AAP must contain its national ambitions and prove itself (Comment, Special to IANS)

The inclination of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to contest a sizable 400 Lok Sabha seats betrays a lack of judgment and an excess of ambition. Ostensibly exhilarated by its recent victory in the Delhi assembly polls, the AAP has been tempted to want to try its luck in a large number of Lok Sabha seats. However, the party has not yet proved itself to its own ideals, leave alone met the expectations of the people of Delhi. It is unlikely that the electorate of India would entrust greater responsibilities to the party before it creates a model of good governance in its bastion – the national capital.

No doubt the appeal of the Aam Aadmi Party is enormous and its leader Arvind Kejriwal has acquired a national stature following his persistent activism and the AAP’s victory in the Delhi elections. A recent poll declared him to be the second-most popular choice as India’s prime minister. All that is very well.

There is certainly a lot going for the AAP. What makes it different from the competition is its vision of a social ideal – a corruption-free and equal India where the VIPs and the common people, metaphorically speaking, drink from the same pool. This has touched a chord somewhere in the hearts of many Indians, particularly those in Delhi. The AAP has however touched upon these issues peripherally even though passionately, but without piercing the core. Now that it governs Delhi, it is important to define these issues in totality rather than sporadically and taking on merely the symbols such as beacon.

Currently the AAP does not seem to have a cogent economic or governance policy which would define its governance strategy. Merely having an election strategy and roping in a lot of known faces will not suffice.

VIP culture and corruption are inextricably linked as corruption is greatly attributable to the withdrawal of influential persons from the commonness of Indian life and creating parallel institutions that serve them. The AAP needs to make public institutions for the common people work even as it helps disband the special for VIPs institutions if it is to prove the seriousness of its commitment.

In the coming months, AAP needs to define its policies and plans with greater clarity rather than present a piecemeal agenda. It also needs to abstain from tokenism such as its ministers not accepting salaries. It cannot expect itself to be protected from criticism from possible non-performance on account of these tokenisms. The AAP also needs to establish that its service models are financially feasible. Political parties are known to take populist measures and distribute freebies to win public support. The AAP needs to step aside from the “regular” politicians and prove that these services were mismanaged which made them expensive.

Revolutions often do not yield the change they promise as revolutionaries, on acquiring power, quickly forget their principles and motivations and do an Animal Farm as ambition, not service, guides their leaders. The AAP needs to show it is not merely power but the welfare of the people that guides it.

The AAP leaders also need to realize that their march to victory in Delhi was the result of a grassroots movement. The AAP’s allies and members in Delhi were recruited and groomed over a period of time. If it decides to contest elections in much of India, the party will inevitably be recruiting candidates and members in a great hurry which would be detrimental in the long run. Its senior leadership cannot afford to spend time on electioneering when there is a job to be done in Delhi.

Nevertheless, it would be pertinent for AAP to field a few candidates in areas where it has built a grassroots movement. Such locations outside of Delhi would be few but the party would succeed in winning a few seats which would enable it to play a constructive role from the opposition benches of parliament – a reasonably good place for activists who stray into politics.

(19.01.2014 – Anupam Srivastava is a political commentator and author of “A Piece of the Giant”, a novel. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at anusrivastava@hotmail.com)

IANS