Watching India’s newly minted political party/movement Aam Aadmi Party (AAP or Common People’s Party) win its first vote of confidence barely a week after winning a historic election, I feel compelled to make a few observations.
If the roles had been reversed, that is if the AAP had won 8 seats in the Delhi assembly and the Congress Party 28, would the former have demonstrated the same expedient flexibility in supporting the trust vote? Or would it, as it seems intuitive, have opposed the vote and brought the new government down? The answer cannot be but speculative because the situation under the current circumstances is hypothetical.
It is ironic that the reason why AAP founder and now Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is able to forcefully articulate and may likely execute his ideal vision for the nation’s capital it is because there is a party willing to be expedient in its political calculations.
If there is one thing the Congress Party has learnt over its 129-year-long existence, it is the importance of being in power or, at the very least, being precariously close to it at all times and keeping its opponents out at any cost. It is that straightforward calculation, which Kejriwal finds abhorrent, that will keep him in power for now after the trust vote.
That said, Kejriwal’s 17-point agenda to address Delhi’s many longstanding problems is very well thought-out and has the potential to emerge as the benchmark for the rest of the political parties as far as lending specificity to rhetoric is concerned. For instance, his and his party’s idea of neighborhoods and those living in them deciding what their biggest problems are and how to solve them is a powerful one in keeping with the vision of ‘swaraj’ or self-rule that Gandhi steadfastly stood for. Rather than handing down decisions from the political-bureaucratic industrial complex, let people decide directly what they need to fundamentally improve their daily life.
Kejriwal is a geek/nerd among Indian politicians with a heavy dose of stubbornness about what he stands for. His ability to craft issues in the idiom that ordinary citizens understand gives him an edge over many established names in politics. I do not vouch for the longevity of his brand of political activism but while it lasts it can potentially upend many established norms. There is a touch of Gandhi to him in so much as it means hammering the message of his own irrelevance even while knowing very well that that is simply not the case.
When he declared in the assembly that he was not there to seek a trust vote for his party and government but for the people of Delhi and by implication the people of India he was cleverly shrouding a routine political procedure in noble purpose. It is not my case that he does not believe in what he says. It is my case that he believes in it too much.
It is obvious that Kejriwal sees his party’s Delhi victory is a springboard to a national role in the upcoming parliamentary elections. No one should be surprised if he and the AAP emerge as a significant force nationally. Whether they can run the gauntlet of electoral discourse in all its viciousness remains to be seen. For now a strong tailwind is propelling the AAP flight and it may arrive at its destination earlier than expected.