We are seeing this now in Delhi where the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) after its spectacular showing in the assembly elections is asking people whether it should form a government, the implication being that it will have to be with the support of either the Congress or BJP since it does not have the numbers on its own. This is a laudable sentiment but is this workable and does it not in some way subvert the electoral process?
The verdict may not have given a decisive mandate to anyone but the task of putting together the government cannot be thrown back into the people’s court. AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal has published forms to distribute to ascertain the people’s feelings and also sought SMS replies. This is clearly a very laborious process and again may not yield the decisive reply he is looking for.
This raises the possibility that every time in future the AAP government has to take a major decision, say on building a flyover or an underpass, it will go through this labyrinthine process of consulting the people. Which brings us to another point, are the 26 lakh people who will answer on government formation representative of all the voters in Delhi?
Can political opponents try and influence the answers? Will such a process not cause a gridlock in governance? The AAP was chosen by the people who were fed up with the established parties precisely to deliver on governance. And are the ‘people’ qualified to make decisions on all the issues that a government will have to deal with presumably with the advice of experts?
The use of mini-referendums to decide on issues of government formation and governance could set off an unhealthy trend in democratic politics. People can then ask why we have elections at all. We could just as well have governance by referendum. The AAP came on to the scene with the promise of clean governance and to articulate the concerns of the aam aadmi.
If this requires for it to come to an accommodation with other parties, on its own terms, then this is an option which should not be shut out. With its impossible demands made to other parties, it is showing that it is not a dab hand at politics but this could be because it is new to the game. But to force a fresh election would not be a great idea in a year when there is bound to be a great deal of poll fatigue. This is perhaps not quite how the people themselves want the script to play out.