Congress and BJP are like priests in temples. They have learnt nothing, forgotten nothing. They fail to see that AAP has caught the imagination of the people and it has spread like a wildfire
THE Indian political scene, although fractured and patchy, is acquiring a shape of sorts. The emergence of the Aam Admi Party (AAP), founded by non-government organisations, sneeringly called the jholawalas (an epithet applied to an Indian pseudo-intellectual who goes around with a cloth shoulder bag) has changed the scene. It has provided a much-needed alternative to Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which are the same wine in different bottles.
Regional parties that have a sway in the states look like the biggest losers. Their appeal in the name of language, area or religion has lessened in effect. The success of AAP in the Delhi assembly elections has hit the polarisation the most that the party has transcended caste, creed and such other considerations.
When both Congress and BJP admit that they have to learn from the way AAP has come up, they should transform themselves. Yet, they remain the citadels of status quo. Whether AAP has the Marxists and Naxalites within its ranks does not matter as long as they are in tune with the people’s aspirations. Ultimately, the test is how soon AAP eliminates poverty, which encompasses half of India’s population even after 67 years of independence.
One thing is sure, that the Left has been trampled upon mercilessly. It is a loss, no doubt. But the communists and the nascent Socialist Party have to blame themselves because they are no more tethered to the grass roots. Espousing the cause of progress and egalitarianism cannot be confined to slogans or rhetoric. AAP has come out with an agenda and time-frame for uplifting the lower half.
When the communists could not improve the quality of life in West Bengal in their 35-year-old rule, they proved that Marxism of their type was only a veneer of progress. Scratch their skin, they are found part of the establishment. What they could not do – arouse the poor to have their say – for decades, AAP has promised to do in about 12 months.
The two main parties, Congress and BJP, are like mahants in temples. They have learnt nothing, forgotten nothing. Instead of correcting their policies, they consider AAP an aberration or a bubble that will burst by the time the Lok Sabha elections are held in April. They are mistaken because the party has caught the imagination of the people and it has spread like a wildfire. Hundreds of thousands of people who have joined the AAP show that.
The manner in which the wave of Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, has waned indicates that he does not command the crowd he once did although media continues to play him up. That is the reason why the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is frantically telling BJP to stop AAP, not Congress, which has been its opponent for years. The attack by the leaders on every step AAP takes in governing Delhi confirms the perception that Congress has slipped to the third position.
The Congress party has reportedly come to the conclusion that it should unofficially support AAP to stall Modi. It also means that Congress has realised that it cannot come back to power. In fact, it may try to marshal different parties in the states, along with its own strength, in support of AAP to form the government at the Center. Congress will leave no stone unturned to keep Modi out of power.
The most disturbing aspect of political scene is corruption. Both the Congress and BJP, the latter especially, have no hesitation in getting the support of tainted leaders. The Congress refuses to take action against Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who allegedly favored a company in which his relations have a large number of shares. Modi, otherwise talking about cleanliness in public life, retains in his cabinet a minister who has been convicted by the court. Both Bihar’s Lalu Prasad Yadav and Rashid Masoud of the Congress ceased to be members of parliament as soon as they were convicted. So why is BJP shielding the convicted members in Modi’s government in Gujarat?
Another disturbing feature visible is the personality cult. The democratic polity is sought to be changed to the presidential form. Modi is to be blamed the most because he has raised the slogan of a strong man and a strong government. A ruler, who presided over the massacre of his own citizens some 12 years ago can be dangerous to the dissent that the constitution guarantees. It is not surprising, however shocking it is, that the police refused to register a First Information Report (FIR) against Modi at Ahmedabad.
The snooping scandal that implicates Modi in having a girl under surveillance raises many questions. An FIR is in order to determine the truth. A center-appointed commission may be able to dig it out, but the state machinery is not willing to cooperate, as is obvious from the attitude of the local police.
The Congress should have seen through Modi’s game to convert the 2014 elections into a clash of personalities, not of issues, but the party is guilty of projecting Rahul Gandhi as if the contest is between the two. Rahul is too often speaking on important policy matters and having the government’s decision reversed. One example is that of the ordinance to save politicians from the Supreme Court judgement that a legislator would cease to be a member once he is convicted.
Yet, another issue is that of the housing scandal in Maharashtra. Rahul has partly retrieved the Adarsh Housing Report that was rejected by the Congress-led government in the state. Still the politicians have gone scot-free. Only bureaucrats have to bear the brunt.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal should realize that the AAP government is not coterminous with him. Strange, he retains 16 departments. The Janata Party in the wake of a movement by Gandhian Jayaprakash Narayan did not last. But it saw to it that there would be no emergency. Democracy was deeply entrenched. If AAP can clean the system and make sure that it stays that way, this will be a great contribution even if AAP does not last.