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David vs Goliaths


Is AAP the fresh new political idea whose time has come? Ranjit Bhushan probes
RANJIT BHUSHAN | Issue Dated: December 22, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : David vs Goliaths | Arvind Kejriwal | |

In the second decade of the new millennium, is it likely that a totally new and fresh political idea has taken roots in India? An idea that can knock down political heavyweights like ninepins, defy the well laid-down logic of employing financial muscle in winning elections and cock a snook at the might of the existing political system – all within a matter of months. If the answer is yes, then the rise of Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) constitutes the most serious threat thus far to the established political order of the day.

Minutes before she cast her vote, former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit was asked about her main challenger from the New Delhi assembly seat. “Who is Arvind Kejriwal,’’ was her mock reply, making light of the pretender, as if he never existed. Now she knows better.

While Sheila has taken the brunt of the AAP onslaught and has paid the price for rank Congress misgovernance, corruption and cronyism, the message on the wall for other political formations is not too chirpy either. To be sure, AAP’s stupendous debut in Delhi was anti-Congress driven but having decimated India’s oldest political party it is signal for the others to watch out.

Kejriwal and others with him have suggested that no political party is sacrosanct; that they can and are going to take their battle to all corners of the country. Could it mean taking on Narendra Modi from Gujarat, Sonia Gandhi from Rae Bareli, Sharad Pawar from Baramati and several such political heavyweights in their equally heavyweight political bailiwicks?

If Kejriwal and company decide to do that, then the range of political possibilities is virtually limitless. A large part of the AAP constituency includes the urban marginalized, and it is a vast number in any Indian city or town. In a day and age when election funding has found its way into public discourse, it now turns out that AAP filled in its coffers with piggy banks – literally. Men and women from all walks of life just walked into the nearest AAP office and put in their two penny bit. According to The Times of India, in Mumbai, a railway linesman traveled a long distance to meet up with the Maharashtra convener of AAP Anjali Damania, handing her a cheque of Rs 500 because he `wanted to change the country. Then I heard the story about the businessman in Delhi who went to contribute a cheque of Rs two crore as his contribution to the AAP fund but was politely turned down saying their coffers were adequate for the moment.

In a country, reeling under the impact of endemic corruption, such activity was right to have been passed off as political naiveté or worse, low theatre. To the horror of the Congress, all their funding could get them no help when confronted with the reality of very bitter people, many of them educated and unemployed, storming the poll booths to ensure that the slap on the panja was resounding and unambiguous.

But the constituency which has put the AAP where it is in Delhi is not just the exclusive preserve of India’s national capital. It is a floating population which can be found all over the republic and if this assembly election is anything to go by, then they could safely be considered potential Kejriwal supporters, willing to pull a surprise on anyone, no matter what the size, disturbingly at very short notice.

We now have prospects of a party winning election but its star leader knocked out - tossing well laid down plans out of the window. Kejriwal’s first test is here; he has to keep his flock together because morality demands high action not merely words. If he succeeds, as VP Singh and others who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform were not able to, a new threshold would decidedly have been reached. People, who earlier wrote off this David, and not doing to so now. 

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017