In politics as in life, a second chance is difficult to get unless sincerely asked and worked for. Arvind Kejriwal has got his second chance in spectacular fashion after Delhi voters decided to forgive and forget the first chance he aborted in 49 days. In both instances, the Aam Aadmi Party has created history. If it was the youngest debutant party in the country to score big in elections, it is now the only party to win with the largest margin ever in Delhi since Assembly elections began there twenty years back. The common Delhi voter has now got what he wished for — rendra Modi as PM and Kejriwal as CM. But that is small comfort for the BJP now, after it swept the Lok Sabha elections last year in the capital with all seven seats. Unless these two leaders lock horns in a destructive game of political shadow boxing and one-upmanship, Delhi seems to be in for interesting times. The capital is setting an agenda before the entire country for a new kind of politics. After positioning itself to the right of Congress and left of BJP, the AAP has pushed the former into oblivion while rudely shattering the aura of invincibility of the latter. But AAP chief strategist Yogendra Yadav has a significant take on the matter — instead of trying to be a political altertive to the BJP, the AAP should blaze a trail for ‘altertive politics’.
This make sense, considering that the AAP seems hardly equipped for the politics holding sway over vast parts of the country. It is the politics of identity — of this or that caste, religion, ethnicity, language or region. It is the politics of money and muscle power, with payback to traders, black-marketeers, illegal syndicates, corrupt circles and the underworld for dotions received. Once power is wrested, it has to be held on to by siphoning out yet more money from the system. The administration sells itself out, every government service comes available at a price. And so for the common Indian, corruption is a reality from birth to death. Add to that the politics of patroge, with every votebank group competing for a piece of the development pie — and the dismal picture is complete. Insult is added to injury when voiceless groups and the burgeoning underclass are left to fend for themselves in the open market dispensation. Thankfully, the AAP got a wonderful opportunity to break this mould in Delhi with its unified electorate, which served as its laboratory not once but twice. The party was only six months old when it bagged 28 out of 70 Delhi Assembly seats in November 2013. But the capital was seething with a mood for change much earlier. If An Hazare took centre-stage with his anti-corruption crusade in the summer of 2011, Delhites furiously took to the streets the next year after the horrific December 16 gangrape.
Thus it was that the AAP could neutralise the BJP’s cadre strength with its volunteer force fired by idealism. Thousands of volunteers came from states all over the country, determined to work for the change they so desired. Volunteers swarmed from one Delhi neighbourhood to the other, held street corner meetings, manned telephone lines and trawled social media to solicit voters. Leaders focused upon secular topics — fighting corruption, improving public utilities and making these cheaper, guaranteeing safety to women. Only time will tell if the AAP government mages to create employment, build more government schools and hospitals, provide electricity and water at cheap rates, set up CCTV cameras all over the metropolis, put marshals on city buses and bring about effective community policing. If the BJP government at the Centre refuses to play ball, the stage is set for a long drawn political battle of attrition. But if Chief Minister Kejriwal can empower Delhi’s mohalla sabhas to help ordiry Delhites take decisions about their own lives, as he has written about so forcefully in his book ‘Swaraj’ — AAP will make a lasting contribution to the country’s polity. And the message will spread forth after activist groups in various states, fighting for the cause of farmers, unorganised labourers, tribals and other margilised groups, link up with AAP and other like-minded parties to bring about a new, altertive politics in the country.