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Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Phenomenon called 'Aam Aadmi Party'

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) 

In October 2012, there was lots of furore among the masses in India when Mr. Robert Vadra , son in law of Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi updated his Facebook status message by writing "Mango men in a banana republic”. Social activist then, and now a regional party Chief Mr. Arvind Kejriwal had tweeted, "Evidence pouring in from mango men from across the country. Mango men would prove to be nemesis for the 'powerful'. No political pundit, no soothsayer , no man with a logic , none of the think tanks could have ever imagined that a Mango Man(Aam AAdmi) in the form of Mr. Kejriwal will prove his prediction right. Delhi assembly election results have made people sit up and take note of this phenomenon called ‘Aam Aadmi Party(AAP)’ and has forced them to solve this quagmire.  I bet this will become a Harvard Case Study and the best brains in the world for years, will analyze this event from multiple angles and dimensions. None will ever solve this puzzle in its entirety because the power to sway fortunes lies in the minds of millions of voters who exercise ballot to give a verdict.

When I write this article, AAP is seeking public opinion on forming a ‘minority government’ in Delhi with outside support from Congress. (To share with my readers, In Delhi assembly of 70 seats BJP is the single largest party with 32 legislators, AAP with 28 and Congress with 8 of them). My bet is Mr. Arvind Kejriwal will bite the bullet and will be sworn in as the next Chief Minister of Delhi state. I intend to present some facts and in their light analyze Jan Lokpal Movement, Formation of Aam Aadmi Party, Enrolling members and gaining public support, Role of social media in AAP’s success, their strategy and future vision.

In 2011, an outfit by the name India Against Corruption (IAC) launched a campaign to mobilize the masses for the creation of a Lokpal (ombudsman) to punish government officials accused of corruption. Two prominent faces Yog Guru Ramdev and Anna Hazare a veteran social reformer with a history of undertaking fasts in support of his causes spearheaded this movement. While Ramdev brought with him millions of middle class supporters from urban areas, villages and small towns in India, Hazare’s support base comprised of mostly middle-class people from urban areas and idealistic youths. The viewpoint was that people in power are not only neck deep in corruption but have become shameless in acceptance of their deeds. This was start of a revolt against the corrupt , an uprising by the letdown and a clear expression of people’s anger, frustration, dissent and hopelessness with the system which continues till today.

To really figure out what gave birth to Aam Aadmi Party we need to understand the current social and political climate of India and also how has it evolved over the years. India has been ruled for more than five decades by Congress, a party where power is concentrated with the title ‘Gandhi’ and for few years by BJP which had a charismatic leader in the form of Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee. When we got freedom the country was so poor that the talk of providing food, shelter and clothing resonated well with the masses. Primarily an agrarian economy that had few heavy industries, small and medium enterprises, Congress was able to keep people interested in its governance model. I would rather say they could fool people, govern them, keep power concentrated within the family and run the country as a family business. The cracks started to appear when Janta Party stormed into power in 1977, National front in 1989 and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 1998. What is interesting to note is Congress could still manage to get power over and again. The countrymen who were very poor in 1947 became a big chunk of aspiring middle class in 90’s and educated and informed young brigade in 2000’s. While the working population fought for agriculture and milk revolutions in 50’s and 60’s, the people in 90’s faced reservation and liberalization whereas the present population is standing up for non-governance , corruption and accountability. This is how we as a nation have matured and continue to do so to ensure that our rights and privileges as a citizen of a democratic country are protected.

The country supported this movement of Anna Hazare and participated in massive numbers with an expectation that a new hope was born. What Hazare could not understand is that after rising to such a height and raising people’s expectations one has to deliver. Protests, Fasts, Revolts are good to bring out grievances but there has to be a plan that needs to be executed to get justice done. This is what Arvind Kejriwal could read very well and a direct involvement in politics was preferable, in order to cause change from within the system. This led to formation of AAM AADMI PARTY (AAP), an outfit that was a direct deliverable of the IAC movement. In fact it was good that Anna Hazare did not take this step or else he would have been accused of being opportunist and harboring political ambitions and betraying people’s faith by pursuing his personal agenda.

Aam Aadmi Party had to create enough noise to always remain in the news and media and they did so by picking up on scams and political figures, issues like electricity and water bill, inflation, women security, unemployment etc . Every week there was a disclosure and media picked up the threads very well. I would say much of the support and discreet information to AAP in the initial days came from disgruntled partymen of the ruling government and opposition leaders. The public already knew of all the day to day embezzlements, major scams which ultimately resulted into inflation, poverty and shrinking standards of living but they were helpless. They were excited at the prospect of a party having the gumption to take the powerful heads on and washing their dirty linen in public. Somewhere a support base of AAP was forming in every nook and corner of the society.

To grow from a miniscule base of supporters and few party men, AAP had to do radical things to ensure it was prepared well in time for Delhi assembly elections. There were few strategies that they adopted like using Social Media as a platform to talk to the youth and the internet workforce, making a portal to enroll members instantly, seeking donations in a transparent manner and building local groups within all the constituencies of Delhi to reach out to people.  While the old timers in other political parties are still ignorant of the power of internet AAP ensured that it harnesses its potential to the fullest. Other parties were unaware as to how to use technology to build a base or communicate to its supporters, and first time voters. Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Mailers, Forums, Blogs and Online news were heavily consuming information about AAP and spreading its base like a wild fire. The opponents dismissed this as a new generation gimmick and never considered this as a threat. What they forgot is that this is an information age and it takes seconds for breaking news to spread in the entire country. No one else in the battlefield was in the fray when it came to internet usage and AAP had a distinct advantage. They re-enforced there campaign by door to door meetings , Mohalla Sabhas , ads at the back of Auto Rickshaws ( the most visible and most mobile ad platform with the widest reach), protests , fasts and demonstrations making sure the noise grows louder and louder. The support base had now multiplied many folds with NRI’s pouring in money, youth participating online, middle class discussing about AAP and the poor curious to know about them.

Come elections and AAP adopted a novel way to pick its candidates. They asked ticket aspirants to take referendum from the public and prove their credentials and support to be even considered for the selection process. Out of all the shortlisted candidates the final choice had lots of weightage to honesty, integrity, morality and selflessness. I would not say that all of their candidates were high on these parameters but in general they were far better than their opponents. AAP had build in people’s mind the criteria that they should look for, in their elected representatives. Again the established parties failed to read the public sentiment and repeated most of their candidates, nepotism and favoritism playing a big part. The final nail in the coffin was AAP’s election manifesto the highlights of which were a clean and corruption free government, bringing Swaraj -decentralization of power, reducing water and electricity bills, regularizing unauthorized colonies, giving massive employment, controlling inflation and providing a safe society. The base of AAP had grown by leaps and bounds now, with the poor and oppressed joining the bandwagon irrespective of caste and creed.

The results are there for everyone to see and AAP’s success has taken everyone by surprise. No one expected this kind of spectacular debut from a party that was just 1 year old. As I wind up this article AAP is going to stake a claim in the coming week to form a government and we will have Mr. Arvind Kejriwal as the next Chief Minister of Delhi and the game will become more interesting from here on. 



Varun Gupta said...

A meticulous effort to bring out some interesting insights into the political uprising of our generation. I though feel it's too early to draw any long term conclusions.

Viveksheel said...

Varun Sir !! The reading is on the wall and the earlier the rulers and the opposition demystify that, the better it will for them. Whoever is going to lead us in the next 5 or 10 years has to understand that the power lies with the masses and they will force you to choose a rightful path. AAP is just a reflection of change that everyone is looking for and if the old parties don't take cue from this event we are heading for a more chaotic political scenario in the country. With this mandate the people have warned the national parties to get their acts together or face a prospect of getting sidelined like what happened with congress and Sheila Dixit.

Varun Gupta said...

Certainly agree with you. But your argument of Congress getting sidelined doesn't hold much water in the present scenario when they have actually emerged as the"kingmakers". I strongly believe AAP needs to think beyond its approach of perennial negativity to broad base their mandate which is certainly not inclusive today. A 29% vote share in a city state like Delhi, though impressive for a debutant is a far cry to make any meaningful impact on the national scene. They should better focus on delivering on their promises to the electorate.

Viveksheel said...

You and me will witness novel ways of running government in Delhi and fighting elections in the center by AAP and no one else but people like us will push their case. Do not take me as a supporter of AAP but i am sure they are a disruptive force and unless checked in the right time will build more chaos in the country.