"Do you know the most important thing about the elections in Delhi?" It wasn't the sort of question I expected from Pertie. Usually, he takes little interest in politics. This time, however, his pointed query suggested he knew the answer.
"It's the Aam Aadmi Party!" he said without waiting for my reply. The look on his face suggested he was excited by his discovery.
"And let me add I don't care if they win or lose. That may be important for them but not the rest of us. Can you work out why?"
"Tell me", I managed to butt in. "You seem to know it all."
"It's what Aam Aadmi reflects and what they've restored that makes them important. They reflect the deep disillusionment we feel with our politics and our political parties. Aam Aadmi represents our disgust with all-pervasive corruption, our dismay with ill-thought out policies, our disillusionment with caste-based or religious appeals and our despair with the way the real problems that afflict our lives — water, electricity, roads, to name just three — are never tackled."
"All you're doing is giving me the background against which the Aam Aadmi Party has emerged. The more important question is have they lived up to their promise to offer a new politics and to present a credibly different choice?"
"Hang on", he said impatiently. "I also said I wanted to tell you about what Aam Aadmi has restored. They've brought back into focus the ideals our democracy has forgotten."
"Give me a few facts to justify that grand rhetoric." I was sure Pertie wouldn't have them at his fingertips. How wrong I was.
"I'll give you three. First, the clean and transparent way they've raised money, revealing every single donation on their website and capping the fund-raising at Rs 20 crore. No other party can claim such transparency or full disclosure."
"Second, the way they've campaigned — they've gone back to door-to-door campaigning, with small gatherings in mohallas to appeal at a personal and intimate level. They've attempted to re-establish a contact between voter and candidate that other parties no longer believe in."
"Third, the way they've chosen their candidates to ensure they have no criminal charges. They even sent out voice mails asking for information that might have been overlooked! Has any other party done anything similar?"
"And what about the sting?" It was the best I could think of. "What about the accusation their candidates are willing to take money and get involved in individual vendettas?"
"You're overlooking the most important thing", Pertie shot back. "We don't know how credible or motivated the sting was but Aam Aadmi's response was unique. They offered themselves for any form of investigation. When other parties are accused they hide. Aam Aadmi did the opposite."
"So, are you saying they deserve to win?"
"I don't know" was Pertie's surprising reply. "I'm not sure they have the experience to tackle Delhi's problems. They could turn everything topsy-turvy or inside-out and unsettle all of us."
"Now you're sounding scared of change. You began by welcoming how different Aam Aadmi is but you've ended up worried by that difference. Aren't you contradicting yourself?"
"Yes I am", said Pertie with winning candour. "If they're going to win let it be a sweeping victory. That's the best way of overcoming the doubts I've expressed. But even if they lose they've done us a big service by demonstrating clean politics is possible. For that alone they deserve applause."
Views expressed by the author are personal