AAP has generated great expectations, but so did Mamata

AAP has raised hopes, but so did Mamata
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), no matter what the predictions and its critics say, is a phenomenon in Indian politics no doubt. The common man's heart goes all out for Arvind Kejriwal and his team and the expectation about them winning the power in Delhi is sky high.

AAP has done well in drawing its power from the common man

The AAP's source of strength primarily lies with the frustration of the hard-working and honest commoner who is disillusioned with the status quo. The outfit is a welcome relief for those who feel that the system desperately needs a change but are clueless about the way the change should come. The AAP basically has filled up a vacuum created by years of unethical treatment of the democratic political system in India by the ruling elite. The party has started well by reaching out to a big section of the electorate through its simplistic mobilisation tactics but can it sustain the same momentum in the future in case it comes to power?

But what after coming to power?

Exercising power is not an easy task in a pluralistic nation like India, particularly when the task is undertaken along with building a coalition. As a noted social scientist has observed, after doing all the hard work to build a coalition of forces when one shifts his focus to the power exercise part, even a slight failure in taking care of the fact that all the coalition elements received a fair share in that power would mean a collapse in the arduously built coalition. This is a vicious cycle, which has seen the collapse of the Congress as a social coalition since the independence.

AAP's good sides

The AAP party, even though in a miniature form, will witness the same challenge. The positive sides of the AAP's story are: First, it provided a outlet to an electorate which had been feeling suffocated for some time now and draws its strength from the ground level; second, it ensures a fair empowerment of the urban class, which till now did not have much medium to air its views.

Narendra Modi of the BJP is perhaps the only leader with which the urban classes have been able to identify themselves ahead of the big Lok Sabha polls. And thirdly, the rise of the AAP democratises the politics of Delhi by bringing in that interesting third angle. For some, this means instability but for genuine students of democracy, it is a positive development. Monopoly or bipolarity aren't the best servants of democracy.

But these positives can change in a flash, particularly if it comes to power. The institutionalisation of electoral politics in the party is most likely to create differing camps for it doesn't have any ideological bonding as such. Just like the Congress's nationalism in the pre-independence period, the AAP strives for a corruption-free India before coming to power.

Once in power, the vision of externalising corruption is going to fall flat for the complexities of politics won't allow the 'noble thoughts' to dominate, as they are doing now. We may see Kejriwal's party taking absurd steps as the ruling party or the leader himself quitting out of disappointment.

Parallel between Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee

Here, a parallel can be drawn between Kejriwal and Trinamool Congress's Mamata Banerjee. The latter created a stir in Bengal politics, which was till then a routine Left versus Congress affair. She led a battle against a mighty regime and it looked she would be waging a losing struggle throughout her life. But times changed and a strong anti-incumbency, aided by suicidal acts by a weakened Left regime, helped Banerjee to inch closer towards the civil society and lead a winning battle against the rivals.

Mamata learnt the difficulty and pursued populism, will Kejriwal also?

Her coming to power was a history but that history was not a long-lasting celebration for all her supporters. Also a party with no ideology but held together by a strong sentiment against Left parties, the Trinamool Congress began to realise that the costs of the historic victory were high. Banerjee didn'y quit but kept on making absurd innovations to somehow keep the show running.

Populism looks the only way forward for Kejriwal, as it was for Banerjee. But for the electorate which is feeling fatigued by the same old Congress and BJP, the celebration itself is a big event of life.

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