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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

AAP leaders need to think beyond Delhi polls

Syed Nooruzzaman, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, December 11, 2013
First Published: 20:57 IST(11/12/2013) | Last Updated: 23:10 IST(11/12/2013)

The extraordinary performance of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is not just the success of the efforts made by those behind this new political movement. It reflects the aspirations of a large section of people, including those living in Delhi.

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They were eagerly looking for a new and credible political formation which could emerge as an alternative to both the Congress and the BJP, the two leading all-India contenders for power. The leaders of the Congress and the BJP subscribe to different ideologies, but they have many things common among them.

They are traditional politicians who hardly bother about their electors once elections are over. They would not hesitate to indulge in corruption if they get an opportunity to do so as their history proves.

These two parties, like others which have their bases in a state or region, have little regard for principles. They choose their candidates to contest elections with the winnability factor as the overriding consideration.

But the statements and promises made by AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and other leaders compelled most of the voters, at least in the national capital, realise that now they have got a different kind of a party to control the power structure in the country.

Most of the candidates the AAP had fielded to contest the assembly elections in Delhi had qualifications other than that of being traditional politicians. In fact, many of the candidates who had earlier fought elections but succeeded in getting the AAP ticket have failed to become legislators.

Next step?
Now that the AAP has emerged as the second largest party with 28 legislators in the Delhi Assembly, what should be the next logical step for the party leadership? Success or failure in forming a government should not be their primary concern.

If the party has failed to get a clear majority to form its government, the honourable course of action for it should be to sit in the opposition. Kejriwal has been saying this ever since the election results were declared on December 8 and he seems to have a clearer understanding of the voters' verdict than most of his party colleagues.

What worried the admirers of the AAP were the statements made separately by two stalwarts who have been on the forefront of the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption movement that resulted in the formation of the organisation headed by Kejriwal.

These leaders, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan, have come up with the view that the 28 AAP legislators should support the BJP, having 31 members, in forming a government in Delhi. Prashant has clarified his stand, but he seems to be confused.

These leaders have argued that the AAP support should be issue-based -- it should extend its support if the new government promises to accept its major demands like the Jan Lokpal Bill as designed by Anna Hazare and his camp followers.

The argument of Bedi and Bhushan is perhaps based on the realisation that any step that the AAP takes for fighting corruption is justifiable. But they forget that AAP leaders have been describing the Congress and the BJP as the two sides of the same coin.

This appears to be one of the reasons why the BJP could not get even a simple majority to form its government in Delhi. The people's mandate shows that most of the voters wanted a non-Congress-non-BJP government. That the results show a hung assembly is a different matter.

Larger dimensions
The AAP movement has acquired larger dimensions. It has gone beyond being an anti-corruption, anti-price rise movement. It reflects a clarion call for change in the political and economic dispensation. It needs to be sustained and this should be the top priority of the AAP leadership. Supporting the BJP on any condition will amount to indulging in the destruction of the most admirable political movement of India today.

The AAP leadership should now focus on not only a fresh election for the Delhi Assembly but also on the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Election results indicate that people wanted the AAP to get more than the 28 seats it has won. Its candidates find themselves in the second position in 20 constituencies.

The AAP can win most of these seats if elections are held again for the Delhi Assembly. It can also come out with better performance in the parliamentary elections due in May next year. But nothing should be done to make the people feel that they have been betrayed by the AAP leadership.

Incidentally, the AAP has not won any seat from the constituencies having an overwhelming Muslim concentration. The rumour doing rounds in Muslim localities in Delhi is that Anna Hazare has hidden RSS links and, therefore, a party born out of his anti-corruption drive cannot do anything for the wellbeing of the minority community.

The stand taken by Kejriwal not to align with the BJP or any other party for grabbing power will prove the Muslim skeptics wrong. But the argument given by Bedi and Bhushan will result in keeping the minority community away from the AAP movement. If this happens it will be a very sad development, indeed.

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