The Aam Aadmi Party has finally agreed to take on what is basically a suicide mission – forming the government in Delhi with MLAs well short of a majority. It has intelligently enough made a big fuss about agreeing to do so after much consultation with its constituents. The two national parties, the BJP and Congress, believe they have been very clever in ‘trapping’ AAP into an impossible situation. Even before Kejriwal takes the oath, former CM Sheila Dixit has given a taste of what he can expect by reminding the support from Congress is not ‘unconditional’. In other words, he cannot expect Congress to support him in embarrassing the previous regime by investigating corruption and acting against those responsible.
However, both these parties forget that AAP can play either against the other. The party loses nothing by launching its ‘populist’ programme, particularly if it has a short tenure in office. It is the other parties that will be blamed for undercutting ‘good work’. On the other hand, if the corruption investigations have bite, the BJP will be loath to allow Congress to pull the carpet from CM’s Kejriwal’s feet. To that extent, some clever tight-rope walking by AAP can help it survive longer than expected.
As such, immediately after obtaining the vote of confidence, AAP should go after the corruption of the previous regime with a vengeance. This will immediately establish the ground position that both parties would have to accept or revolt against. If they do accept, they will be as committed to the consequences as AAP. In fact, the quicker that AAP initiates its ‘reform’ agenda, the more entrenched it will become. It is only by dilly-dallying that it will remain under threat of removal without consequences to those who do so.
The people of Delhi will be happy if AAP makes a sincere effort. Its programme is not as outlandish as it is being made out to be. Trying to make life easier for the common man in numerous small ways is not a bad thing at all. It must not be forgotten that much of what is on AAP’s manifesto is what has been demanded for long by various experts and committees in the past. All of these are willing to provide whatever assistance the party requires.
What worries the media is the relative ‘inexperience’ of those slated to become ministers. The bureaucrats and lower level babus are experts at drawing the wool over their bosses’ eyes, as also of derailing them in numerous ways. There is also the ever present threat of corruption, particularly as the government is expected to be a short-lived one. Individuals might not be as committed to honesty as the party would like and may think it wiser to make hay while the sun shines. Just a couple of such aberrations and the credibility of AAP will come under a cloud.
AAP legislators must not forget that the eyes of the entire nation are on them. Even a middling good showing will encourage more such experiments around the country. There may not be enough time to have an impact before the Lok Sabha elections, but participatory democracy is worth having and will solve a bunch of problems. It will make the ordinary people feel more responsible and encourage them to put the general good over their own. It will also curb the tendency among some to follow radical and destructive ideologies. Kejriwal will take office under a heavy burden, but the stakes are worth the risk.