Aam Aadmi Party: Caught between populism & lack of ideology

While joining the Aam Aadmi Party, the latest entrant, former minister in Nitish Kumar’s cabinet, Parveen Amanullah expressed her satisfaction that keeping in view her background as a RTI activist, she feels happy to finally join the party of her choice.

It is true that she has fair experience of activism; she has enough experience of mainstream politics as well, but most of other counterparts in her new party can not claim that privilege. They are either from NGOs, from movement groups or have come through the route which has nothing to do with mobilisation of public. They had never dreamt of joining or forming a party. Is it not ironical that all of a sudden they find themselves into active politics and aspire to govern the nation?

In order to dismiss the unexpected rise of Arvind Kejriwal and his party, many political leaders draw a parallel between him and N T Rama Rao. They, however, forget that by the time the latter entered politics, he was a household name in Andhra Pradesh and had enjoyed the status of a demigod. Moreover, he based his politics on cleansing of the system. He never talked of replacing it with an alternative one. In contrast, the political articulation which the AAP has acquired could very well be traced into the debates on governance during the agitation for Jan Lokpal Bill under the banner of the India Against Corruption with Anna Hazare as its head. Telugu Desam Party came onto centre stage by riding on an anti-Congress wave which had been swelling since late sixties across the country.

The AAP has emerged as the counterpoint to an entire political class which includes the Congress, the BJP, the Samajwadi Party and many more. No party is actually in conflict with the political system but they are using it to suit their individual requirements. If the Congress, the SP, the DMK or the RJD use politics to promote family rule, the BJP is engaged in promoting the ambition of Sangh Parivar to establish a domination of the Hindu community.

Ideological crisis

The AAP has obviously inspired a rebellion against this politics of patronage which actually extends support to all kinds of degeneration including corruption and the domination of money and muscle power in public life. The party has given voice to the ordinary citizen, who was under pressure of such elements that have no regard for morality in public life. A large section suddenly found an avenue to be participants in the larger political scenario. Most of them were inexperienced in this regard and have zero clue about public affairs. There has been no exposure to any ideology either. Except for some of the leaders who are here after having invested long years in grass root politics or have been part of the contemporary political discourse, the lot is not even slightly aware of the ideological nuances.

This lack of ideology is prompting the AAP leaders to opt for simplistic solutions of complex problems. They end up in making a farce of the constitution and its laws. The raids conducted by Law Minister Somnath Bharti are good instances of this. That the Education Minister Manish Sisodia wants 90 percent quota in Delhi colleges are nothing but tactics of populism.

Can a national party, which the AAP leaders are aspiring to become function on such grounds? During its founding ceremony, the party had promised to grow into an organisation by imbibing the best traditions of Indian politics. The hall where the inaugural function was organised had posters of several political leaders who led India in to the paths of becoming a free and democratic country, free from the shackles of socio- economic exploitation. Right from Mahatma Gandhi to Jaiprakash Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohia to Maulana Azad, all were there in the background.

Leaders who were driven by strong ideologies like Anand Kumar, Yogendra Yadav, Sanjay Singh Gopal Rai, Ajit Jha and scores of others had also assured of a concrete foundation.

After their exceptional performance in the Delhi polls and the impending decision of entering the Lok Sabha polls, they announced forming over 30 committees of eminent experts to articulate policies on economic, social, environmental and other issues. The committees have already submitted their reports, but the party seems to be hesitating to put them into the public domain. Perhaps, it does not want to take a clear stand on its policies on vital issues. Only recently national council of the party met in Delhi but it remained silent over policy making. Instead, they chose to declare the fight against corruption and the criminalisation of politics as their main poll plank.

“This has been done at the behest of Arvind Kejriwal. I think he knows the pulse of the people,” said a senior leader. May be Kejriwal is politically correct as his colleagues believe him to be. He wants to go ahead without making clear whether the pro-corporate economic policy would run or a new economic policy. Is it not required that the party which has enrolled over one crore of citizens across the country  should train its members on policies? This is why for many like Madhu Bhaduri it is unacceptable. People are not ready to accept populism over the right kind of policies.  How long can the party go with a cadre which does not have an ideology to drive them forward? The party needs to understand that the corruption is only the
symptom, not the disease.

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