AAP- A Political Awakening In India

Just like one of the 2 million daily commuters taking the metro to work, Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the India upstart Aam Aadmi Party, or Common Man party, boarded a crowded train to reach Ramleela Maidan where he would be sworn in as the Chief Minister of Delhi — a welcome departure from the traditional trappings of power.

First, the anti-corruption activist-turned politician and his cabinet colleagues were sworn in. Then he made the masses take an oath of good citizenship: never to take or give a bribe.

A sea of humanity that had surged from across the country to witness the tectonic shift in Indian politics — from the politics of hypocrisy and hatred to the politics of hope — did not return disappointed from Ramleela Maidan, the cradle of several historic revolutions such as the JP Movement of 1975 and Anna’s Hazare-Kejriwal-led anti-corruption movement of 2011.

“Today, Arvind Kejriwal hasn’t become the Chief Minister. It is the common man who has become the Chief Minister of Delhi,” he told the crowd which returned the favor by chanting: “Today’s CM is tomorrow’s PM.”

Buoyed by its impressive electoral debut in the national capital, AAP has decided to go national and contest the upcoming parliamentary elections due next year, sending shivers down the spine of the mainstream parties — the ‘corrupt’ Congress and the ‘communal’ BJP.

But now a bigger challenge is staring at Kejriwal. He first needs to pass the floor test on January 3. It is very likely that resentment in the rank and file of the Congress over supporting the AAP government could play out in the open on the floor of the house. A sting operation has already revealed the evil designs of at least a section of the Congress leaders as to how they plan to topple Kejriwal’s government. If the dissident Congress leaders do cross voting on that fateful day, the government is bound to fall.

Kejriwal, however, looked prepared for the imminent adversity, too. “If we fail to prove majority in the House, we will go back to the electorate again seeking a clear mandate,” he said.

Whether the government in Delhi remains or falls, the national parties are not going to take AAP lightly anymore.

Sheila Dikshit, chief minister of Delhi for three terms, and her party have learned it the hard way. She had deemed Kejriwal and his fledgling party irrelevant only to realize later that the frail-looking former revenue officer was her nemesis.

In the run-up to the December 1 state elections, either flank of the broad and neatly laid streets of the national capital was dotted with political hoardings of all hues, but the ones which stood out were invariably of the AAP.

While some of their in-your-face ad campaigns irked the Congress and BJP alike, some purely reeked of over confidence. One such ad perched on top a public toilet read: “Lokpal Bill will be passed on December 8”, the day state assembly poll results would be announced, literally advertising how confident the AAP was about a clean sweep.

The results came and the new kid on the block suddenly became the new challenger. Born out of a popular anti-corruption movement just a year ago, AAP routed not only 127-year-old Congress, but it also ruined the party of a resurgent BJP in Delhi. It made a mind boggling debut by winning 28 seats, demoting Congress to a hopeless third slot.

While Congress and BJP took turns to dub the AAP a team B of one another, the fledgling party quietly made inroads into the hearts of people who wanted to get a good riddance from corruption-scarred and arrogant government.
Then and Now: The same Delhi Police that dragged Arvind Kejriwal out of a protest venue last year, escorts him to the seat of power in Delhi.

Then and Now: The same Delhi Police that dragged Arvind Kejriwal out of a protest venue last year, escorts him to the seat of power in Delhi.

Drunk on power and arrogance, the Congress saw a conspiracy in every institution that predicted doom for them. The party, which had no problem with opinion polls until last year when prediction showed them gaining in southern state of Karnataka, suddenly started questioning the credibility and authenticity of such opinion polls. They knocked on the door of the Election Commission of India — the apex body that oversees election procedures in the world’s largest democracy — demanding to put a ban on opinion polls.

This irked the media and the masses alike. The BJP and the AAP certainly scored a point over the Congress by opposing the move.

Channeling the rage within, the general public came out in numbers to vote the Congress out on December 1. For the first time in its electoral history, Delhi registered a whopping 65% voter turnout.

Proud to have voted for change, jubilant people including celebrities and social activists put out their selfies on social networking sites, showing their inked finger.

After the results were announced, an AAP supporter tweeted, “Rahul and Sonia (Gandhi) had no clue that people who posted their selfies, sporting their inked finger on December 1, were actually showing their middle-finger to the Congress,” mirroring the mood of the nation.

Many of AAP candidates who defeated Congress and BJP heavyweights were first-time politicians with a background in public service, journalism and teaching.

Kejriwal, who himself is a former bureaucrat, toppled Dikshit in her bastion, dominated by civil servants and staunch Congress loyalists. Across Delhi Congress won just eight of 70 assembly seats, its worst-ever performance.

In a country where a third of lawmakers have criminal cases pending against them, the AAP fielded only candidates with a squeaky-clean image.

The AAP cadres, clad in trade-mark white Nehru caps and wielding brooms (the party’s symbol), were mocked by Congress and BJP supporters as they went about campaigning for their candidates in residential areas across Delhi. Unlike their rival in Congress and the BJP, which spend millions of dollars on campaigning anually, the AAP had a shoestring budget for electioneering. But they managed to win over the masses by promising them cheaper water and electricity, and clean governance. Needless to say, their innovative strategies — including able use of the social media — worked wonders for the novice party.

AAP has changed the face of politics in India. The party not only humiliated the giant called Congress, it also managed to tame the BJP, a crouching tiger of sorts that routed the Congress in the northern states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Of the 28 seats the AAP won in Delhi, the party defeated the BJP candidates in 25 of them, stopping the right wing party short of a clear majority at 32 in the Delhi Assembly.

Some political commentators are euphorically saying that if AAP contests national elections in the northern states — including Uttar Pradesh that sends 80 lawmakers to parliament — it could possibly upset the BJP’s apple cart at the national level, too. The Modi-wave might well crash at Kejriwal’s feet. Even fresh from a victory in Delhi, Kejriwal needs to tread cautiously. The heartland states like Uttar Pradesh have been blindly voting on caste and religious lines for ages. So it is very likely that his political righteousness and clean image might not click with the voters there and could therefore turn out be a misadventure. more  

View all 8 comments Below 8 comments
Nitesh Sir, election results are different issues and AAP ideology is a different issue. more  
Dear Nitesh Kumar Ji
Please have faith in AK for some more time. Let him not lose once again due to confusion in the minds of the voters. Without our support, he will not be able to stand up and fight the corrupt system. more  
Dear Mr. SK Sharma
Please do not under estimate the power of the 'Aam Aadmi'. I may be out of date but not out of sync with general public mood. I am in Construction Industry and meet people at every level.
We had seen this on 16th Aug. 2011 (Anna Hazare's arrest and release under public pressure) & 8th Dec. 2013.
We will see this again on 16th May 2014. more  
Dear Shailesh
Over a period of time, we the Indians, are used to see red beacons, security paraphernelia and what not.
I tried to find what the world leaders do and came with this interesting story. You may find, I am sure, many more inspiring instances.

The following officials ride the bus or the train as a matter of course; they suffer no abuse. Some of them craft policies that move public transit riders with safety and civility. All of them save taxpayer money and earn the grudging respect of the citizens they serve.

Rahm Emanuel
Mayor, Chicago City

Mayor Emanuel takes the train to his city hall office about twice a week. He likes the convenience and the “political benefit.” He told Businessweek, “A lot of people come up and talk to you, and it’s a great way to have people feel like they can access their mayor.”

Emanuel believes Chicago’s efficient mass transit system is the second reason why companies move their headquarters to the city. (A skilled workforce is the top reason.) The companies that have moved their head offices to the Windy City include the following: Gogo, the world leader in in-flight connectivity; Hannover Fairs, one of the world’s largest event organizers; and Wells Fargo, one of America’s largest corporations.

In 2011, Emanuel mandated all city employees to use buses and trains as their main mode of transportation once they’ve punched in. The increased use of public transportation, combined with no fuel reimbursements and controls to eliminate abuse, was expected to save US$500,000 (roughly Php22.2 million) in 2011.

François Hollande
President, France

In May 2012, President Hollande announced that he would take the train to official journeys within France, and to European summits in Brussels, to save money. He then took a scheduled high-speed train from Paris to Brussels to attend a summit.

Hollande’s trip cost 5,972 euros (about Php362,000). This estimate from the Elysee Palace covers security arrangements and the use of seven cars to bring him and his entourage home to Paris in the wee hours.

In contrast, his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy never traveled by rail while in office, reports The Independent. Sarkozy used to fly to Brussels on two presidential executive jets. His trip cost an estimated 60,000 euros (about Php3.6 million); that figure is ten times more than Hollande’s trip.

Chadchart Sittipunt
Transport minister, Thailand

Transport minister Sittipunt knows firsthand how painfully slow the buses in Bangkok can be. Last June, he took a bus to the airport. And though he allotted two hours for the trip, he almost missed his flight. Sittipunt had to leave the bus and call for his chauffeur-driven car to pick him up just so he could make his flight.

In August, he conducted a Facebook poll to find out which was the worst bus to take in Bangkok. After finding out that it was Number 8 bus, he then rode the notorious bus. Sittipunt saw for himself how “poor service was mainly due to the ineffective management of the overall system. Low pay for bus conductors and drivers forced them to compete with other buses on the roads resulting in unpleasant service,” reported Coconuts Bangkok.

Sittipunt has urged his ministry’s senior officials to ride a public bus at least once a week to find ways to improve the service. He himself has taken a motorcycle taxi, a boat, and a train.

David Cameron
Prime Minister, United Kingdom

In 2010, UK Prime Minister David Cameron told government ministers to forget the limo and take the Tube. The rule was part of a ministerial code that aimed to rebuild trust in politics and politicians following the ministers’ expenses scandal and excessive public spending.

Back then, ministerial cars cost 10 million pounds (about Php726 million) a year, with up to 80 cars available at any time, reported the London Evening Standard. Under the code, the use of ministerial cars will continue, but it will be severely restricted.

Where practicable, ministers are encouraged to use public transport. Members of Parliament do mind the gap, as this video shows.

Cameron walks the talk. The man leading the country through what the Financial Times describes as “one of the largest austerity drives in any major economy” frequently takes the Tube. While fellow commuters do double takes and ask for photographs or autographs, there is no abuse.

Marpadi Veerappa Moily
Oil minister, India

Oil minister Moily is another public servant who leads by example. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked Moily to save $25 billion in oil imports in the current fiscal year to help the country narrow its current account deficit. As part of a nationwide campaign to save fuel and cut the oil import bill, Moily took the metro to work on October 9.

He told the Economic Times that he and all officials and staff in his ministry saved some 600 liters of fuel worth Rs40,000 (about Php28,500) on that day. While two joint secretaries rode bicycles to office, the rest of the 200-odd staff in the ministry used public transport.

Moily has declared every Wednesday “bus day” or “public transport” day for his ministry and 14 public sector oil companies. He has asked all central government ministries and state chief ministers to leave their cars at home and use public transit every week. more  
Sanjay ji, you are hopelessly out of date. Much water has flown down the river. AK is gone and is no more the CM. The surge of humanity that you referred to is highly disappointed, disillusioned and distrusting of AK now after he left everybody in the lurch fro greener pastures. more  
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