The Promise of AAP

The regulars to my blog and my friends know my particular scepticism towards the AAP. A week before the elections, I even challenged that they won’t manage beyond a few seats. Clearly, I have misread the whole situation. AAP’s performance has been nothing but spectacular. This is one of the occasions for which superlative adjectives are actually invented.

Whilst I hang my head in shame and humiliation, of having my hubristic forecast gone wrong, I shall also set some points on the table.

Despite having made a stunning debut, AAP is still doesn’t have the numbers to stake claim to the administration. That must be because of voters like me who wouldn’t have fancied a chance for them and therefore didn’t want to ‘waste’ their vote. These people will have seen that they stand real chance of coming to power. If the re-elections were held shortly, there is no doubt that they will sweep the Delhi assembly. Figuratively speaking as well!

That should give them the confidence to refuse to attempt a government formation now. They might be persuaded by eager supporters and those who claim to be ‘tired of’ BJP and Congress and who would want to see a ‘cleaner’ government soon. Those people do not know the travails of a minority government. Policy paralysis, absence of real power, manipulations by the party offering the ‘external’ support, perception of weakness are some of the grave dangers of a minority government. Especially for AAP who have been bitter critics of BJP all along and now if they were to suddenly knock at Modi’s doors because they want some bill or the other passed. Nothing could expedite AAP’s disaster faster than agreeing to form a government now. And, exactly a month before the General Elections, BJP would pull the carpet under them and have the Delhi elections conducted along with the Lok Sabha and hope to reap the rewards of the ‘so-called’ Modi Wave.

Most importantly, if and when AAP forms a government, it would be to be curious to know what kind of administration they will be. Many of their ambitious plans would require actual ground-level support by the cadres from the lower administration. For instance, one of their items in their manifesto says they will rehabilitate slum-dwellers. Another says they will introduce ‘at-source’ segregation of bio-degradable waste. Let’s leave aside the fact that both of these have been attempted at various levels by several governments in the past, often with a lot of success. The issue is, these initiatives require honest officers not at the top, but at the bottom. How would you ensure that that no one would ‘cook-up’ the slum-dweller’s list? How would you ensure that people won’t ‘pay’ to get into the list so that they get housing-board flats? About waste-management, how would you ensure that most, if not all, of the municipality workers are as serious about waste management as the policy-makers are? In his book In Spite of the Gods, Edward Luce argues how Sheila Dixit’s government’s various attempts to get the municipality workers to even report to work regularly and collect litter have failed and how, when she had to take some stern measures, those workers forced the government to back out with their strikes and with the help of ‘sympathy’ garnered from left parties and leftist groups.

In another category, they claim that government schools would be made as good as private schools. How will this be achieved? The problems plaguing our government schools are ill-designed curriculum, poor infrastructure and incompetent and disinterested teachers who form powerful unions. The first is easy to change, second requires a huge financial backup and third has been attempted before and met with crucial failure. In his book, Imagining India, Nandan Nilekeni laments how difficult it is get the teachers to ‘work’ and various initiatives of successive governments have failed to crack it. It would be interesting to see what card AAP have up their sleeve.

The problem that the above paragraphs try to paraphrase is that the problem only partly lies with the politicians. It is often easy for us to talk about DMK, ADMK or BJP and Congress as if they are ‘someone else’, as if they are foreigners like British and Moghuls who have come from elsewhere to rule and oppress the hapless Indians. It is often pitted as US and Them: BJP and the people; Congress and the people.

The truth is we are the DMK and ADMK, we are the BJP; Us is actually Them. We, the people, are the corrupt, inefficient and reckless with public money. The contractor laying bad roads is probably living in your streets. The stationery supplier who delivers ugly, low quality government forms is probably your uncle. The contractor painting inferior paint for the government buses may be your neighbour. Well, it may even be you, the RTO inspector who is issuing licenses for money. It may be your wife or husband who is the Tehsildar issuing caste certificates for money. It may be you, the municipal worker, who neglected to close that manhole.

How will you change this dishonest and negligent society whose carelessness roots run deep. How do you make ourselves honest and law-abiding society is the greatest mystery that we’re yet to crack. AAPs promise is just that: a promise. We, the people of India, hold extraordinary track record in placing great stumbling blocks in the way of whoever makes sincere attempts to make us become better and prosperous society. It remains to be seen whether and how AAP is able to overcome them.