The year was 1995. A 27-year-old was on his first day of his job in the Indian Revenue Service (IRS), when an unsolicited advice from a senior official sowed the seeds of social revolution that is gripping India. The advice was simple, “Make money in the beginning of career and live ‘honestly’ for the rest of life”.
he man who was on the receiving end of this advice was Arvind Kejriwal, winner of 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award (India’s Nobel Prize) for his work on the Right to Information (RTI) Act, social activist extraordinaire and the brainchild behind the newly launched political party—the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
With over six recognised national parties and many state parties, there is no dearth of political outfits in India but the AAP which was launched on 26th November promises to be different. “Our initiative is to go beyond the present framework of Parliamentary system, we are not concerned with electoral competition or coalition culture focusing on participatory democracy rather than representative democracy,” says Prof. Anand Kumar, sociologist and chief spokesperson of AAP. By Kejriwal’s own admission the party will not compromise on corruption, democracy and nepotism and will follow a bottom to top approach, where the council members elect the Executive Body and hold the power to recall it.
The latest report of NGO Transparency International has ranked India 94th in the corrupt practices ranking among the 176 nations; with corruption reaching the peak during 2007-2010. While many say there is a naiveté about AAP’s promises, an Indian public fed up by the increasing misconduct is warming up to it. “It’s been only 20 days since we launched and we’ve got 21,000 members. We are in the process of choosing active members and they will be contesting the New Delhi assembly elections in November 2013. It will be a training ground for us,” says Prof. Kumar. The party will select 543 members from the active committee and they will contest for the 2014 general elections following the American Presidential election model.
“These movements failed because they couldn’t channelise themselves politically, they didn’t embrace politics internally. We are still at a nascent stage to promise anything but we want to take the chance to create a difference internally and politically,”
The boldness with which they have taken on powerful people—from Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra to chief opposition Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari has won them a following. Increasing the political nightmare for many is their promise of political decentralisation. “Political decentralisation is nothing new in the Indian context. Gandhi was the first one to mention that power should not be centralised in Delhi but should be given to the villages by empowering the Panchayats. But the Indian Constitution didn’t follow this,” explains Yogendra Yadav, psephologist and fellow at CSDS (Centre for Society of Developing Societies) in Delhi. “Even in modern democracy power can directly reside with the people, this is what we want to show,” says Yadav, one of the founding members of AAP.
Internationally, the last two years have seen many such people-movements, from the Arab Spring to Occupy London, which started with lot of fervour only to die down- but AAP is upbeat. “These movements failed because they couldn’t channelise themselves politically, they didn’t embrace politics internally. We are still at a nascent stage to promise anything but we want to take the chance to create a difference internally and politically,” says Yadav.
By Dhanya Nair