After Delhi Assembly elections 2013 had concluded, what may have surprised one and all was the way the political parties locked in a triangular contest, at the end of it, seemed unwilling to play the ball. Given the way it was tossed up, the BJP with 32/70, AAP: 28/70 and Congress: 08/70 – the apprehensions of horse-trading and switching of sides to reach the magical figure of 36/70 kept engaging the thoughts of many for a while. After all, such a phenomenon had earlier been well accepted in our democratic polity and it was not without any reason, therefore, that one’s imagination compellingly swung that way.
Haryana’s ‘Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram’ under Bhajan Lal; Karnatakata’s MLAs relatively recent tale of switching sides to install a new Chief Minister after unseating the old one; and above all, Jharkhand showing the way, not once, but repeatedly a number of times, as to how to successfully manipulate the number game in a bid to handle, in a manner of speaking, the ‘hung’ ‘Betal’ (read hung Assembly) the way as Vikram does in a story all of us are familiar with.
However, nothing of this kind happened in Delhi this time round, left everyone amused and inquisitive about the development to unfold. BJP-the single largest party – promptly announced its desire to sit in the opposition; AAP- the second largest- preferring to continue sticking to its stance of maintaining equal distance with both Congress and BJP, showed no inclination either; and well, Congress came up a little later with its proposal to extend ‘unconditional’ support to AAP should it decide to form the government. This effectively threw the ball in the new babe’s court. The two veteran political parties had apparently well calculated the pros and cons and weighed in all options before spelling out their versions in a manner that they did.
Arvind’s meeting with Delhi Lt Governor under such a situation pushed him into a corner to take a call. That meant revisiting party’s stance on the issue of whether or not to accept Congress’ support – unconditional or otherwise. The new kid on the block, however, true to its non-traditional political mannerism it has come to be identified with, promptly proposed that on the issue of forming government in Delhi it needed to go back to seek a referendum from Delhi voters. For this to accomplish it needed a week’s time to complete an exercise in a manner devised by it, it added.
Go ahead! Delhi Lt Governor and later Union government (read Home Minister) seemed to have conveyed to Arvind.
Many eyebrows, however, were raised on Arvind’s proposal and approach and his political rivals went so far as to say that it was sort of mockery of established democratic norms and that AAP was shying away from its responsibilities and constitutional obligations.
Arvind continued regardless. His party reached out to Delhi voters seeking their views and in the process, apart from holding the meetings at places scattered all over the city, also made use of modern technology and methodologies to record their views through SMSes, E-mails, phones etc. In Arvind’s defence, however, it can be said that he was simply following the AAP’s script that, among other things, noted that it would neither seek nor extend support to either Congress or BJP. Under the circumstance where AAP was pushed into to take a call, the kind of procedure Arvind decided to adhere to, if viewed dispassionately, may simply seem following a pre-written script for his party.
AAP’s genesis, one may recall, was basically with a view to make a clear departure from the traditional democratic practices the mainstream political parties were following that, over a period of time, had inevitably led to all kinds of aberrations creeping into the system. AAP had broadly identified them as: (a) lack of transparency in management of political funds; (b) money and muscle power based electoral politics; (c) all pervasive corruption by political and bureaucratic executives in administration and deliverance; and (d) the voting class given a short shrift when it came to listening to them between elections.
In the backdrop of all such maladies, AAP had committed itself to fight against them and try best to re-write the rules of the game anew. And, therefore, the way it went about seeking a referendum before getting back to Lt Governor needs to be viewed in that light and more so for it reflected transparency as also a process well within the framework of democratic norms.
What further AAP seems to have committed itself to right from the beginning, was to get wedded to the principles of ‘Inclusive’ and ‘Participatory’ democracy as its guiding spirit. That it has stuck to such principles would be borne by the fact that earlier, while undertaking an exercise for selection of its candidates for the Delhi elections, everyone had noticed the way it had gone about its job adhering to the said norms. And apparently such ground rules were seemingly well-kept in view, yet again, when Arvind, under an otherwise odd circumstance his party found itself in, thought of and went ahead to seek a referendum.
I had noted in some detail about all such churning process ahead of AAP coming into being, in my blog post (www.narendrabhagat.in) on 31st December, 2011 – 2 years ago – titled: “The Anna-Effect – A Path Breaking Phenomenon”, wherein, among other things, I had mentioned that: ‘……it wasn’t a mean achievement to push through and underline the significance of ‘Inclusive’ and ‘Participatory’ democracy in modern era…..’ What Delhi has lately witnessed, therefore, in the week just gone by- an exercise as undertaken by AAP- can be viewed as execution of a philosophy the party seemingly believes in strongly.
This, nevertheless, has settled the issue as AAP this Monday (Dec. 23) has officially submitted to Delhi Lt Governor the majority demand (reportedly 80%) of Delhi voters favouring, under the circumstance, Arvind-led party to form the government. The same is said to have been sent to the President of India and the stage now seems set for AAP beginning its innings from Ram Lila maidan on 26th December, 2013.
No sooner this announcement was made; AAP incidentally finds itself in the thick of the real politik directly surrounding it. Look at the way the rival political parties, making a departure from what they had stated earlier on this issue in the aftermath of election results, have now reacted spontaneously to this development.
Sheila Dixit, while extending her best wishes to AAP, now clarifies that Congress’ support in not ‘unconditional’ but it should be taken as performance- based ‘support from outside’. She further mentions that let AAP fulfil its unrealistic promises. Her party’s support may depend on what AAP government does for the people. When it is felt that AAP has stopped performing well, the support may get withdrawn, she added.
However, Digvijay Singh, a senior Congress leader, when approached for his comments, rather sportingly, apart from congratulating AAP went on to say that this development is good for strengthening democracy.
The reactions of Dr Harsh Vardhan, BJP Chief Ministerial candidate, have been more of sarcasm when he said that AAP that’s been accusing Congress all the while for corruption is ironically enlisting its support; and that AAP’s decision to form the government is betrayal of wishes of people of Delhi.
Anna, who was approached for his reaction on this development, chose not to give any comment.
AAP, now on the threshold of launching a new era and a new political methodology in the democratic pitch of Delhi would need to appreciate in the first place that it’s a new ball game altogether from now on. Already its rival political parties are seeking from it to set specific time-frame to deliver on 18 promises made in its election manifestos.
AAP has its tasks cut out. AAP may have the vision for Delhi and may also be aware of as to how to go about it. It’s time to govern, administer and deliver to the satisfaction of people of Delhi – a daunting task by all means for a new political outfit that may inevitably need to go through a period of learning curve to start with. This period may need to be the shortest one possible or else the Aam Aadmi may get restless and disenchanted.
At this juncture – ahead of Arvind Kejriwal and his AAP taking the reign of Delhi – one may ask a simple question to him that was once posed to him. In the midst of hectic election campaign recently in Delhi, Arvind was confronted by a media man who asked him:‘….agar aap chunao har jate ho, to kya hoga’ (if your party gets defeated in this election, then what happens)….Arvind, after a little pause, replied: ‘yeh to aam aadmi ko sochna hai ki tab unka kya hoga’ (it is for the aam aadmi to think as to what would then happen to them).
Well Arvind, this time round, it’s the Aam Aadmi that’s likely to confront you by asking: if you and AAP happen to fail to deliver your promises in the specified time-frame, what would happen to you and us – the Aam Aadmi. Obviously, AAP and Arvind cannot afford to fail. For the same may simply mean a splash in the political cesspool this party had been able to create that proved unsustainable.
However, AAP and Arvind need not be pre-judged. Give them a chance.
Over to Ram Lila maidan on 26th December, 2013 from where we may take it forward.