22 August, 2014 / Shawwal 25, 1435

View from Delhi: Will change overtake AAP?

Published Jan 15, 2014 11:20am
File photo
File photo

Aam Admi Party (AAP) leader Mr Arvind Kejriwal has deservedly come in for praise. He worked hard to exploit the mood of the Indian public to garner support for his party. His efforts to expand his party’s base across the country continue vigorously. But it would be a grievous error for him and his senior party colleagues to conclude that they have success in the bag. Few people perhaps, including the leaders of AAP, seem to have appreciated what the success thus far of the new party signifies. It reflects the national mood for a strong desire for change. AAP has up till now exploited this mood to garner support. It has accomplished nothing till now to offer hope of real political reform. Indeed, some AAP decisions have created the opposite effect.

The populism generated by the party up till now could be a mere passing phase. Very soon people will tire of gimmicks and look for real change. Some of Mr Kejriwal’s decisions indicate change for the worse. The decision to conduct administration through forays into the street instead of from inside offices, romanticised by sections of the media, is downright silly. The invitation to the public to conduct sting operations in order to expose corruption is worse. It can lead to criminality, blackmail, entrapment and create a haunted atmosphere of insecurity in the public. Sting operations conducted by greenhorns instead of by experts are an invitation to disaster.

Mr Kejriwal’s most recent decision to hold a public hearing of complaints ended in chaos and farce. He said that arrangements broke down because instead of 500 expected, 5000 people turned up creating chaos. But if only 500 had come, what did Mr Kejriwal expect to accomplish in redressing grievances from a public platform in a period of one or two hours? One hopes the adulation earned through cheap populism has not intoxicated his judgment. The basic principles of good governance are being trashed by the approach he has adopted till now.

One would have thought that with his experience in bureaucracy Mr Kejriwal would have fine tuned the use of modern technology to enable accessible, quick and efficient redress of grievances. Mr Narendra Modi is right to have rubbished Mr Kejriwal’s public hearings of people’s grievances that violate all principles of good governance. In Gujarat, the Swagat system of receiving complaints, processing them, and then addressing them, as established by Mr Modi since 2003 should have provided a leaf to AAP leaders. Technology today allows easy access and quick disposal of grievances and complaints as never before. It would be a folly to ignore this and instead attempt a form of administration favoured by Haroun-al-Raschid, the eighth century Caliph immortalised in the 1001 Arabian Nights who in disguise made surprise checks of his subjects.

The truth is that both Mr Modi and Mr Kejriwal have displayed uncommon skill to win popular support and future votes. Although it is puzzling why neither aspirant has made the most obvious move to attract votes. The public would like to hear hard and direct allegations backed by facts against top UPA leaders for mega corruption scams. But both leaders have maintained a mystifying silence. The first to launch an attack on big ticket corruption would gain votes. The one who might follow would be perceived as a copycat. Nor has either leader offered concrete proposals to address the many burning problems facing the nation. Mr Modi has relied on his record of administration in Gujarat to win support. But Gujarat is not India. He has yet to outline policies to address problems that bedevil the nation. Mr Kejriwal has not gone beyond exploiting public disenchantment with the current lack of governance. To be fair, the experts who mentor both campaigns are presently concerned only with winning votes. Possibly they will open their cards on serious national policy issues at a later, more appropriate, time.

There is urgent need to formulate a policy for affirmative action to deliver social justice which does not splinter society. Even as this is being written, the Jats are on the warpath to get their own quota for jobs which will add one more caste to the over 3000 already listed in the OBC reservation list. There is need to formulate a policy on Kashmir that can defuse public resentment without compromising territorial integrity. There is need to formulate a policy to counter terrorism and stabilise relations with Pakistan . There is need to diplomatically curb Chinese aggression without endangering peace. There is need to accelerate economic growth without increasing disparities. There is need to curb corruption and expel it from our political system. There is need to review the working of our Constitution in order to remove the distortions that have crept into our democratic system. There is a host of problems that beset out nation. These need urgent and practical remedies.

In conclusion one would like to point out to the leaders of AAP that although they deserve high praise for their efforts up till now, they did not create change. Change was created by a new generation, the information revolution, and the stagnating political culture out of sync with youth. Mr Kejriwal did not produce change. Rather it was change that produced Mr Kejriwal. If Mr Kejriwal falls short on performance he will fall by the wayside. Others will emerge. The process of change will not stop. India’s political renaissance is unstoppable.

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist. He blogs at www.rajinderpuri.wordpress.com

— By arrangement with The Statesman/ANN

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Comments (5) (Closed)


Zak
Jan 15, 2014 09:36pm

This man is emulating Imran Khan, on the agenda of cleaning up governance practices. Imran Khan will succeed because he is genuine in his beliefs and has strong faith.

Siddhartha Shastri
Jan 16, 2014 06:08pm

Disappointed to read a veteran journalist write off AAP and its office bearers as mere exploiters of a public mood, without even waiting for the usual first hundred day period to complete. The bias in favor of the establishment is too obvious. BTW, the AAP's style of grass root level interaction with the voters to set up agendas and follow up on progress against targets is neither entirely new, nor unproven. It has worked very well for Switzerland, a democracy for some eight hundred years.

NASAH (USA)
Jan 17, 2014 03:16am

Both Imran and Keriwal will fail. Corruption in India and Pakistan is not a moral issue -- it's a low wage economic issue -- a culture of corruption permeates every level of Indian and Pakistani societies for not decades but for centuries -- blame it on colonialism -- blame it on dire poverty. Corruption will always remain endemic -- what Imrans and Kejrivals of the subcontinent CAN DO is to attempt to eradicate from high places. That may be doable.

Devil
Jan 17, 2014 10:54am

Time sir Time ! Even in our own field of jobs, it takes weeks and months when we start a new project, to even have the basic understanding and here we are asking to quick-fix the issues in days, that too of a state !

Well, we all are in hurry to see a better change BUT give them some time sir ! Call it the populist measures or the gimmicks, but it was those only promises on the basis of which they came into power. If the promises are not fulfilled, we judge them and if they do implement as promised then we call them populist !

Aren't we confused and calling them so instead ?

Guru Ka Singh
Jan 17, 2014 06:12pm

Zak, No doubt of Imran's intentions that he wants to bring positive change in Pakistan's politics and serve poor and rich alike. He has his ways but he didn't come out winner like Mr. Kejriwal. Mr. Krjriwal has won the CM seat in the capital where as Imran only won in a remote area like KP. But both want to bring positive change which we should appreciate unanimously. faith is a personal thing and it should not be mix in politics.