If you had taken a swing around many cities, towns and villages across India in November last year, everyone would have been talking about the impending Rahul Gandhi versus Narendra Modi fight.
If you were to visit the same places today, chances are that you will be inundated with opinions about the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the wunderkind who could upset the electoral applecart. I for one must confess that I had never in my wildest dreams thought AAP could pull off such a victory in Delhi. If I were an AAP leader, I would make a stab for the big stakes now. And it would seem that this is exactly what AAP, inexperienced and wet behind the ears, is doing. However, it really needs to rein in its loose cannons like the law minister and the women and child minister who seem to be functioning as though they are street corner activists than elected representatives of the people.
Given how wrong I was about AAP earlier, you may dismiss my prediction that the party may conceivably get 40 or more seats if it contests across India. It may not be because AAP has come up with the magic formula for a better quality of life, it could be because people are just so fed up of the old style of politics of pelf and power, of narrow caste and communal concerns, of a blatant disregard for people’s sufferings à la Akhilesh and Daddy Yadav. There is a new energy in the air and the dyed-in-the-wool politicians have got a right royal fright.
Now assuming that AAP could notch up around 40 seats, then it is quite possible that it could be the kingmaker in a third front. Now I know that you must be sniggering at the thought of the third front, that elusive formation which can never really take shape or when it has come into being has been torn apart by monstrous egos. Indeed a third front with a Mamata Banerjee, a Jayalalithaa, a Mayawati or Mulayam Singh Yadav and the Left has an inbuilt self-destruct mechanism. They are all generals, not foot soldiers. They all have differing ideologies and concerns.
AAP is delightfully shorn of any ideology except a vaguely Leftist pro-people agenda. It can, in other words, be all things to all people. It may rail against the rich and powerful now, but I reckon it will be realistic enough to know that it can carry this tirade so far and no more. If AAP were to be the guiding light in a third front, god knows, it just might work. Its connect with the people seems so strong that it has decided to actually challenge the near invincible Gandhi family on its home turf of Amethi. Even the mighty Narendra Modi, by taking potshots at the party, shows that he is rattled by this surge of people power in favour of a party which has suddenly roared off the blocks.
With more people with credibility like those from the corporate sector, NGOs like Medha Patkar, activists like Mallika Sarabhai and your average Joe signing up with AAP, it’s quite possible that the third fronters will have to allow it to take a leading role. I think if this happens, it is all to the good. For a start, whatever its faults, AAP does not subscribe to or play any form of communal politics. It does not pander to caste or interest groups.
What we cynics view as naivete on the part of AAP is seen as refreshing by the electorate. If a credible third front were to come into being, both the BJP and the Congress would be forced to change their hackneyed politics of personal attacks and insults and their attitude that they are in a position to tell people what is good for them.
AAP may not succeed at the national level but at least it is shaking up the established political edifice. If the concerns of people get greater attention, then that is to be welcomed. Yes, I agree that grievances cannot be addressed only through darbars, that doing away with beacons and security is hardly the stuff of life-changing policy. But it gives people great satisfaction to see leaders coming down to their level. If anything the current third front aspirants are even more arrogant than the Congress and the BJP leaders. A touch of AAP would serve to bring them down to ground realities. We can’t quite see a Jayalalithaa slumming it with the people, or a Mayawati shunning her black cat commandos, but being part of a formation where AAP plays a significant role could bring about a sense of realism to such dictatorial leaders. It might teach parties like the SP that they cannot enjoy a Bollywood jamboree while people die in relief camps. In other words, I think the promotion of the AAP mentality will be a great leveller.
The BJP and the Congress have both said that AAP is dangerous. It is indeed, but the greatest danger from it is to them. Not to us. We are glad if there is a greater choice in the electoral arena. It is possible that in the manthan that is now taking place, the common man and woman, you and I, might just get our moment in the sun. We could well be seeing what Yogendra Yadav of AAP called the democratisation of democracy.