which by the way is very far away from a referendum on Kashmir). I prefer local politics and local goons rather than the super goons that ultimately become so big that they are immune even from the “state”. And insofar as corruption is concerned, as long as the Reliances and the Vedantas are around – and privatisation is on the increase – I want the woman who comes to collect garbage from my parent’s house in Salem to continue to be corrupt – as she is on contract employment that too for a private contractor with absolutely no employment safeguards and draws a salary of INR 2000 a month and has 3 children that she has to put through school.


    1. Just a small factual correction: Kejriwal has so far moved against private corporations in the water and electricity sector and, as of yesterday, scrapped FDI in the retail sector, he has also taken seriously the question of regularization of contract workers in government departments – say in water supply and the municipal corporation. In other words, the corruption that has been targeted in the first instance is that of the corporations. Your narrative seems to assert what it fancies, without any reference to what is actually happening. That is the true hallmark of holier-than-thou ideology warriors, It is also interesting to see that radicals these days have reconciled themselves to the rule of Reliance and Vedanta – and privatization. That is a given in your comment. How interesting!


      1. The question for me is how does one plan to displace Vedanta/Reliance? Do we challenge them on a case-by-case basis by taking them to the Supreme Court on allegations of corruption, which may or may not punish some fall guys in those corporations/and or the government and possibly hold up some of their projects, or do we challenge the ideologies and institutional mechanisms that prop them up in their positions of power? I want to be excited about Kejriwal, but I can’t help but fear that AAP’s lack of ideological direction will make it the next-generation equivalent of the Congress: supposedly the party that got us freedom from the British/freedom from corruption, but was quickly drawn back into the orbit of the powerful because of its reluctance to ever challenge the foundations from which the powerful derived their power. Cynicism is ineffective, but unfounded optimism is dangerous.


      2. Aditya – wish I could share your optimism – but for me AAP is like a large boat filled with oars”men” rowing in different directions – where the boat will gravitate to will depend on combined vectorial factors – even with its single plank agenda on corruption – and given the hegemonic factors that define Indian polity and the people flocking towards AAP, I suppose it will not be difficult to hazard a guess as to where it will be headed in the long term! Just look at the differences in positions on issues ranging from Kashmir to FDI. You are right when you say that the traditional left has not been able to smell the coffee – but my skepticism is that what AAP is doing is serving a limited period instant coffee. Anyways this is only a comment and not an essay…..


        1. Bobby,
          Since you talk of my ‘optimism’ and AAP’s ‘long -term’ (non)-survival, let me quote the following from my post above. This is where I ended:

          However, if there is one lesson that the twentieth century experience must teach us, then in my view it is that we must learn not to invest in political organizations as long term formations. If the current experience continues through the next election and is able to transform political discourse in some significant fashion, enabling fresh thinking on democracy and politics, it will have laid the ground for a longer term change in political culture as well. If AAP were to suddenly disappear after that into thin air, it will have nevertheless have played its historic role.

          So much for ‘long term’ and my expectations and ‘optimism’. And about ‘wishful reading’ – if I could coin such a term for a widely prevalent mode of reading these days. I have long abandoned – and here is where you and I differ – the faith in long-term survival of parties and organizations. Like everything else, they come into being in specific historical contexts and outlive that role when the situation changes. Some survive because their is just no alternative to them for whatever reason but they could well be replaced by others. They certainly lose their distinctiveness.

          More importantly, Bobby, I am on record in writing in my articles over the past three/ fours about my rejection of the very institution of the political party and I see that rejection everywhere in almost all contemporary movements. I therefore cannot be very optimistic about AAP too – now that it is becoming a political party. I say, ‘becoming’ because it is still in the process, for it still retains all its suspicions of what constitute the worst features of ‘party politics’, which in my view is a destruction of politics as such – the reduction of politics to a farcical spectacle with no substance…


  13. It seems to me that the AAP politics is a “new age” politics in India. It is not that it is devoid of ideology, it is trying to rework and contemporize the old ideologies of socialism, and secularism to fit into realities of today, leaving the purists of both the right and the left behind. For long the social movements in the country have, with justification, tried to advocate for specific disadvantaged sections of the populace, be it dalits, minorities, backward regions, project-displaced people, farmers, etc.etc. but they could not find a least common denominator which would unite all the disadvantaged people, and became more and more fragmented. But the anti-corruption issue and movement was able to cut through these horizontally and bring them together into one political platform. This itself is no mean achievement.
    In Andhra Pradesh, where a huge battle is going on about bifurcation into Telengana and AP is going on, which has witnessed unprecedented double-speak and dishonesty to disgusting levels on the part of political parties, we find wherever we go to garner support for AAP, people are willing to set aside the bifurcation issue, as well as the traditional political parties, both national and regional parties, and coming forward in huge numbers to listen to the voice of AAP, and to take membership with AAP.
    The AAP is an ideology in the making; it is refashioning the old ideas; it is a “work in progress”. It may make mistakes; they have to be extra careful about not making silly or big mistakes, for every step would be scrutinized by hawkish ideology warriors as well as all the ‘smart’ and the ‘wise’ guys around. But can anyone deny we are indeed living in challenging times, where the historical models of growth, progress, technological sophistication, welfare state, theocracy, rags-to-riches stories, and all the things we are so familiar with, are all being challenged all over the world? And that we need a breath of fresh air and some new ideas? and some new ways of running governments?


  14. Without disagreeing with your point, I think the facts here are exaggerated, and just want to raise that. The Congress itself moved against Reliance in the D6 gas basin case and audited them, as well as proposed a heavy penalty – and notwithstanding Jaipal Reddy’s transfer and replacement with Moily, so far they seem to still be moving ahead with it. They also moved against Vodafone and despite ‘conciliation’ etc. they have raised another tax demand on them, as well as on Nokia. Do you find that the Congress is a committed anti-corporate party? To state the obvious we don’t know what AAP is going to do about Reliance since it hasn’t actually done anything yet – just announced asking the CAG for an audit (which is going to be promptly challenged in court). As for regularising workers, AAP hasn’t done that either yet, just talked about it, and also has not responded to the contract worker protests outside their office. Indeed, nothing they have actually done so far is anything new, contrary to what you make it out to be (increased subsidies on water and electricity, etc.) and are all measures that other political parties have also taken (every party increases subsidies at the start and end of its term, and do recall that only 12 out of India’s states supported FDI in retail, for instance).

    I also think that AAP’s rise is an enormously positive change, but let’s retain at least a little critical thinking, please. I seriously doubt that everyone who is not in AAP in the country is either an idiot, a fascist, a sellout or a sectarian nutcase, as so many Kafila posts now seem to imply.


    1. Shankar,
      Fifteen days in power is sure long enough time to test the seriousness of any party in delivering.on its commitments.And ultimately, it is a matter of preferences – but it does indicate to me a lack of sincerity among the critics.
      Your comment is full of attributions – none of which are there, even by implication in my post.Let me therefore, clarify, in the face of deliberate misreadings of my argument, that:

      1..I have not claimed that AAP is an anti-corporate party. In fact, i have referred to Kejriwal and by extension, to AAP as ‘post-ideological’. Terms like ‘anti-corporate’ or anticapitalist are not the terms of my argument at all. On the contrary, I have been arguing, elsewhere and here, that AAP’s nebulous character is precisely what we need to understand and that, that is precisely what is rattling all; why everyone from the Right (Arun Jaitley, Harsh Vardhan etc) to the Left (Prakash Karat, independent letists etc) everyone is demanding that they come out with their ideological position.
      2. My instances above are simply meant to point out to those who insist on taking a holier than thou position that they are actually misreading the situation completely, As for the Congress and its so-called steps against corporations, we need a fuller discussion on that – maybe at some other point. It has nothing to do with policy and politics – just as its opposition to communalism has nothing to do with principle or policy.
      3.The insinuation that you draw about people opposed to AAP being idiots or fascists (!!) is entirely a figment of your imagination. I don’t use terms like ‘fascism’ to label people – that is a pastime of the Leftists who smell fascism everywhere. It is Leftist critics of AAP, on the contrary, who have used this label most liberally. Similarly, “sellout” (and “nutcase”) are favourite Leftist terms of abuse – exuding their love of critical thinking. I challenge you to find one occasion where I have used any such term for any political position – save the Hindu Right.
      To reiterate, my point has simply been of rescuing AAP from the “enormous condescension” of largely irrelevant-to-life Leftists and not an argument in defense of AAP as such.


      1. “I challenge you to find one occasion where I have used any such term for any political position – save the Hindu Right.”

        Point taken. It was meant to be a rhetorical statement, not an insinuation that you or anyone else actually used those words.

        But I think this does come back to the point that I raised in an earlier discussion – it is unheplful to speak of ‘largely irrelevant to life Leftists’, the “party left”, ‘ideology warriors’, or (as Shivam Vij said in another column) “Delhi secularists” etc. Using such terms seems to be the pattern in all the pro AAP posts in Kafila recently. These terms are just abuses, which prevent any meaningful debate or engagement with your point, as critics will always assume them to mean one thing and you will always argue that you were referring to something else. This is liking arguing a POTA court case where all the witnesses’ identities are masked :). It would be far better to name names/organisations and cite sources / examples of what is being referred to. I really can’t understand what seems to be a clear reluctance to do this, not just on your part, but, as said, on the part of most Kafila columnists.

        As for not being “an argument in defense of AAP as such”, I have not seen any reference to any of AAP’s limitations in these or other articles. I could cite some here (none relating to ideology, incidentally) but this is a comment, not a space for debate, I suppose. Is it not possible to both recognise the enormous contribution they have made and the space they have opened, while also recognising the problems that are likely imminent?


  15. I am one of the gullible who voted for Kejriwal for his tough anti corruption stand. But he aligned with the corrupt congress and now even asked show me the proof against Sheila for me take action. Though it is early days I think he is laying foundation to not act against congress hoping in future he can be PM with Congress support. Hope I am wrong. He is more into theatrics than governing.


  16. Dear Shankar,
    I take your point about not naming people. In the first place, I was not really writing an academic paper and most of the opinions I refer to are expressed either on facebook or in conversations here and there – the latter largely among friends. They are really quite difficult to reference in any academic format. But surely you know that these are not figments of my imagination – such opinions are quite widespread. In fact, this is the most common line of attack on AAP – that it has no ideology – and as I have said in my earlier comment, it runs through right and left wing critics (from Arun Jaitley to Harsh Vardhan on the one hand, to Prakash Karat on the other). It has also been aired by Prabhat Patnaik in a recent piece in the Indian Express. These are the big names but there are innumerable less known ones as well – and as I said, many of them are/ were friends. The fact of the matter is that some of us have faced sneers and attacks from such Leftist/ secular friends, simply for expressing opinions on the anti-corruption movement that our friends find sacrilegious. In any case, I do not want to dwell on this matter any further.

    I do however, want to come in on one matter that you have raised about there not being any reference to AAP’s limitations on any of my posts. Well, my answer is that at the moment, when most friends have decided to attack it in the most unfair terms – from being RSS-sponsored at one time, to being a Congress-agent, to being no different from Congress, BJP etc, I was interested in pointing out that their is another side to the picture. This other side to my mind, is not about the virtues of AAP – if you read any of my posts carefully, you will see that I have continuously made one point: my posts are less about either the people who make up AAP (including Arvind Kejriwal), or about its socalled ideology, its purity or otherwise but most crucially about the way in which a particular slogan (corruption) and a mode of doing politics by complete outsiders, has upset the apple cart for all the traditional parties. If, in a matter of less than a year (and two and a half, if you include the Anna phase), it has drawn such massive support from all sections of the people, it is something I do not dismiss like most independent leftists who sneer at what they think AAP lacks. For me, the question has always been of trying to understand what it is that is touching a chord with so many people, rather than sitting on a pedestal and passing judgement. And this passing judgement becomes ridiculous when it is done by people who cannot mobilize ten people on any issue. They all seem to have the right perspective and the correct ideology – but little else. No one really cares about their correct ideology. If you want me to sit and find fault with AAP, I will say that that is the easiest thing to do, but that is precisely why Leftists have always missed the bus – they could never see anything new that was coming into view in life; everything was always already explained and indeed, predicted by their theological doctrines. In their view, everything has already happened and everything even seemingly new is a mere repetition of some other history (tea party, fascism etc) – and they know it. So be it! I plead my inability to join this chorus of naysayers.


  17. It is not my intention to throw the discussion in this thread off-topic, but I did feel inclined to raise this matter here because I do believe it’s relevant to the larger theme of your discussion. Kejriwal’s recent statement — that rape tendencies begin with “sex and drug” rackets — is an excellent example of what happens when ideology is not clearly formulated. While I’m not familiar with the details of the recent rape of a foreign tourist, nor do I know exactly what transpired in the place where the AAP’s Law minister demanded a raid, Kejriwal’s statement points to a painful lack gender sensitivity. Rather than placing the blame for rape squarely within the ideological structure of patriarchy, he instead deflects attention to “drugs” and “sex rackets.”I’m not sure what the “sex racket” means. Is it human trafficking? Or are we now being asked to view prostitution through the exhausted lens of morality? What about drug abuse? Once again, Kejriwal simply draws on widely-held ideas that prostitution and drugs are “bad” and then extrapolates this reductive approach to formulate a deeply problematic explanation for rape. Missing, or rather silenced in this simplistic explanation is an attempt to turn to the social structures that produce rape, prostitution and drug abuse. Kejriwal did not say enough for us to decisively condemn him as complicit in patriarchal thought-structures, but he did say enough to raise concern. Of course other political parties are no better, or worse than him, but really is that a yardstick worth using?


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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s