A lot has been said and written about the Aam Aadmi Party phenomenon. It originated from an anti corruption movement, had a stupendous electoral performance and is now on the verge of forming a government in Delhi. Before the Delhi election results were announced, the claim to form the government was far from reality even for the most ardent AAP supporter. The emergence of AAP as a political force in the national capital has disrupted conventional politics. Ever since their formation, they have brought the issues of corruption, honesty and political propriety at the forefront of our political discourse. The future of AAP as a political force in India is far from having been realised and will depend a lot upon their administrative performance, but the impact that they are having on India’s political culture and representative democracy is extraordinary.
Upping the ante on corruption in the recently concluded elections AAP fielded candidates with no political backgrounds or affiliations and strictly focussed on no criminal records of candidates. This ensured that people trusted and related with these candidates. The major opposition party - BJP was forced to change its chief ministerial candidate in Delhi and bring in some one with a clean image known to the people as one of their own. Vijay Goel had to make way for ENT surgeon Harsh Vardhan - a champion of the polio eradication programme primarily known amongst the people of his constituency Krishna Nagar. The political cleansing in Delhi had just begun.
The elections ended in an apparent anti Congress vote with the BJP emerging as the single largest party and the debutant AAP with an exceptional performance landed with 28 seats in second spot. It was surprising to witness a paradigm shift in Delhi politics where both parties with majority took a principled stand of not forming the government due to the lack of numbers. The manoeuvring, horse trading and auctioneering of legislatures in the race to the kursi that we have all become so accustomed to gave way to the politics of the old where principles and people was given prime importance.
With the BJP refusing to form the government, the onus was on AAP as second largest party to form the government with outside support from the Congress. Arvind Kejrival had made no bones about not taking any support from either of the two political parties and had always called for re-elections in case of a hung verdict. But the people of Delhi had rejected traditional politics and were heavily in favour of the Aam Aadmi Party. The dilemma of imposing another election on the people and be perceived to be running away from responsibility or form a government with your political adversary was a difficult one. Going back to the people for a decision and opting for a referendum at this stage was both a tactical and empowering move. The people were given a voice to decide their future and not left at the mercy of the political wisdom of their elected representatives. The notion that representatives once elected know best without engaging with the public at large may have been the norm in the traditional political sense but not any more. Some political commentators equated this with having to go to the people for every possible decision that the government needs to make. Of course contentious issues need to be resolved directly by government but to compare administrative decisions with this is absolutely absurd. This is a shift from representative democracy to participatory democracy.
Refusing to have red lights or beacons on any of elected candidate’s vehicles is a step towards being part of the people that you are meant to serve and not a hindrance to their every day life. Arvind Kejriwal and all his MLAs as promised have refused to accept any special security or special housing when they come into government. The more our leaders resemble us the more we can relate to them. The more we can relate to them the more ‘we the mango people’ can have a say in how we want to be governed. This is the politics of hope and change.