Political scientist David Easton had argued that political systems run on an input-output model: demand and support constitute the input and response and feedback are the output. In the context of the AAP, input was the demand for a corruption-free system. The demand was non-traditional in India’s existing political culture; so was the response. To date, the electoral issues have been all about ‘roti-kapda-makan’; corruption was seen as a more bureaucratic and less political issue.
The next non-traditional aspect in the journey of the AAP was the support that it received: people were united in the fight against corruption, ignoring all identity issues. Replacing the role of caste in the politics of representation was a difficult task, but the movement against corruption made it happen. The output includes two dimensions: the pre-election response from the political parties and post-election feedback of the same. In the first phase, the State and the parties responded to this demand for a corruption free-India in an arrogant manner.
They focused on the argument — “you [the AAP] are also corrupt”, instead of proving that they themselves were not corrupt. But the people choose the policy of ‘whosoever is corrupt, we are with the ones who are against corruption’. The post-poll feedback has also been non-traditional: national leaders are saying that they need to learn from the AAP. Generally, political parties promise to learn from their own failure, not from the success of others.
Another shift in the political culture has been in the meaning and interpretation of democracy. India follows the parliamentary model which has two aspects: representation and participation. Although both are two sides of the same coin, the representation part somehow became more effective, undermining the role of participation in the political system.
The meaning of political rights was reduced to the right to vote. The argument was that politics is a dirty game, thus clean people should stay away. But, this idea has witnessed a shift during the evolution of the AAP: its leader Arvind Kejriwal is an IITian and a former civil servant. His campaign was supported by students and professionals along with auto-drivers and class 4 employees. Thus the AAP has opened the doors for a vibrant, participatory democracy.
This year will be remembered as a year of experiments: Aam aadmi has emerged as a new political identity. Delhi did not only vote for change but also for new dimensions of democracy. The patterns of demand and support have changed, and it is expected that the response and feedback will also change soon; parties would become more responsible and will address the demands of people in a logical way.
Aakansha Natani is a research scholar, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
The views expressed by the author are personal