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The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) should tap into Maoist base to expand its own, is the success-mantra that Nepal’s former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai would like to give Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
“Maoists in India need to shed their sectarianism and realise that the Indian state is too powerful to be defeated. AAP needs to reach out to their base, and not just intervene at the level of the superstructure. Their combination could present a new alternative politics.”
Bhattarai would know. The Maoist ideologue rose from a popular movement and helped lead his party to a surprise election victory. He became a darling of the media and the middle-classes, and led the government. But disillusionment set in soon with supporters turning into critics, and the party had to face a humiliating electoral rout.
The story has a familiar ring to it. It seems repeating itself so far in AAP’s rise to power in Delhi.
Bhattarai, who has been following AAP’s trajectory with keen interest, has words of admiration and advice.
“AAP represents a departure from dirty, traditional politics. Its vision of participatory democracy, and its focus on corruption in public life and value of integrity is encouraging,” Bhattarai told HT in an exclusive interview. But he argued that AAP needed more “ideological-political clarity”. “They will need to articulate a certain broad orientation on the key issues of our times.”
Looking back at the mistakes of the Nepali Maoists, Bhattarai said AAP should be cautious on two fronts. “They should not compromise on basic principles while being pragmatic on the smaller, practical issues. We compromised on all basic principles like socio-economic change, administrative reform, and security sector reforms and ended up antagonising people over small issues.”
Bhattarai also pointed out that AAP was a movement that had started from the top – the middle-classes – and was now percolating down. “It is important they don’t alienate their base – the middle-class.”
Nepal’s Maoists, he admitted, had made a mistake. “We were a bottom-up movement. But we lost touch with our base, the poorest and the marginalised. And we did not gain the middle and upper-classes in urban areas either.” This left the party with no core social group.