That the AAM AADMI is India's hottest political currency yet is a no brainer. Since the time of Indira Gandhi's 'Garibi Hatao' slogan to the more recent 'Congress Ka Haath Aam Aadmi Ke Saaath', the much-celebrated but often-denigrated mango man has been fairly consistent in backing the party that converted the average Joe out there into a political jargon of sorts. The fact that India has had a Congress-led government at its helm for nearly 50 years out of the 65 plus years of being an independent nation is proof of this scrumptious mango flavoured pudding.
So it was only logical for anti-graft crusader turned political leader Arvind Kejriwal to name his political outfit as the AAM AADMI PARTY which cleverly abbreviates to AAP, 'you' or the common man if you please. It was not all political opportunism mind you. After all for more than a year now Kejriwal has been stirring the consciousness of the AAM AADMI unlike any other in recent times – first as the brains behind Anna Hazare's rise to national consciousness as an anti-corruption agent and then after the bitter falling out with Hazare over the formation of his political outfit.
The 'MAIN AAM AADMI HOON' Gandhi topi supported by Kejriwal and his followers through his ‘name and shame’ press conferences revealing one sordid scam saga after the next further accentuate his claim to the mango moniker.
Of course the Congress is shouting blue murder. The party's most potent vote garnering weapon has been whisked away by Kejriwal from right under the noses of the party's devout bosses. I was told by a senior party leader that there was sniggering and self-satisfied smirks within the Congress when Anna Hazare had refused to let Kejriwal use the India Against Corruption plank when naming his political outfit. But all such smirks were wiped out with Kejriwal announcing the birth of AAP last week.
The sad truth is also this that while the poor mango man may make for a resonant political slogan, yet his needs and wants are routinely sidelined once the party in question achieves its desired goal a.k.a. votes. Indira Gandhi's love for the poor and her myriad anti-poverty schemes for instance were legendary for their scale, ambition and multimillion dollar dole towards the deprived. But son Rajiv Gandhi soon poked a hole in Indira's Meccadom of aid. Soon after taking the prime ministerial crown after his mother's death, Rajiv famously remarked that no more than 15 paise in a rupee of this largesse actually reached the poor – the rest being gobbled up by leakages in the pro-poor system which facilitated the aid in the first place.
The UPA II government – which has been livid over Kejriwal's ''hijack'' of the intrinsic relation between Congress and the AAM AADMI – has not fared too well on this front either. They may blame it on coalition compulsions, yet policy paralysis and lopsided priorities have ensured that the mango man is seriously bearing the brunt of the times. Unprecedented food inflation, spiraling petrol prices, a cap on LPG subsidy, among other moves by this government, have clearly hit the AAM AADMI where it hurts most – his wallet!
My point is this. Kejriwal may have named his political outfit after the AAM AADMI, but will he be able to deliver or will this latest posturing also go the way of Osama Bin Laden into the sea of anonymity? Fact is this that the AAM AADMI can only benefit by way of prudent policies that eventually will help support and sustain economic growth in the medium and long term. But apart from his lament that inflation is due to rising corruption, we have yet to hear Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan's views on ways to revive the economy, boost employment, trump up agricultural growth or improve the fiscal deficit.
Don't mistake me. I am not so cynical yet to take the Kejriwal phenomena sweeping the country with a pinch of salt. I think Kejriwal is inspiring and his brand of idealism makes my eyes glisten and my heart soar. But he does seem out of his depth in so far as helping India scale its economic potential and drown the AAM AADMI's inflationary sorrows are concerned.
Also, if you listened carefully to Kejriwal and Bhushan during their latest salvo fired at hordes of black money – rattling off names of billionaires and politicians - stashed away in Swiss banks, there was the unmistakable element of all-pervasive suspicion towards big business and large enterprises. Kejriwal's idealism peppered oratory stopped short of painting all of corporate India with the same brush. Such sweeping suspicion towards business and profiteering are dangerous and reminiscent of the socialist mindset which had left India simpering at its so called Hindu rate of growth for decades after independence. Mr Kejriwal will do well to remember that crony capitalism helped the clever and the resourceful to get their due even during the socialist era, and it was the AAM AADMI that was left in the lurch grappling between poverty and lack of opportunities to live their dreams.
I hear Mr. Kejriwal is now urging the youth to join him full-time to bring about a change in the country's political environment. Maybe he should borrow a leaf from West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and convince some economists to join the AAP ranks. An articulate orator (Kejriwal), a smart lawyer (BHUSHAN), a media-savvy spokesman (SISODIA) and now for some Ivy League educated economist... completes all the trappings of a political party, doesn't it? Let's hope that the AAM AADMI does not lose his identity in this crowd once again.