Saturday, January 26, 2013

Aam Aadmi Party

As India celebrated its 64th Republic Day, it it is a good time to appraise how are things looking in this huge country which is undergoing dramatic and fast changes. One sense is India has lagged in economic development compared to China.

Despite experiments in liberalization for last two decades,  structurally Indian Economy still remains skewed. Supply side claptraps always make it impossible for India to contain 'inflation'. Pervasive corruption and lack of transparency are true reasons for structural flaws. Add to that residual influence of socialism where people want State to control prices as an answer to inflation and where many expect State to provide certain basic human needs like education and health 'free' (case in point - Hindi Vision of Aam Aadmi Party). Fear of Globalization as many negative impacts of globalization and modernization start to percolate through all layers of society, contribute to hesitancy by India's forces of change. 

Problem is despite Anna Hazare phenomenon, Indian Polity is simply not adopting Eradicating Corruption, Transparency and Rule of Law as most important issues to address. Nor competitive electoral pressure is forcing established Indian Political Parties to address this issue. True, from Left to Congress to BJP to Regional Parties; all are busy in 'looting the nation'; no wonder these Political Parties are working as a 'cartel' and avoiding the issue of Corruption altogether.

After starting the fight against Corruption, Anna simply lost in weeds by excessively focusing on certain arcane aspects of 'Lokpal'. True, India should have corruption free Union Cabinet. But neither Anna had basic 'read' of what is wrong in India nor any rudimentary political sense to realize that he needed to midwife a political party like Aam Aadmi Party rather than to quibble with them to sap energy of folks who can be India's solution. What we need is legal and justice system to work at district and state level, transparency all across governments and enforcement of laws. Instead to allow Congress Party make Politics of whether PM to be included in Lokpal or not is laughable. Politically Anna Hazare was totally mauled by Congress. It was not just the loss of credibility of an  individual like Hazare, but the cause of 'fighting corruption' suffered too.

All these are reasons why I see lot of hope in the political response like Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). That is the right response you expect in a working competitive democracy - that a party makes the issue of 'corruption fight' as the core of its brand and philosophy. Not only AAP has found the key of what ails India, it is an encouraging sign that Indian Democracy is still alive. In words of President Obama (when he responded to fiscal cliff and GOP threat of not honoring America's Sovereign Debt Servicing), 'India is not a dead beat nation'!

AAP is in infancy and there is a long way before any meaningful change can be achieved. India has seen many brand new political formations and many attaining even spectacular election victories.  It definitely happens at regional level (Telgu Desam party of late NT Ram Rao), but at national level as well. Founded by Kanshi Ram and nurtured by Mayawati, BSP is a classic tale of glorious politicking in contemporary modern India. But more or less none of these political parties started with the singular purpose of 'fighting corruption' and almost all of them fully immersed themselves in the same dirt of corrupt governance. Most of these electoral formations failed to translate those glorious election victories in lasting changes based on some substantive agenda.

Of course, worrying about pitfalls of implementing your agenda is very distant for AAP since before that they need to attain some noticeable election success. But World has changed over years, especially as Web and Social Media have invigorated democracy across the board. If Lapid's Yesh Atid movement can help bring change in Israel in shot period and many Arab Countries see their youths taking to streets to make core changes; then India can produce AAP to effect change too.

Though most of the established parties in India are deeply entrenched, they are equally incapable of what AAP promises to offer uniquely - fight corruption. Based on Rahul's Speech or Narendra Modi's heady victories emboldening him to forget what is truly needed by India; none of these established leaders show any urgency of making truly epochal alterations in Indian way of life. That is the opening for formations like AAP - that their competitors are simply incapable of coming to their turf.

As established political forces may turn out to be 'brittle in the end'; defeating them is not easy at all. Rather core challenge to AAP is what I call 'residues of socialistic' thinking. It is understandable that you do not go to hustings without making some 'exciting and dreamy' promises. If those smell 'socialistic', so be the case. But what a political start-up like AAP cannot forget is - the stage at which Indian Economy is;  dividends to be exploited by way of unleashing Market forces are simply too large to miss. Because AAP is all about 'corruption free transparent' ways of transacting business; its vision is unique to fully realize benefits and superiority of Capitalism practiced well. As others have noted, Indian Middle Class is one of the rarest in the world to depend most on Private Sector than State for its basic needs like Education, Health Care and Utilities. Opportunity is there to build upon this foundation to develop a society which is embodiment of 'self-help' and 'people solving their own problems' rather than (what GOP derides) 'developing the culture of free-riders'. With residue socialism, not only AAP would miss to understand advantageous offerings of Capitalism, it may not even fulfill what it promises even if Indian voters give her the precious chance of governance down many years. That is the real danger. Early ages of a political party is the perfect time to develop these appropriate moorings before calcification of collective memory happens.

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