Aam Agitprop Party

Karthik Kumar | Updated on December 20, 2013

Lack of governance vision

AAP is still trapped in agitprop mode. It needs to act responsibly.

Many Indians cheered the victory of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi. But it appears that the hosannas have been a bit premature. And, the AAP itself is behind the cause for disappointment.

Agitprop is a legitimate weapon of the activist who wants to expose the venality of those in power. A benign version of armed terrorism, agitprop relies on not playing by rules to give voice to disgruntlement. Its very nature is vociferous. Unfortunately, it has no place in the discourse of governance, which is bound by constitutions and business rules. This distinction seems to have been given the short shrift by AAP in general and Arvind Kejriwal in particular.

Yes, the AAP did not receive a clear mandate to govern. That said, it had the opportunity to govern, wittingly or otherwise, given by the party which has the largest number of seats and the also-ran party. Kejriwal not only missed the message of the elections, but also showed his naïveté in rejecting the opportunity. Instead, he has chosen to preach from the pulpit to the electorate.

Busting TINA

The number of seats won by the AAP is certainly enough to dispel the myth of ‘there-is-no-alternative’ (TINA) factor. However, that the party failed to win a clear majority shows that a sizeable section of the electorate does not fully agree with its principles and proposals. In the event, it would have been apposite for the AAP to combine its celebration with some introspection on how it could add to its appeal, so that the next time around it receives the clear mandate it wants and deserves.

However, the celebrations of the AAP, embellished by the gushing praises of the media and the intelligentsia, were those of victors receiving their just dues.

Yet, even though the party did not have the mandate to form Government, the voluntary withdrawal of the party with the largest number of seats and a commitment to support by the third largest party provided an opportunity for AAP to form a Government in good faith. Doing so, even in the full knowledge of possible treachery, would have been statesmanship. Kejriwal, though, chose to revert to type in listing a charter of demands, exposing fully his lack of a vision for governance.

Wrong targets

It is not to say that the laundry list of demands Kejriwal put forth to the Congress were unreasonable — they are, and, would have warmed the cockles of the aam aadmi. But the demands were only overt symbols of deeper structural issues. Take Kejriwal’s stated desire to investigate the sins of the Congress and BJP governments of Delhi. Laudable as it may seem, his approach seems to focus only on the bribe taker and not the giver. A nuanced view of corruption will likely show that the endemic corruption in India is equally due to the unwillingness of the citizen to follow rules. Such a nuanced view would have led to a solution that is systemic in the creation of rules and their enforcement. On the other hand, the threat to go after previous Governments ends up looking like a witch-hunt.

As it happens, these are still early days. There is still time for Kejriwal and team to realise that a broom can be used to thrash the undeserving while agitating, but it needs to be used more gently when in Government. Not recognising this will only make the AAP look like a petulant schoolboy who complains incessantly, but does not have the stomach to take on responsibility.

(The author is Director, Rage Communications.)

Published on December 20, 2013

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