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Aam Admi Party: DEATH OF IAC MOVEMENT?, By Proloy Bagchi, 26 Nov, 2012 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 26 November 2012

Aam Admi Party


By Proloy Bagchi


Arvind Kejriwal has made quite a splash since going political. The energetic activist has finally launched his party, naming it the ‘Aam Admi Party’. He promises that it will empower the common-man and that its representatives would be from the grassroots up to national level. The party’s vision in his words is “Swaraj. People should get the raj”.  Be that as it may, the big question is will he continue his campaign against the entrenched political establishment with the same gusto or will he be restrained?


His serial exposes, virtually like ‘bombs’, have already scorched Robert Vadra, the son in-law of Sonia Gandhi, the UPA Chairperson, minister Salman Khurshid, the suave but known loyalist of Gandhi, Nitin Gadkari, the reigning president of the principal Opposition – the BJP, billionaire Mukesh Ambani, the Reliance Industries Chief and, lately, sugar mill owners of Western Maharashtra, presumably targeting the Maharashtra strongman Sharad Pawar. The Ambanis came in for further treatment in Kejriwal’s accusations regarding their alleged ‘black’ accounts in foreign banks.


Widely reported, discussed and debated in the print and electronic media, Kejriwal’s accusations need no repetition here. Suffice to say that most of his allegations, like those against Vadra, Khurshid, Gadkari etc., were on the basis of documentary evidences either ferreted out by him/his colleagues in India Against Corruption (IAC) or given to him by people who got adversely impacted by the wrong-doings of the accused. By administering practically a weekly dose of accusations against some politician or the other of substance, he literally put fear of God in the corrupt among them. Setting a veritable cat among the pigeons, he made many politicians anxious making them wonder whether they would be next in line for the crucifixion.


Going political for Kejriwal was, apparently, a necessity. His 9-day fast in July earlier this year failed to achieve any result. Perhaps, it was ill-timed as Parliament was not in session. The political class just ignored it and the Government did not yield to the demand of constitution of a special investigating team for investigating the 15 Central ministers who were alleged to have had cases of corruption against them. Kejriwal, apparently, thought it was best to fight the politicians politically and beat them in their own game. That, however, meant severance of the ties with the Gandhian, Anna Hazare, who has always been averse to politics and politicking.


Sadly, in the process, the movement that mobilised in droves the middle classes for the first time ever got not only divided losing its innate strength, it also lost focus. Parting ways with Anna, while Kejriwal got busy in his weekly exposes and stray acts of civil disobedience, Anna, though indirectly supportive of the former, was got engaged in collecting like-minded people around him for his own brand of anti-corruption movement. The IAC campaigns of April and August 2011 had a singular aim, that of eradication of corruption through the instrumentality of enactment of a law for creation of an independent and powerful Lokpal (ombudsman). In the backdrop of massive corruption in the 2010 Commonwealth Games and allotment of 2G spectrum, it caught the imagination of the people, especially of the youth and the rising numbers of middle classes.


As the movement gathered strength in August 2011 the media, too, got into the act and gave extensive round-the-clock coverage. And, the tech-savvy members of the IAC made deft use of the social media making the movement to many observers somewhat akin to the campaigns in North Africa and West Asia for regime-change that eventually came to be known collectively as “Arab Spring”. The Government at the Centre was flustered and indulged in nervous acts exemplified by, inter alia, the attempt to wean away from the movement Yoga Guru Ramdev who too had muscled in into it. The attempt boomeranged and the political class was virtually brought to their knees.


 A “sense of the house” resolution, first cleared by the Lok Sabha and later adopted by Rajya Sabha, was unanimously passed agreeing action on all sticking points to pacify Anna. Acquiring a larger than life image, Anna broke his 11-day fast. Standing as a colossus, he and the IAC activists mobilised public opinion charging up the whole nation against political and bureaucratic corruption.  A patently middle class movement, IAC’s offshoots cropped up virtually in every nook and corner of the country. Young and old joined it putting the Government on the back foot. 


Journals abroad connected it with other such movements of the middle classes in emerging markets. From Chile to China to North Africa and Middle East to India middle classes rose against the established systems for reasons as varied as environmental degradation (in China), overbearing role of public sector in the field of education (in Chile), against autocratic dictatorships in Arab countries and rampant political and bureaucratic corruption in India.


The rise of middle classes, especially in developing Asia, has given them a new-found power to swing changes in the polity. The most rapid rise has been in India and China and today they are restive and are eagerly seeking the good life. In India, with about 20 % of the population in the middle classes the political class has been compelled to pay, unlike in the past, greater attention to their views.


One had hoped from the run-away success of the movement that the IAC would eventually emerge somewhat like The Tea Party in the US – minus its ideology – pressurising political parties to choose clean candidates and work for their election. By itself the IAC clearly had no way of getting round the prevailing electoral system. For it the best option, therefore, seemed to be to try and bring as many clean candidates into Parliament as possible to get rid of the scourge of corruption.  


Alas, that was not to be. A set of circumstances, from Anna’s failing health to the machinations of the politicians to an ill-timed campaign in July 2012 and eventually a veritable split in the IAC ensured the death of the movement that had raised such hopes. The dramatis personae could not see eye to eye about the progression of the movement although all are committed to the cause of eradication of corruption. With two branches of it going their separate ways their respective strengths have mitigated as also their impact. Though Kejriwal has made a few explosive revelations with wide coverage in the media, yet the response from urban India has not been as resounding as that of last year.


The 2014 elections not being far away, Kejriwal has given himself a daunting task to organise the Aam Admi Party to enter the money-dominated Indian electoral process. He has aimed to begin his political debut in the Delhi Assembly elections due end-2013. Only time will tell how he fares in his enterprise. The middle classes, however, feel betrayed by the IAC. Surely, they would have liked the entire bunch to work together resolving their differences with a view to sticking together until at least the elections in 2014. Unless the Aam Aadmi Party does a miracle. --- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


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