Guest post by Satya Sagar
While the Indian media goes ballistic over the possibility of a split in the Aam Aadmi Party and ardent supporters stand demoralised, for me this is probably the best news I have heard since the party’s historic win in the recent Delhi assembly elections. I love anything with ‘splittist tendencies’.
The reason is simple. For anyone even vaguely familiar with the nature of living systems, particularly microbial life (and this is a bacterial planet we live on) one of its fundamental characteristics is ‘divide and rule’. Let me explain in more detail, before Markandeya Katju accuses me of being a ‘British agent’.
Basically, anything that possesses life, propagates and spreads its influence only through the process of splitting itself repeatedly till it finds its true balance within the larger ecosystem. All of evolution is possible only because of the constant churning, that results in repeated mutation of basic genetic structures, from which the most durable and relevant ones survive.
Lifeless, inanimate objects on the other hand, by definition, do not possess any internal contradictions and can move around only when pushed by external forces. In political terms it is simple to understand this point – when was the last time the Congress, BJP or for that matter CPI or CPM split anywhere? If there is no opinion at all, there can’t be a ‘difference of opinion’ too.
On the other hand, the Naxalite movement, the formation with the greatest internal ferment, has split up at a rate of at least twice a year,since it emerged five decades ago, resulting in over a hundred small groups around the country today. That is the way to go comrades!
Don’t get me wrong. I am not being facetious and am actually deadly serious about this point. A political party without ‘splittist tendencies’ can only be a dead one and anyone with some life left in him/her would split from the scene, pronto!
Coming back to the so-called ‘internal crisis’ within the AAP I am in fact a bit disappointed with both YY and PB (as they seem to be called these days by everyone, including perhaps their families – ‘Oye, YY, kithe ho! or ‘PB, pass the butter”). Here they both had an excellent opportunity to split the party after being personally vilified, snubbed by their leader, publicly deprived of a seat in a standing committee, but they prefer to stay on saying, ‘we are loyal party workers’!
Arre bhaiya, if you think AAP should not remain confined to Delhi and should become a national force how does it help staying put in the capital city? Why not go whichever part of the country you think your ideas have the best possiblity of flourishing and set up a little store there – if you have a decent product the customers will surely come, even if the ‘national media’ does not.
In fact splitting from the party and starting your own outfit can become the first step towards a genuine decentralisation of the power structure within the AAP movement (not party). Imagine, hundreds of mini-AAPs springing up all over the country, each with their own local Kejriwal, PB and YY – and hopefully minus the chamcha, ‘party loyalist’ types.
Without a million splits, I really can’t think of any other way AAP becoming a national movement anyway. The thought of Arvind Kejriwal carried around, coughing and wheezing on a palki, as the mascot of ‘anti-corruption’ or ‘swaraj’ from Kashmir to Kanyakumari is so laughable, it has me in splits already. This country is simply too diverse for any organisation to have that kind of appeal, without playing games with important principles like federalism, devolution of power and democracy itself.
To give an example, AAP’s organisational problems in a state like Tamil Nadu, I think, have less to do with who in the national leadership meddled with what, than to the misunderstandings caused by linguistic differences. The ‘aam’ in Aam Aadmi sounds suspicously similar to the Tamil word ‘aame’, which means tortoise, while the ‘wal’ in Kejriwal inauspiciously means ‘tail’!
To his great credit if anybody recognises the limitation of the AAP experiment in Delhi it is Arvind Kejriwal himself, who recently dismissed the idea of expanding rapidly to other states by saying, ‘We are not Napoleon’. He is bluntly honest and he is right. The AAP phenomenon is certainly not the French Revolution (where are the guillotines?) and AAP is not the marching army of liberty, equality and fraternity or even secularism for that matter.(it appears to be so because everyone else has stepped back)
As it is right now, it is at best, as symbolized by the ‘jhadoo’, only a grand citizen’s movement – mostly led by middle-class, upper-caste Hindus- aimed at cleaning up the existing system ,which is no mean task on its own. To paint AAP as ‘the revolutionary’ movement is wishful dreaming in the face of screaming realities of caste and class.
If AAP is successful in actually wielding the broom against crony capitalism or routine corruption of state agencies and providing basic social welfare to the masses – the result could of course spark off a deeper movement for bringing about more radical transformation- depending on who else does what. For the time being if AAP runs a clean organisation and upholds the rights and values enshrined in the Indian Constitution through the electoral democratic process, that would itself be a historical contribution to the Indian people. The latter in particular, as no other political force in this country has come even close to doing any such thing.
Whatever potential AAP has, for genuine countrywide transformation, on the class or caste front, cannot be achieved by mechanically expanding the Delhi model across the national landscape like a rubber mask. That will only result in the hasty induction of a lot of people wearing the mask of Kejriwal, without possessing any of his talents while retaining at least a few of his vices!
Rather, the process will have to be an organic one, with dozens and scores of local Kejriwals springing up from the grassroots, taking up the issues that AAP has raised in Delhi but with both the causes and methods tailored to context – what I would call the ‘Apne AAP’ movement. Every anonymous volunteer who is part of AAP, and indeed its core strength, has the potential to be a Kejriwal, YY or PB.
Without going through the same struggle that Kejriwal had to undertake to make AAP what it has become in Delhi, the mere stamp of approval from the ‘centre’ or ‘high command’, would make both the party and the AAP movement irrelevant to the real needs of the Indian people. The decentralised movement at the local level can join up with the original one in Delhi, where possible, but that is definitely not a necessary condition for either their existence or for doing what they want to.
If Kejriwal and the ‘Delhi unit’ of AAP do not want to have anything to do with movements of a similar or friendly nature around the country that is their choice too and nobody can compel them to take on more they can handle or want to. (After all, the Indian media pretends Delhi is an entire independent ‘nation’ on its own) They have done their job, it is the turn of everyone else who thinks it is worthwhile to do their bit to transform the country, wherever they are.
The central point in all this is really why have a party at all- AAP or anything of its kind- if not for solving the basic day-to-day problems of the aam aadmi and transferring power to the grassroots,the two primary promises made by Kejriwal and everyone around him. If the AAP government in Delhi delivers on these promises and becomes a model for the rest of the country well and good. If it does not then let us build an AAP that will deliver them, whatever it takes.
In the meanwhile, the only problem I do have with the washing of dirty Lenin…oops I mean linen in public by the AAP leadership is, it betrays a lack of sensitivity towards the millions of ordinary people who have vested so much faith in them. It is so typical of those from middle-class, upper caste backgrounds who get into leadership positions to start making their own petty egos and concerns the centre of everything (‘AAPko aata hei kya, naaz dikhane ke siwa’, as the great Mohammad Rafi once sang)
They should think about ordinary citizens like Sanjay ji, who does carpentery jobs in my neighbourhood and who told me a day before the Delhi elections,’Is baar gaadi aur kothi walon ki nahin chalegi’. It was a statement that was as poignant as it was emphatic. Living in a small slum on the outskirts of the national capital, working long hours, doing physically exhausting labour to feed his family, this small-framed, half-nourished worker’s words sounded like empty bravado more than anything else.
‘Abe kaun kya pata lega kothi walon ki?’, I wanted to ask him but refrained for the simple reason, that I felt exactly as he did, full of enthusiastic support for electing the AAP into power against the parties of the moneybags like BJP or the Congress.
Now that AAP is in power with Sanjay ji’s vote and after a few glasses of whisky down, I want to say only one thing to the AAP leadership, ‘First you fell in love. Next you got married, then squabbled and are now considering a divorce. Abey, shaadi video thodi na dekhne aaye hein. Asli picture dikha sako tho dikhao, varna paisa waapas karo!”
Satya Sagar is a public health worker and writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org