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When a movement became a government

December 30, 2013

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Bharat Mata Ki Jai is a slogan associated with the Hindu Right and Inquilab Zindabad with the Indian Left. After taking oath as chief minister at the jam-packed Ramlila Maidan in Delhi on Saturday, Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) used both slogans.

He also invoked Bhagwan and Allah almost in the same breath, suggesting there was something divine about the impressive performance that catapulted AAP to power in India’s capital city.

The use of the slogans, taking from the Right and the Left, make it clear that Kejriwal and his associates can’t be slotted into neat political categories and revealed that they will use any symbols to reach the people.

By taking the name of god, the chief minister was telling Delhi (and the nation listening on television) that he wasn’t godless and was a believer who respected different religions.

Here’s what the AAP website has to say on the party being described as “leftist”:

“We are very much solution focused rather than ideology driven. There is an age old tendency to pin down political parties as left, right, center etc. In the process everyone forgets the issues at hands and their solutions. Our goal is to remain solution focused. If the solution to a problem lies on the left we are happy to consider it. Likewise, if it is on right (or in the center) we are equally happy to consider it. Ideology is one for the pundits and the media to pontificate about.”

Kejriwal’s party is arguing that “ideology” obfuscates issues and solutions and they will consider any solution that works.

Given the spectacular failure of traditional Left parties to garner support among common people, the gaping vacuum in Indian politics for clean, pro-poor politics that rejected the red-beacon culture in the country is being filled by AAP.

“They have managed to connect with the people,” an old-time Left party activist told this writer. It is a fact that from the slum-dweller to the bungalow-resident, AAP has secured votes from each and every quarter and category in diverse Delhi.

Kejriwal and his colleagues, who rose to prominence during the campaign for an anti-corruption watchdog in 2011, have seized the opportunity and demonstrated an organisational doggedness that yielded electoral dividends.

Supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) wave as they listen to a speech by their leader Arvind Kejriwal after he took an oath as the new chief minister of Delhi during a swearing-in ceremony. -Photo by Reuters
Supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) wave as they listen to a speech by their leader Arvind Kejriwal after he took an oath as the new chief minister of Delhi during a swearing-in ceremony. -Photo by Reuters

AAP has fuelled the hope for a better India – a country where the Aam Aadmi – and not the VIP – counts for something. There’s little doubt that AAP’s appeal cuts across caste, class and religion; a departure from the vote bank politics which traditional political parties have tended to practice.

Established political parties like the Congress and BJP mocked AAP in the run-up to the Delhi elections just as they took pot-shots at the 2011 agitation, saying that let’s see you contest elections and capture the people’s vote.

In Delhi, at least, all this has happened.

Analysts also believe that AAP, which has taken support from the Congress to form the government after saying a clear no earlier, could go with the BJP in the event of a hung Lok Sabha next year.

As AAP’s plans to contest the parliamentary elections are awaited, it’s evident that the political space ceded by the Congress and BJP in Delhi is not restricted to the capital. The whole of India is open for AAP to capture.

Already, AAP’s political machinery is being activated across the country and they have begun inviting candidates to contest the 2014 parliamentary polls.

In the interim, there is the small matter of delivering in Delhi.

The party has promised a 50 per cent reduction in electricity bills and free water to households using less than 700 litres of water per day. Their manifesto also talks of setting up an anti-corruption ombudsman within 15 days of taking office.

It’s not Delhi, but the whole of India that will be watching the delivery and performance of the Aam Aadmi Party.

Best of luck, AAP.