The formation of a new political party or pressure group in a democracy is not uncommon. What is unique about AAP though, is not its success in the recent Assembly elections but the background of its formation. The party was formed by frontline activists of the anti-corruption movement unleashed under the leadership of Gandhian Anna Hazare. That movement received overwhelming support of the people, reflecting their strong anti-system sentiments. It was not merely scams or corruption, black money or the Lokpal bill, but against the very nature of politics. The degeneration of democratic politics in India began when a new class of politicians emerged, representative of all kinds of ills. The “winnability” factor encouraged corrupt and criminal elements to carve their niche in politics. The dynastic politics of the Congress infected all other parties; regional parties, in fact, are nothing more than “family private limited” concerns. Little wonder that people thronged the streets against feudalisation of politics.
This overwhelming support was neither for Anna nor Kejriwal, who were just its instruments. They failed to realise the grammar of mass movement—one reason is their NGO background. The movement became personalised, resulting in its sustainability turning doubtful. The biggest all-India movement after Independence was led by Jayaprakash Narayan, a seasoned political activist who had unwavering faith in mass action. Sadly, the lessons of his 1974 movement were ignored. Mass movement for transformation is a semi-revolution, needing a seasoned team of activists and democratic process of decision-making. It has to pass through continuous dialogues and contemplation. The JP movement brought both the ABVP and Samajvadi Yuvjan Sabha together. He also attempted to convince the Leftist organisations, the SFI and AISF, but both as usual, boycotted the movement dubbing JP and RSS as “American stooges”. However, the undiminished zeal of the frontline leadership kept the flame burning. The Chhatra Sangharsha Samiti and Jan Sangharsha Samiti were formed at various levels from block to state. Adequate research has not been done on the JP movement, which made a significant impact on society and politics.
It is at this point Kejriwal erred seriously. He ignored the formation of committees at the ground level, while the apex committee was formed with those activists who came ‘first’. This committee witnessed jostling for positions and backroom machinations for dominance. Anna suffered a breach of faith as Kejriwal used the forum for political purposes—too soon and too shrewd. Thus, AAP was born as a premature caesarean child. The fascination for AAP was not farfetched, but the zeal for change dissipated with formation of yet another party. Arguably, Kejriwal might make the administration more people-friendly and approachable, a laudable objective. But will a different administration resolve the real problems of people? Their support for a mass movement was not for trivial administrative reforms. It was post-neo-liberal frustration against politics influenced by corporate wealth and disparities due to a non-ideological developmental agenda. This movement has no charter or philosophy, except contempt for politics. The question is whether it was a design to use a movement as a safety valve to dilute people’s anger, or an outcome of inexperienced but ambitious leadership? On March 29, 2011, Kejriwal attended a convention against corruption organised by the Delhi-based think-tank India Policy Foundation, a deliberation that lasted hours, and attended by ABVP and pro-RSS intelligentsia. He solicited their support. People narrated their experiences of mass movement and also the progress and success of the JP movement. Alas, it was all in vain. Kejri was in hurry; the nation has lost a big opportunity of a semi-revolution.
Sinha is Hony. Director of India Policy Foundation