Hopes of an Aam Aadmi

Posted: February 19, 2014 in Socio - Economic Issues and Politics in India
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I do not have a driving license. Not that I am woman who is afraid of driving. In fact, I love to race a two wheeler.  I fulfill my driving dreams whenever I visit my hometown, where there is no police on the road to stop me and ask me to show my license. An idealist, I have never passed my driving test exams because I have refused to pay bribe. And back home (Assam), it is impossible to get a DL without paying a bribe of thousand Rupees. People called me an irrational idealist.

My travel expenses skyrocketed after I joined a distant workplace. And, at the age of 25, I had almost given up on my ideals to get my DL at any cost when I witnessed the greatest mass upsurge against corruption in India, led by Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal.  I was  awestruck to see Lakhs of people from all walks of life come together onto the streets in every part of the country expressing intense anger against the corrupt political and economic system. I now knew, I was not the only one! Then and there, I again chucked my idea of bribing for my DL.

The upsurge settled down with false assurances from politicians; and the Lokpal Bill was never passed. I, like million others Indians, felt disappointed. I felt that nothing could save our corrupt nation when politicians went to an extent of ridiculing Kejriwal (and fellow activists) and challenged them to contest in elections. There was small news from here and there about formation of the Aam Aadmi Party. Media had stopped covering about it anymore. And, everyone had completely forgotten about the revolution amidst the hustles and bustles of life. But one fine day to everyone’s surprise, Aam Aadmi Party declared their decision to contest elections in Delhi. A team of social worker and activists had taken the challenge of cleaning up “corrupt India.” Undoubtedly, jhadu was the symbol of AAP!

Till then, it was universally believed that the elections of 2014 will be a fight between Narendra Modi of the BJP and Rahul Gandhi of the Congress. To everyone’s surprise, AAP emerged victorious in Delhi, defeating prominent congress leaders by thousand of votes. Suddenly, Third Front idea was no longer any fictional rant, but a distinct possibility. Kejriwal became the Chief Mister of Delhi.

Today, this young team of enthusiastic activists and reformers is an inspiration to many. Especially to the younger generation, who had been frustrated with corrupt and inefficient governance in India. The success of someone (all AAP candidates) with no Godfather amidst the dynastic rulers was in-fact refreshing (and inspiring) to every common man and woman. The refusal to accept any extra privilege like Laal Batti, sirens, extensive security and luxury enjoyed by traditional politicians and bureaucrats immediately caught attention of media and the citizens. So did the Dharna against the five Delhi cops. Many called it a publicity stunt and labelled it as drama. But Kejriwal, the shrewd and efficient leader of the party has answers to everything. He has his facts, figures and economics very much in place.

“Until politics is fixed, economic policies won’t work,” believes AAP CM Arvind Kejriwal. AAP has never been sitting idle ever since it came to power. As an emerging national party, they have made declarations on economics, law and order, foreign and social policies. It is not a power hungry group of political leaders but a refreshingly young, modern, and tech/media-savvy team of people. AAP has been very active in social networking sites and has kept the public aware of its every moves and actions. Surprisingly, they have revealed new scandals of UPA that were under the wraps – the 3600 crore worth helicopter scandal (ordered for VVIPs in India. Even Obama had refused them stating that it was too expensive).

The governments (be it Congress or BJP) have only talked about inclusiveness. It is only AAP who has practised it. The immediate orders and construction of Night Shelters for poor street dwellers of Delhi, the economical oath ceremony in public speaks for itself. The oath ceremony cost only 6.3 Lakhs as compared to 13 Lakhs on Sheila Dixit’s oath-taking ceremony five years back. The filing of FIR against Mukesh Ambani is astonishingly bold step by the Delhi Government. No other political party or group had ever dared to confront the corporate giant Reliance. In Kejriwal’s words, “BJP and Congress are both “faces of Reliance” and have openly challenged Rahul Gandhi to justify gas price hike.

“Agree/disagree with him, as a journalist like the fact that @ArvindKejriwal takes all questions. Rare among today’s netas.” Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted after interviewing the AAP Chief Minister. AAP has in fact brought a paradigm shift to the politics of India. People have become much aware of their votes and voting rights.  It is interesting (fun) to see the dominant political parties coming up with strategies, tactics and marketing techniques to compete with AAP. The threatened Congress party’s fear of losing the race is very much evident from the shift in the pattern of their hoardings and advertisements. The latest “Mein nahi hum” featuring Rahul Gandhi is a perfect example of the same.

Of course, AAP is not a perfect political party either. It had its own share of foot in mouth moments. Comments on Khap Panchayat by its minister Yogendar Yadav, alleged acceptance of cash as donations by party members etc. has created enough controversy. Critics have termed AAP government as Populist Anarchy that lacks governance skills. My question to the constantly cynical critics is – why not let AAP work for some time and then pass a judgement. It is very much evident and even polls show that Kejriwal and his ministers were obviously not allowed to work (disrupted on every step they took). Hadn’t we been blindly accepting nepotism, corruption and worst form of so called democracy without any question for years and years? Here, we have a young set activists turned politicians who speak so straight forward and with such vision and hope for a better India. They need our constructive criticism, not cynical judgements.

Kejriwal’s resignation came as a shock and disappointment. But in hindsight, maybe that was the best thing to do at that point of time. Before AAP came to power, Congress and BJP clearly conspired against the Janlokpal Bill. After years of hard work when AAP finally came to power, anti-corruption bill was again blocked in the state assembly. AAP certainly needs to work on a wider vision and not keep just anti-corruption as the only agenda. Yet, their efforts are highly commendable. No one can claim if AAP shall become a successful national party. It is too early to make such a claim. But victory of AAP in Delhi has created disgust with organised politics in other parts of the country as well. However, the AAP Lok Sabha candidates, winnable or not, make a fine, respectable list. Social activists like Medha Patker’s decision to join AAP certainly cannot be devalued.

I wish AAP all success, for in its vision and success lies the gateway to hope in millions of lives – freedom from corruption in ration cards, in old age pensions, in mid day meals, in Indira Awas Yojana et al to humongous corporate scams. I still continue to believe that one fine day I shall get my driving license, without bribing anyone!

  1. lifeofhues says:

    Things won’t change with AAP coming in to power. What will cause change, in your example of getting a driving license, is your action. The options are available to you even now. And you will need to exercise this option even if and when AAP or any other party comes to power. You need to take the driving test first before writing it off as not getting it without a bribe. If this means you need to stand in queues and fill complicated forms, so be it. Then if you still fail, you need to file an RTI for reasons for failure. You could even file an RTI to get stats on pass *% of people taking the driving test. Change will not come easy and we need to do our bit.

    The other way to look at it is you are paying for service, and not bribe, where you don’t have to stand in queues and fill up complicated forms.

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