A trial with too many er­rors

In­fight­ing within AAP post its brute win in Delhi raises doubts about civil so­ci­ety's tryst with elec­toral pol­i­tics

Down to Earth - - LAST WORD - DOWN TO EARTH

Ipast one month,the Aam Admi Party (aap) has N THE grabbed head­lines for all the wrong rea­sons.For a party that emerged out of a public protest against cor­rup­tion and as­sumed power twice in the cap­i­tal,th­ese de­vel­op­ments have large ram­i­fi­ca­tions. For the impatient mid­dle class, with hardly ma­ture po­lit­i­cal per­spec­tive,aap rep­re­sents an “al­ter­na­tive”pol­i­tics.But as the in­tra-party squab­bling sug­gests,there is not much dif­fer­ence be­tween a main­stream party and the sup­posed cham­pion of public cause.

Here,I will limit the de­bate to the prob­lems that aap out­lined and the so­lu­tions it promised.The fail­ure of the party to ad­dress press­ing con­cerns of ev­ery­day life could crum­ble the demo­cratic struc­ture.At least,with­out any al­ter­na­tive to the cur­rent sys­tem of gov­er­nance, it is most likely to re­duce peo­ple’s faith in it.

Let us look at some is­sues that aap cap­i­talised on dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign.The party promised clean wa­ter,ac­cess to en­ergy,bet­ter public trans­port and an over­all trans­par­ent gov­ern­ment setup that re­flects public con­cerns.In the first month of its gov­er­nance,aap lead­ers def­i­nitely re­tained the fo­cus on th­ese is­sues. But their so­lu­tions, as out­lined by aap, are no dif­fer­ent from other po­lit­i­cal par­ties.This is a bad sign given that other par­ties, in the past,have mis­er­ably failed in keep­ing their word.

aap is fo­cus­ing too much on cheap elec­tric­ity and wa­ter. And it has hardly ap­plied logic to solve the prob­lems ail­ing the public trans­port sec­tor. It has made prom­ises,but the same ones have been made by other par­ties too. In­stead of con­cep­tu­al­is­ing new and prac­ti­cal mea­sures, aap is try­ing to per­pet­u­ate old prac­tices. For ex­am­ple,af­ford­able wa­ter is nec­es­sary for the eco­nom­i­cally weaker sec­tion. But claim­ing ful­fil­ment of its elec­toral prom­ise on the ba­sis of just one ac­tion is a dis­ser­vice to those peo­ple who are not con­nected to the wa­ter sup­ply sys­tem.The new re­bates for wa­ter sup­ply are any­way limited in scope. Sim­i­larly, aap has de­cided to scrap the Bus Rapid Tran­sit sys­tem. But th­ese steps are hardly “al­ter­na­tives”that the peo­ple of Delhi voted for.

This is where the buck might stop when it comes to vot­ers’choice for an “al­ter­na­tive”.The ones who will suf­fer the most are civil so­ci­ety groups whose move­ment gave birth to aap. It is most likely that peo­ple voted this party to power look­ing at the cred­i­bil­ity of its can­di­dates and the vol­un­tary groups as­so­ci­ated with it.Most of th­ese groups have been work­ing in the public domain for decades and in the process have cre­ated a space for al­ter­na­tive voices. Does aap’s fail­ure mean that peo­ple will lose faith in civil so­ci­ety groups too?

There is al­ready in­ter­nal un­rest among the mem­bers of th­ese groups who have been di­rectly or in­di­rectly sup­port­ing the aap ex­per­i­ment.Many of them con­tested the last gen­eral elec­tion as aap can­di­dates.But now,many are overtly with­draw­ing from the party with the dis­sat­is­fac­tion that the ex­per­i­ment never lived up to peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions. Many feel that their as­so­ci­a­tion with aap will even­tu­ally ham­per their own public cred­i­bil­ity and the is­sues they have been fight­ing for.

This brings us to an­other per­ti­nent point: should civil so­ci­ety groups join elec­toral pol­i­tics in the first place? The two found­ing mem­bers of aap,Prashant Bhu­san and Jo­gen­dra Ya­dav, are de­bat­ing on this.Their idea is to cre­ate an al­ter­na­tive plat­form for civil so­ci­ety groups to ex­plore “al­ter­na­tive pol­i­tics”.They should not for­get that aap started on sim­i­lar lines.It is a tightrope walk for civil so­ci­ety mem­bers.


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