Redefining Aam Aadmi

AAP will be part of political history as a process of redefining the identity of aam admi in a participatory form of governance


Avanish Kumar | December 9, 2013

The rise of the Aam Aadmi party (AAP) has transformed the election process in Delhi. It has given impetus to the issues of corruption and performance over caste and community. The Delhi election result suggests that the caste or religious identity of leaders is subsumed by their performance. AAP had an advantage of an identity as a “clean party”, although it is yet to be tested in a real-life laboratory of power, because the image of a political party created in the absence of power is not a test of reality. The public scrutiny of AAP in a sting operation of its party candidates and Anna Hazare’s video increased the accountability to retain the party’s image of the ‘aam admi’. These sting operations also suggested that the party is in the midst of increasing pressures emanating from the high hopes of general citizens and the desperation of the two national political parties. However, the high prevalence of corruption and the meagre attention paid to the common citizen in mainstream politics made AAP a political force to reckon with. The power of this force cannot be gauged by the number of seats won by the party but with the prevalence and pride in usage of AAP cap by common citizens. Yet the halo effect of being associated with Anna Hazare cannot be ignored. Just like the Congress gained from its leadership of the freedom struggle, AAP has gained from the association with the anti-corruption movement of Anna.  

The election result has two important lessons. First, the ruling party lost the battle due to inaction by the state; either towards gender violence, corruption in public offices or food price inflation. More importantly, the second lesson is that the rise of the Aam Aadmi has redefined three fundamental dilemmas for voters in participatory governance: caste over corruption; money over manifesto; and experience over expectation.   

Caste or corruption
Caste and community identity has reduced from primary to secondary characteristics in the process of voting for the candidates. The influence of projecting a leadership in BJP and his victory with huge margin is noticeable. And the repeated claim of fair and transparent governance in the campaign and victory of AAP candidates is a testimony of corruption overcoming the power of caste and community identity. However, if the election is held again with a choice between two clean candidates, certainly caste and community identity will influence votes. In a way it is a victory of ideology and not of individuals.

Money or manifesto
Following the supreme court’s observations, the election commission organised a consultative meeting with political parties on August 12, 2013 to frame guidelines on the election manifestos. The guidelines spell out the window within which the political parties can announce their manifesto and avoid “freebies”. The manifesto of the AAP had 71 local and state level agenda items, but it declared four key agenda items: Jan Lokpall Bill, right to reject, right to recall and political decentralisation. These agenda transcend the boundaries of state, age, class, caste, and gender. Unfortunately, in the past elections political philanthropy did attract votes. The political parties and their representatives in their respective constituencies have participated, especially in marriages or public functions, with “gift”. Though money has always played a vital role in igniting the last-mile campaign, but AAP’s pitch that public inaction is a causation of economic marginalisation made even the poorest of poor to vote for it. It reflects that the aam admi is no more a victim of midnight political philanthropy but a sufferer of state failure. AAP as a result attracted voters across all categories of voters. BJP as the largest party is a reflection of belief that AAP lacks political skills to manage a state. If a re-election is held in case of the hung assembly, the issue of national vision and linking with state can make BJP advantageous over AAP.  It will be politically disastrous for Congress stalwarts if they lose again in the re-election. This political risk for re-election will change the strategy of the Congress and BJP too.

Experience or expectation
The experience expands the spectrum of public scrutiny. Since the memory is short-lived, BJP gained in comparison to the incumbent Congress. While AAP is high on expectation but lack experience, for the re-election AAP will be required to build a national vision of its politics. The re-election may be between the experience of BJP and the expectation from AAP. Irrespective of the re-election, the success of AAP cannot be limited to election results, but it will be part of political history as a process of redefining the identity of aam admi in a participatory form of governance. Aam Admi is no more “aam” as it converted Delhi into a triangular battle.



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