Wednesday, 11 February 2015

New Delhi : AAP - Massive Challenges Ahead

In the previous article, I detailed why the election isn’t a major worry for the BJP. In this article, I propose to outline the challenges and problems that this election has raised in front of the AAP, as well as its positives.

For starters, the AAP stands as the one single party that has been consistently ridiculed by an amazingly large number of people on social media and national media alike. This is frankly the most disturbing aspect of the entire episode. People were consistently willing to forget the mistakes of the other parties, but not the AAP.

People were scalding in their total contempt  of this party, one whose main plank was anti-corruption & clean governance. I do not deny their mistakes, my point is different : the level of ridicule and insults that targeted this party right from the start were beyond imagination. Not only that, they were pilloried left right and center, despite being the only party in Indian History to quit government on a principle. Whether they should have done so is another matter – but critically, not one person appreciated that they showed that they had no desire for power, for standing up for the people, while blaming them for faults – some real, and some imagined.

It was this absence of a balanced view of this new party that was the most disturbing aspect of the entire political discourse, a matter which is the subject of the third and concluding part of this mini-series. It was from these ashes that this party re-emerged to win New Delhi, and this despite an ugly and frankly shocking campaign that all political parties in India should be ashamed of.


PROBLEMS AND CHALLENGES
How they did it is now known, and is a matter of documented record. What is more important is the result they have achieved – 67/70, or nearly 95% seats. First, this represents a major loss for Democracy, rather than a victory. One of the founding principles of democracy is a strong and functioning opposition, which New Delhi now lacks. A strong opposition ensures proper functioning.

Next, this places the pressure firmly on them to perform; further, given that a large number of opponents are just waiting out there, ready to pounce on the first hint of non-performance, is going to be a very tall order. No one can be that good; mistakes will happen. These opponents will conveniently forget the much, much bigger mistakes of other political parties, mistakes for which even the nation has paid a high price at time, but will be all too willing to vilify the newcomer in a disgusting show of political opportunism. The AAP is best advised to gird up its lions for the tough fight ahead, that is pretty much a guarantee. We shall look into the reasons for this in the 3rd part.

That would mean it will have to stay focused on its core area of competence : New Delhi. The biggest challenge this huge result places in front of them is the development of areas outside New Delhi; this is now going to be a tough challenge to overcome, as they will need to concentrate on New Delhi. The only way forward for them is to ensure good performance in New Delhi – clean, incorrupt : let the people realize the power of a clean political party. If they now spread themselves thin, they run the risk of losing focus – this they cannot afford. That means, it has now been effectively contained to New Delhi.

Third, the vote share analysis is damning : only non-BJP segments have supported the AAP; the BJP has retained almost 97% of its base. The consolidation of the vote into one anti-BJP platform is going to be almost impossible to replicate, given the entrenched following of regional parties in other areas. The AAP will find it hard to crack that nut. Be it UP or Maharashtra, the ground realities are such  that it makes the way forward for AAP frought with massive risks.

It can be done : but not with haste. This will require careful strategic thought, and excellence in tactical execution. It will also require a long, time consuming process of development of a following among the people. The vote banks are fragmented, which means breaking into these bastions is always going to be a tall order. The key task for the AAP is now proving to the whole world that clean politics is possible, maintaining high standards and letting their work do the talking. For now, they had best be content with a regional role. This does not mean they make no efforts expand; that would be suicide. But this should be with an understanding that 2019 is not an option as of now.

THE HOPE… LIYE SAPNE NIGAHON MEIN, CHALAA HUN TERI RAAHON MEIN…

लिये सपने निगाहों में, चला हूँ तेरी राहों में
ज़िंदगी  रहा हूँ मैं \- 
 
कई यादों के चेहरे हैं, कई किस्से पुराने हैं
तेरी सौ दास्तानें हैं, तेरे कितने फ़साने हैं  \- 
मगर एक वो कहानी है, जो अब मुझको सुनानी है
ज़िन्दगी  रहा हूँ मैं 

मेरे हाथों की गरमी से, पिघल जायेंगी ज़ंजीरें
मेरे कदमों की आहट से, बदल जायेंगी तक़दीरें \-
उम्मीदों के दिये लेकर, ये सब तेरे लिये लेकर
ज़िन्दगी रहा हूँ मैं


This is what the AAP should now take to heart – this is the one line, the one message that should be on the minds of each member of the AAP, each minister and each volunteer. They should realize that the AAP is now a shining light in the darkness for some Indians - hopefully a very large number. People who are looking expectantly towards Arvind Kejriwal and his team, hoping to watch the promise of deliverance from ugly politics come true, hoping that they will see the day corruption reduces, that the goal of equal development will happen, that money reaches the people it is meant for, and much, much more.

Secondly, this majority gives the AAP the much-needed confidence to implement the reforms they deem necessary and within its powers to do. So long as they explain and sell their message, acknowledging their mistakes, and being mature, they should be fine. They now have the mandate; they should not waste the opportunity – something which the central government is in danger of doing.

Third, the AAP should also understand that the BJP can be beaten without winning over its hardliners anywhere else, or its votebanks. So can any other existing party; all it requires is a consolidation of the vote bank, combined with a genuine attention to the ground needs of the people – which will require painstaking hard work at the field level, something which the AAP excels at, as per new reports.. This is admittedly difficult, but not impossible, given time and the right performance in New Delhi, with the needed evolution in its policies and manifesto.

If they can pull it off, they can evolve into a national outfit subsequently far more easily. This will require that the AAP evolve a credible economic policy that balances the need for equity with the need for growth; that is evolves a foreign policy and so on and so forth – and communicates it to the people. It will require all this and much much more; it is a hard long road of learning for the AAP.

But it cannot and should not forget that people now look towards the future with tremendous and fervent hope, people who are eager for a credible alternative, and who are fed up with the status quo in national political discourse. If they forget that, even for a moment – they are finished. And with them, the risk of hope dying and cynicism setting in is too high; that is not a risk we can afford. The AAP should be clear : on them rest the hopes of hundred of Millions.

The reality is that the BJP’s message still sells to its core followers. The reality is the split vote banks are still a reality. The reality is that caste still sells, and caste-based parties will still garner votes. The reality is that frivolous issues are still considered vital, over and above serious issues by some segments of the electorate. The reality is that large numbers of voters are not educated enough to understand the nuances of the policies, and can be easily converted through a one-sided loaded message. And it is in this backdrop that the AAP has to sell its dream outside New Delhi.

The future is now in the hands of the AAP; how it handles New Delhi could well be the difference between the song above, and the one below for those among the electorate who are now looking towards the AAP and its leaders with hope in their eyes, a light in their minds and joy in their hearts…

क्या शबाब था के फूल-फूल प्यार कर उठा
क्या कमाल था के देख आईना सहर उठा
इस तरफ ज़मीन और आसमां उधर उठा
थाम कर जिगर उठा के जो मिला नज़र उठा
एक दिन मगर यहाँ, ऐसी कुछ हवा चली
लूट गयी कली-कली के घुट गयी गली-गली,
और हम लूटे-लूटे, वक़्त से पीटे पीटे 
साँस की शराब का खुमार देखते रहे
कारवाँ गुज़र गया, गुबार देखते रहे

हाथ थे मिले के ज़ुल्फ़ चाँद की संवार दूँ
होंठ थे खुले के हर बहार को पुकार दूँ
दर्द था दिया गया के हर दुखी को प्यार दूँ
और सांस यूँ के स्वर्ग भूमि पर उतार दूँ
हो सका ना कुछ मगर, शाम बन गयी सहर,
वो उठी लहर के ढह गये किले बिखर-बिखर,
और हम डरे-डरे, नीर नैन में भरे,
ओढ़कर कफ़न पड़े मज़ार देखते रहे

I Would Rather Listen To The First Song, Arvindji… you are the hope of India… don’t disappoint us. With a strong ruling party- the BJP, and an equally strong opposition – The AAP {hopefully} keeping a check on each other, the future of our India will be guaranteed, with no possibility of anyone going wrong. India needs you, India needs a strong opposition as well as a strong Government!


Jai Hind! Vande Mataram!

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