India’s David slays Goliath

AAP FB Image

Every once in a while something rather surprising and refreshing occurs in the political arena.

It happened in India last week. Against all odds.

For those that don’t follow or understand India’s political system (other than that it is corrupt!), there are two behemoth political parties and many regional parties in power across the nation.  

The two giants are the Congress party currently ruling the country, and the BJP party that is aspiring to form the next government after the upcoming national elections in mid-2014.

Just about one year ago, an activist by the name of Arvind Kejriwal decided to enter the fray by forming the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP –Common Man’s party). He saw this as the only viable means to change the system after using non-political social activism that seemed to result only in unfulfilled promises and utter disappointment in creating the change needed.

This party, formed primarily as a way to combat the inherent corruption that plagues India’s political system, ran on the following platform and ideals (excerpted directly from Wikipedia):

The AAP claims that the promise of equality and justice that forms a part of the constitution of India and its preamble has not been fulfilled and that the independence of India has replaced enslavement to an oppressive foreign power with that to a political elite. 

The party claims that the common people of India remain unheard and unseen except when it suits the politicians to consider them.

It wants to reverse the way that the accountability of government operates and has taken an interpretation of the Gandhian concept of swaraj as a tenet. It believes that through swaraj the government will be directly accountable to the people instead of higher officials. The swaraj model lays stress on self governancecommunity building and decentralisation.

The AAP decided to make their debut by contesting in the 2013 Delhi state assembly elections which provided for a total of 70 seats. Congress has held power in Delhi for several terms. BJP was the strongest opposition party, expecting to make significant inroads.

The fact is that not many people gave AAP much of a chance.  That includes the idealists, the supporters and the activists. It was often dismissed as well-intentioned but quaint, experimental in its approach and essentially irrelevant in the bigger picture of Indian politics.

What happened?

AAP emerged as the second largest winner in the elections with 28 seats. They successfully routed Congress (who went from a majority to winning only 8 seats!) and gave stiff opposition to BJP (who won 31 seats but not enough of a majority to form a government).

It is fair to say that this very young political party astounded everyone with their exceptional performance. This was a case where neither high caste, power, muscle nor money determined the outcome.

This NDTV interview by Barkha Dutt with Kejriwal after the historic win is excellent if you want to understand what drives him and what he is aspiring for with his entry into the political arena.

Interesting reactions to this unprecedented political debut by AAP have been reported in the media   Their range covers the following –

Stunned – basically everybody

In Denial – Members of both major parties

Angry, Threatened and Super-Annoyed – Primarily the BJP whose aspirations for ruling the country may be dashed because of this spoiler

Cautiously Hopeful – the practical supporters

Elated and Hopeful – the idealists looking towards a brighter future for India

Delighted – many people across India who are thinking, this just might work!

[Do any of these describe yours? What have I missed?]

Well to some of us idealists and hopeful ones, we sit here (far away!) and hope that this is the first of many such battles that will be played out across the country in the national elections and that India can come to finally count on an honest broker in politics. On politicians who are more interested in service to the people and the country, rather than lining one’s pockets…

The AAP is no panacea, given the deep issues across the country; the party and Arvind Kejriwal face tremendous challenges as they look ahead to build a viable future. [A good early assessment of this can be found here]. Still, even as a strong opposition to the ruling classes, they have much to offer the citizens of India, particularly the large disenfranchised sections of the population.

Even while the Congress and BJP try very hard to marginalize AAP (an all too predictable reaction to this historic win by the underdog), my fingers are firmly crossed as I wait to see what develops next. I am delighted indeed at this fantastic beginning, and cautious but hopeful of what might follow.

AAP The Winners


Posted on December 15, 2013, in india, people, politics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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