What does the AAP symbolise ?

Whether you support or scoff at Arvind Kejriwal going “back to the people” to determine whether he should accept the Congress offer of support in Delhi, you have to admit that it is most certainly a wickedly innovative idea.
After all, India’s veteran party had played a hand of classic, old-style, Machiavellian strategy by declaring its “unconditional support” for a man its leader had just days ago dismissed as “the man from Ghaziabad.” The aim was clear: place the blame for a fresh election at the door of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or better still, gamble on them accepting the offer, so that they could be trapped into tripping on their own decision.

For an otherwise near-comatose party it was a pretty shrewd move. But it was vintage politics in an India that is so much more avant garde than retro. And the counter-move by the AAP — the declaration of a Delhi referendum — was typical of the status-quo smashing, disruptive energy it has come to symbolise.



BJP’s worry about the AAP

The Aam Aadmi Party’s spectacular electoral debut coupled with the huge setback for the Congress and Rahul Gandhi is good – as well as bad – news for Narendra Modi.

A clear front-runner for more than a year, constantly increasing his lead over Gandhi, the verdict of assembly elections is the first real political worry for Modi. But, before the bad news let’s look at the positives.

The good tidings stem from two counts: virtual decimation of the Congress and the limited time available for either the AAP – on its own – or any other national alternative to coalesce. The main challenge to Modi at the moment comes from an assortment of regional parties. Unless they succeed in projecting themselves as a credible
pan-Indian alternative, those rooting for Modi because they look at him as a strong personality and a doer are unlikely to look for alternatives.

The worries that the recent verdict has generated for Modi stem from the possibility that the AAP effect may now spill beyond Delhi, and constituencies where it can draw blood have so far been in the BJP’s comfort zone. AAP’s
current social base is primarily urban, though not only the urbane. Immediate acceptability of its political idiom is likely to be restricted to urban constituencies. Here, lower middle and working classes feel most strongly about the twin issues that form the cornerstones of the AAP campaign: corruption and price rise. Here, lower middle and working classes feel most strongly about the twin issues that form the cornerstones of the AAP campaign: corruption and price rise.

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Rather than blame others, both Congress and AAP should deliver on governance

Following the no-confidence motion against the government by Congress’s own MPs from Seemandhara, the winter session of Parliament has been rendered dysfunctional by frequent disruptions from members. Now there is talk of adjourning Parliament sine die. If politicians assume that governance can be put on hold till the next general elections in 2014, this is a dangerous conclusion to draw. This might be election season, but the public still expects its representatives to take responsibility and govern rather than simply score brownie points off each other.

As the Rajasthan assembly elections results showed, we are long past the date when a few populist sops thrown to the people just before elections are going to swing them. Neither will general elections necessarily resolve the current crisis in economy and governance. It could throw up a weak minority government that is more hamstrung than the present government. But rather than make last-ditch efforts to push through economic reforms and key policies ahead of general elections, the UPA government seems to have stopped trying altogether. Nothing could be worse for a country facing a serious economic downturn.