Saturday, December 28, 2013

Challenges of Delhi AAP Government

The first question is how long the new Delhi government would last since for any sustainable long term change you need a stable government lasting for few years at least. There is a primordial question of existential threat to Delhi CM Kejriwal. He has refused any kind of police protection even though possible physical threats are grave, especially as his government starts unraveling corruption cases in these ‘land and real estate deals’. When vested interests in these industries loose lucrative profits due to non-corrupt ways Kejriwal would bring in, events can turn ugly and reality could resemble a Bollywood movie. It was for a different reason - his foreign policy about Tamils in Sri Lanka - but ultimately Rajiv Gandhi paid the catastrophic price when security lapses were exploited. Few commentators are already requesting Arvind Kejriwal to accept some minimal security. Because in absence of Arvind Kejriwal neither there will be AAP nor AAP's Delhi Government. It is not that there are no other qualified people in the party to take over, but the party simply had not had a chance to grow the organization and project other leaders in the line. Over years that would happen and one of the goals of Delhi AAP Government should be getting next batch of AAP leaders up and running.

The political threat is very obvious and most have been focusing on that – Congress Party is the master of ‘outside support’ technique and they have some storied history behind that. Congress Party has been in politics for too long for not to smell an opportunity about when to pull the rug under AAP and back out their support. However, AAP politics is different than usual in Indian context. Congress Party will not be able remove the support just because AAP Government starts exposing skeletons in the cup-board. Public will simply get that Congress Party could not handle 'the heat' and electorally Congress Party would lose further. In other words political discomfort created because of AAP’s success in fighting corruption cannot be an excuse for Congress Party to pull up on AAP Government. Only when AAP fails in fulfilling its electoral promises or fails to find a way of effective governance while sticking to its 'USP of no corruption' and the only news in Media is about how AAP is washing dirty laundry of past administrations of Shaila Dixit; public would lose the interest and Congress Party would get an opening to remove the outside support.

There is another scenario where Congress Party performs electorally better than expectations and then feels emboldened to strike at AAP. However, as things stand, Congress Party should be happy to cross three digit number winning seats in next Loksabha! It is in such a dire state, so I doubt if this scenario is likely at all.

Good thing is Kejriwal and APP know that they are on ‘borrowed time’. The other effect of that will be AAP will be in ‘hurry’ to make the difference in whatever smaller window it has – time till general election in first half of 2014.  There is a remote possibility that Congress Party may undertake some legal creative thinking with the help of President Pranab Mukherjee – former Congressman – and try to push the general election time past Monsoon. Politically it will be extremely difficult for Congress Party to pull off such a stunt; but given the dire state of Congress Party, some in the party may be tempted to argue for such an extreme path. In any case, all such additional time should generally help AAP to continue to manifest its brand of ‘transparent governance’ and help convince people that such transparent governance does not need to come at the cost of ‘concrete results’.

Delivering concrete results – that is going to be the next challenge to AAP Government. Arvind Kejriwal says his math is realistic when he says 50% electricity price reduction and 700 liters per day per household portable water are doable. At this point Public will accord the benefit of doubt to AAP, but as time passes and if execution becomes spotty; such a failure will be an obvious political opening to Congress and BJP. There is another issue here – even if APP government is able to pull off these promises to Delhi, would it repeat those promises for rest of the country or other urban areas of India? Wiser course for AAP is instead of getting trapped in these hard numbers all across, focus on transparency, overall better governance and overall betterment of common people. It is understandable that in the current situation for the first election faced by AAP, it has to make such bold promises. But earlier AAP adopts 'under promise over deliver', better are chances that it avoids fate like President Obama!

When AAP prepares itself for the general election, demands of that campaign, candidate selection and overall fund raising all within the strict criteria of transparency which AAP has set to itself; all that will be challenging to Kejriwal and the company. The diversion of focus and sharing of bandwidth will take its toll on Delhi  governance too. The larger issue, however, at that point will be articulation of an economic policy for national consumption (AAP has got the political part right – ‘corruption free transparent governance’). That is where AAP will have to answer some hard questions – the economic welfare which it wants to bring to common people can be achieved only if trappings of Socialism are removed. Fruits of transparency are long lasting and wide spread in a free and liberalized economy. That is where a coherent policy formulation is needed. Equitable and transparent distribution of pie is one thing, but the imperative of growing this ‘pie’ for a Billion Plus population of India needs to be addressed head on. So far the politics AAP is waging, it has not required to grapple these complexities. To formulate such a policy means effectively pinning AAP on the policy spectrum of Left to Right and at the point AAP would need to defend that turf since politics of standard Left Right policy prescriptions is well worn out in India as well as globally. Chances are that even rising aspirant India which is enamored today with AAP may not find 'old school socialism policy prescriptions in new avatar' that much attractive. It seems AAP has some serious homework to do here and it is yet to start that in earnest.

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