On November 24, a new leaf was added to India’s political system. The creation of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) by anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal and his associates must be seen as a landmark in Indian history.
In the coming days as people debate about this new creation – its ethics and aspirations – there will be many who would seek to deny legitimacy to the new political outfit.
Skeptics would speak of it as just another speck in the already overcrowded political landscape of India. Political opponents would toy with casting doubts on the purpose and mission of the new outfit.
Although in a democratic polity the real test for the party will come when it faces the elections, the AAP undeniably does represent the waylaid aspirations of the common man.
The political landscape of India is indeed overcrowded; but not saturated. It is overcrowded because it is filled with political cohorts incapable of representing the aspirations of the common man. Their incapability comes from their unwillingness to emotionally accept India as one nation and Indians and one people.
As a political outfit the first and most important agenda for the AAP would be to nurture the spirit of Indianness – a task that was left unattended since independence as political leaders scrambled for power.
In India the aspiration for power leads political outfits of represent narrow interpretations of Indianness. The dynamics of Indian politics is a landmine of caste and religious identities. Parties have long blamed that votes are cast along caste and communal lines. Ironically enough, in their greed for power, political outfits have continued to hinder the process of nation-building. It is therefore that, although India exists as one geographical entity; it remains a fragmented society.
It was reassuring to see that the India Against Corruption movement – the ideological flag-bearer of the AAP – motivated thousands to wave the Indian flag. Cutting across the narrow differences of caste and religion, it was a spectacle earlier limited to sports stadiums.
It is therefore a justified hope that the new political party would bear not just a symbolic but a symbiotic difference from those existing outfits.
For the many who would seek to deny legitimacy to the new political party, it is important to remember that landmarks in history are a result of the anguish of the masses. It is in the face of oppression that people have revolted to regain power. Undeniably India is passing through a similar epoch in its history – as it suffers corruption and risks communal disintegration.
Creating a new political party is like building a ship. Soon it would be flagged off to face the rough seas. Once the AAP is out in the sea of electoral politics it will begin to face the corroding weather of realpolitik. Only time will tell of the political fortunes of the AAP, but that is no justification to deny people the right to hope – for a party that represents their aspirations for a better India.
As a political outfit the AAP will have much more than the Jan Lokpal to answer for. In a country that has been left intensely polarised, the new political party will have a lot of issues to address – from internal disturbances to international politics, from water sharing to Khap politics, from outsider issues to insider trading.
But thankfully enough, much of these issues and resulting polarisation is a direct result of corruption. Naxalism grew because some local landlord usurped tribal land in connivance with unscrupulous forest officials.
If pursued in right earnest, the AAP efforts to weed out corruption to whatever extent possible would clear the surface of India socio-economic backdrop for setting the agenda for change.
Undeniably, electoral gain is the real measure of success for political outfits. But to achieve much of the change that real India wants; does not require political power.
The need of the hour is to achieve nation-building through a process of societal transformation. Focusing purely on achieving electoral victory will mean that the AAP would fail to meet the real aspirations of the Indian people.
The real test of the new political outfit therefore is not how many seats it wins in the next elections but how it sets out to achieve them.