Why Kejriwal is a game changer?

My inbox is always full of chain mail exulting the great China success story. They come to me largely from young Indians who see in modern China a model of growth worth emulating. India ranks way down in the list of nations easy to do business in. (The World Bank ranks us at 134.) Not that China is much better. (It ranks 96.) But it certainly looks better placed than us for the future, and I think much of the admiration for Narendra Modi comes the fact that he is seen as a guy who can bring about a similar Indian miracle. At least Nomura thinks so. So do CLSA, UBS, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, HSBC. In short, pretty much the rest of the world.

Last week I received an article about how millions of American workers and thousands of small communities all over the US are already dominated by China who acquired a record number of businesses in the US last year, and looks all set to better that this year. Take Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer with facilities in 26 US states, employing 46,000 Americans with sales of $13 billion. It owns 460 farms, has contracts with another 2,100, Shuanghui, a Chinese company has bought it for $4.7 billion, to become one of the biggest employers in rural communities across America.

This is easy for China because of the US’ huge trade deficit. It leaves China with trillions of dollars to invest. As we all know, there’s little difference between the Chinese Government and the companies. Almost 50% of profits generated in China come from companies in which the State has controlling stake. (It used to be the same here till Manmohan Singh started his famous reforms and the public sector, already sick, went comatose.)

Last year China’s richest man spent $2.6 billion to buy AMC Entertainment, one of the biggest US theatre chains. Now Wanda is the world’s largest seller of movie tickets. Chinese companies are putting down roots in cities like Detroit and taking over traditional all-American businesses like making cars and auto parts. It’s impossible to say today how much of a GM car is American. But what makes Americans worry most is China’s acquisition of US energy resources. It mines vast quantities of coal in Tennessee. So much so that locals are now up in arms.

China is the world’s No 1 trading nation, if you add imports and exports. It has the highest foreign currency reserves. It has the biggest car market. It also produces twice the cars the US does, twice as much beer, thrice as much coal and 11 times as much steel. It’s the No 1 gold producer. It consumes more energy than the US. It’s the world’s largest manufacturer of goods. It consumes more cement than the rest of the world put together. It produces 90% of the global supply of rare earth elements. It’s the No 1 supplier of defence parts. And hey, it seems all set to take over more. So when we cosy up to the US, as we are doing today, we could well be cuddling China who is eyeing vast tracts of Indian territory in the North East.

No wonder, in such a complex world, where your friend could well be owned by your enemy, young Indians want a leader who can take India where China is today. They think Modi is that man. He has a track record of inspiring change. Unlike the Congress which has always enshrined the status quo. And young Indians believe, it’s the status quo that hurts India most.

But does it? Just shift focus a bit from economics to politics; you will be surprised. There’s no way Chinese politics could have ever thrown up the kind of results our Delhi elections did. The arrogant ruling Congress was booted out. The BJP won but barely. The unquestionable victor was a totally new party which had never fought an election, had no money, no muscle power. Its winning candidates are people no one has even heard of. Its hugely under-estimated leader, Arvind Kejriwal felled the two biggest giants with one tiny slingshot.

Could this have happened in China? Not by a long shot.




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.


Will AAP prove to be good ?

“Providing effective governance is no rocket science.” That’s what Aam Aadmi founder Arvind Kejriwal told ET when congratulated for changing the political discourse in the country.

But now that AAP has agreed to form the government in Delhi with Congress support, it will have to put that to test. Providing effective governance might not be rocket science but it will need a special escape velocity to get out of opposition mode, a role that AAP succeeded in spectacularly even before it was ever elected to anything.

It is undeniable AAP has shaken up politics as we know it. Even President Pranab Mukherjee commented that “participatory democratic movements like Anna Hazare’s” had added a “new dimension” to India’s democratic structure. Mukherjee went off his prepared text to recall that during the Lokpal movement he had been asked to head a group of ministers for talks with Anna. The old order went this way – people chose their representatives who then made laws and implemented them. That is no longer the only way forward, Mukherjee said. Now activists or NGOs can demand a legislation, “insist that you work to adopt a particular model.”


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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Keep the movement going

Did the citizens of Delhi read party manifestos before they voted? If they had studied all of that and then set out for the polling booth, the results may well have been different. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) could have come a distant third: a David crunched by two Goliaths. If truth be told, the Congress probably had a better programme on paper than the other two, but look what happened to it.

The reason the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did well was because the electorate had had enough of the Congress. The reason why the AAP did well was because, once again, people had had enough of the Congress. In both cases, where was the manifesto?

How then did these two parties fatten themselves by devouring the same animal? Simply by dividing the spoils without a well- thought-out recipe. The BJP bit into chunks from the north west, south and southwest Delhi, leaving the heart of the capital to be savaged by the AAP. The rich, the poor and the middle class spread their favours equally among the three contenders, which shows, once again, that manifestos did not count.



Hottest political debut in recent times

Not long ago, he headed to some of the poorest neighbourhoods of Delhi with his NGO Parivartan, got ration cards made and used the RTI Act so effectively he had many politicians breaking into a sweat. In April 2011, he and his army of volunteers staged the Jantar Mantar sit-in, then surfaced again at the Ramlila Maidan. Riding an anti-politician wave they had helped set off cashing in on the tarnished image of UPA II, Kejriwal and his then moral guardian Anna Hazare became the face of one of the most concerted assaults on the “political system”.

On Sunday, barely a year after he announced the formation of a political party, Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party has trounced the Congress and stopped the BJP in its tracks to emerge as the principal opposition in the Delhi Assembly.


Arrival of AAP on the political arena

The fact that a new party has made such a resounding arrival says a lot about the politics in our nation today. This  is a the true victory of democracy.

The beating of drums have not stopped since the chilly Sunday morning at the Aam Aadmi Party headquarters here on Hanuman Road. It is the Delhi election results day and the party office is home to one of the Capital’s loudest celebrations.

With each passing moment, more people, wearing the white cap, pour into the narrow lanes, raising slogans, singing anti-corruption songs while waving their election symbol, the broom, in the air.



What does the victory of AAP indicate ?

In 13 months since October 2 last year, when it was launched, the Aam Aadmi Party has scripted a sensational political story. AAP might have come second to BJP in Delhi, but it is clearly this election’s hero by winning 28 seats and garnering almost 30% of the popular vote.

In the process, AAP has raised a number of important questions. Has it proved that there’s space in national politics for an outfit that’s outside the political establishment and challenges the idea of business-as-usual? Will AAP units now spring up in other cities and states? If so, how will AAP do nationally?



Parties taking part in the Delhi elections

To analyse the parties taking part in the Delhi elections, we need to examine their manifestos and understand their vision in a better way.

As Delhi hurtles toward its most unpredictable election in recent years, one thing has become clear: the contest will be a genuinely three-cornered one.

The incumbent Congress party is seeking a fourth straight term in power, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party is hoping to ride an anti-incumbency wave, and the upstart Aam Aadmi Party has startled the two behemoths with its rapid rise.

On Tuesday, a week before the Dec. 4 polls, the BJP released its manifesto, a blueprint for changes it will bring in the next five years if it is voted to power. Its rival parties circulated their list of promises in earlier weeks. In these documents, the three parties each promise vast overhauls in Delhi as they attempt to surpass their opponents’ pledges.

Read more at http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2013/11/27/delhi-party-manifestos-dissected/