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Victory for the people

Monday, 30 December 2013 | Pioneer | in Edit

The aam aadmi’s party has a tough road ahead

Even the staunchest critics of Mr Arvind Kejriwal will concede that this political greenhorn has delivered a victory for the people, the aam aadmi. As thousands thronged to Ramlila Maidan in Delhi on Saturday and the crowds cheered and celebrated their Chief Minister as he took oath-of-office, the optimism in the winter air was not just palpable; it was infectious. If the rough and tumble of Indian politics had turned one into an electoral cynic, Saturday's events, especially when viewed as the culmination of a process that began less than two years ago, should have helped restore one’s faith in the system. For instance, conventional wisdom had suggested that this system was so designed that only those with pots loads of money and some local goons at their command could break through. But as Mr Kejriwal led his Aam Aadmi Party to a stunning electoral victory in the Delhi Legislative Assembly earlier this month, he proved that if you have the right key to the door, you really don't need all that money and muscle power to break it down. And that key lies with the people. If politicians take the trouble to listen to their voters and make a seemingly genuine offer to address their concerns and fulfill their aspirations, the electorate will surely respond. Go back to the basics and focus on the fundamentals of good governance, and there will be no need to worry about the supposedly complex arithmetic of electoral politics that, in this country, is often chalked out on caste, class and communal lines.

Indeed, established political parties will hopefully learn a lesson from this experience, discard their outdated electoral tactics, and embrace the new trends. That India's newest political outfit not just defeated but decimated the country's oldest party to take power in the national capital speaks volumes. There can be no two ways about the fact that the Congress must re-invent itself, if it wishes to remain relevant. The Bharatiya Janata Party too, as the country's primary Opposition, should view the victory of the AAP as a message from the people that 11 Ashoka Road is not the only alternative to 10 Janpath. Similarly, the traditional Left parties — which are at least symbolically (think of the revolutionary cries of Inquilab Zindabad that Mr Kejriwal has made fashionable again) the closest to the AAP, and yet have been steadily losing ground around the country, should also use this opportunity to introspect.

As for the AAP itself, this is just the beginning of what will undoubtedly be a challenging road ahead. The party has set the bar rather high for itself — and the public will hold it accountable to those standards. Hopefully, the party leadership's first experience in Government formation, which saw Mr Kejriwal set aside his pre-poll claims and join hands with an avowed rival, has been a sobering lesson for it. Similarly, the party has also made many tall promises and it is yet to be seen to what extent the new Chief Minister is able to deliver these. Populist policies may bring in the crowds but they also empty the coffers, and overall, are synonymous with poor governance. The same holds true for political symbolism — taking the metro to work and refusing lal battis is fine but it has to lead to a larger systemic change.

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