By Saeed Naqvi
Politicians and pundits across the country have been served notice by the Delhi electorate: please take a bow and make way. Mingled with the voter’s ecstasy is a primeval cry: we are tired of old politics.
Meanwhile Kejriwal’s cup runneth over.
“Dene waley mujhe dena hain to itna de de
Phir mujhe shikwa e kotahiye daaman ho jaaey”
(Creator, shower on me your blessings in such abundance that I turn to you with my next supplication: O Creator, give me more space.)
There, out of the window, goes my plan to take a seat in the press box to write my “ringside” column on the Delhi assembly. Parliament has become a predictable bore; it would have been fun tracing the new assembly’s baby steps.
A daily piece on the present assembly will inevitably bring Messrs Jagdish Pradhan (Mustafabad), Om Prakash Sharma (Biswas Nagar) and Vijendra Gupta (Rohini) into disproportionate focus. In parliamentary systems, the opposition provides the flavour. If they are smart, the BJP trio can hog all the limelight, force development in their constituencies. Property prices would shoot.
It will be no fun for the media carrying handouts from the treasury benches. Anxiety for TRP ratings may trigger inventiveness. Searchlights will locate AAP’s internal faultlines. Sixty-seven members in a house of 70 are one too many to be accommodated in a cabinet which, by law, can only have six ministers.
Rumours were floated that Adarsh Shastri from Dwarka, a first time legislator, may be made a minister. Why? Because he was a senior executive with Apple. Comes a non sequiter from the rank and file: does AAP belong to Apple or the poor man?
Take a Muslim minister; don’t take one. This is the second untended crop of AAP in two years. This year has been a bumper harvest. Still too early to visualize a party with a coherent ideology. It will have to improvise some more before it finds its feet.
But the luxury of coming to power with 54 percent of the popular vote, 96 percent of seats has clearly filled AAP with courage to gamble for truth, fairness, justice and secularism which the Congress bartered away. The BJP never claimed to be secular.
If Narendra Modi’s economists have coaxed a lesson from the defeat, what will it be? How will it express itself in the budget later this month? The US treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew is at hand, just in case Modi falters. The pink papers (and the New York Times) would like Modi to count his worry beads and chant: I lost because I did not corporatize fast enough. The great cartoonist, R.K. Laxman would have had a field day.
NYT has almost dared Modi. “After imploring Americans, Japanese and Chinese, as well as Indians, to believe in his vision, it is a good bet that no Indian federal budget will be more scrutinized for what it may, or may not, deliver on building infrastructure, reforming taxes and making a tangled, stratified system more efficient than the one Modi is expected to make public by the end of the month.”
Soon there will have to be an AAP budget. Comparisons will be fascinating. And, further afield, comparisons with the far left Syriza in Greece, will disturb and excite.
Last year a statement was extracted from Kejriwal: he was fine with capitalism but not crony capitalism. And yet, there is a resemblance between Kejriwal and Alexis Tsipras of Syriza party. Both are in their 40s, charismatic and pro-poor. But unlike Tsipras, Kejriwal has not evolved from doctrinaire Marxism. The ideologues around Kejriwal like Prof. Anand Kumar and Yogendra Yadav, derive more from socialism of the Lohia school.
Looking for resemblances nearer home, AAP’s welfare net may be quite as extensive as Jayalalita’s in Tamil Nadu. And Jayalalita’s grip on the electorate is quite firm, fiscal discipline or no fiscal discipline.
In the new politics that the AAP has set into motion, Jayalalita, Naveen Patnaik, with luck, Nitish Kumar, are the only regional leaders who may survive the coming rounds. Ignored by the media, Manik Sarkar, the Communist chief minister of Tripura, in his fourth term, exists in a different zone altogether.
Just look at the JD-U-JD parade outside Rashtrapati Bhavan. A less appetizing congregation of political turncoats is difficult to imagine. What chance does this lot have against a force of such freshness as AAP.
Unfortunately, neither the AAP nor a residual Congress exists in Bihar to make any difference. Could disgusted electorate, starved of choices, lurch in unforeseen directions. Which direction? Before the JP movement ousted it in the mid-70s, there was a lively Left movement in Bihar.
Syriza is part of a long tradition of Euro communism. The infection could spread to Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy. Paradoxically, the Nordic North of Europe, traditionally liberal, has turned sharply to the right, frothing in the mouth against immigration.
As part of the global grid, India cannot remain unaffected and the AAP, by the same logic, cannot be just a local happening.
(A senior commentator on political and diplomatic affairs, Saeeq Naqvi can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed are personal.)