Arvind Kejriwal has risen on the wave of urban discontent with the mismanagement of India by the politicians. The manifesto of AAP party is just an extension of his activist ideal – kill corruption. If he wins, what should we expect from him? Booking the tax evaders, mass trials, tougher penalties… all good I guess. Let’s say he even manages to get some of this mythical black money into the system. But what after that? He has never articulated any view on the Vision of India other than some sort of a Swaraj, which we already achieved a while back when British left India. We are just not willing to accept that this is the India we have created for ourselves and there is no one to point fingers to.
But the Activist variety needs someone to point a finger to. The most convenient target is the current decision maker or anyone in power. Mamata Banerjee is a prime example of an activist succeeding in overthrowing the corrupt and inefficient in power, but once in power she has no better alternative to offer. She instinctively still searches for someone to blame things on and direct her anger. The heights of absurdity is that even when she is the ruler herself, she still points the finger to the opposition, and then to the centre, then to the media, and then even to the people who put her there. She has become a caricature of the kind of politician that she probably wanted to fight against.
The other day I heard an activist talking on Radio about the affect of radiation from mobile towers. Her organisation had successfully lobbied with the government to get the permissible limits reduced to a tenth of the existing limits, and which were more in line with some of the international standards, though there are no uniform international standards on this. The polite RJ asked if they had any research to prove that mobile radiations were harmful and what should be the right level, the activist responded in a righteous tone that– we dont have specific evidence that radiation is harmful, but we also dont have evidence that it DOES NOT cause it. So lets not wait for evidence since that may be too late, and we should act NOW. Now this asinine logic could spell doom to the quality of mobile coverage and speed of access to the internet etc, but such irrationality can be a powerful tool for the emotional activist.
For the activist facts are confusing. Looking for them is a distraction and a threat to the cause itself. They want to hold onto the emotional chord and a simple narrative – whether it stands up to critical scrutiny or not. While Jan lokpal bill is based on a genuine concern for corruption, no one really knows how to execute such a bill across the length and breadth of India if it does become a reality. When the current Police, Judiciary and administration cant enforce the current laws, how can we expect an additional half-baked parallel system to do any better? If anything, this country needs lesser and simpler laws with a greater focus on better implementation. Need more Vinod Rai’s who work from within the current system itself and execute the existing laws better. But the activist wants change. Even though their concerns are sincere, they really dont have any further vision beyond achieving their primary objective.
AAP is riding the wave of growing urban discontent. Urban voters who were in a irrelevant to the political process of India till now, have suddenly become relevant because of the amplifying power of the internet and social media which traditional media now picks on, and then spreads this discontent to the rest of the country affecting political fortunes. The savvy activist like Arivind Kejriwal have used all such media to devastating affect, and have ensured that the scream of anguish gets amplified.
But AAPs agenda is fundamentally flawed. There is a much bigger issue than corruption that faces India – which is how to spend our money as a nation. We have started to drift down the wrong path by turning India into a charity state by committing spending on handouts like Food security bill, NAREGA, ballooning subsidies, and other populist schemes, even though we dont know where this money is going to come from, and how will it be distributed to the right people. All these handouts are happening at the expense of infrastructure, education, Jobs, utilities, law and order etc, which would have helped people become self sufficient. India is setting itself up for failure because if the growth slips under 6.5%, we will go bankrupt as a country trying to merely fulfil these commitments. We need bold leadership that will set the right course that India needs at this stage of its development – to make it the breakout nation and avoid the fate of a middling economy.
If AAP wants to make a difference to India’s future, then it needs to throw off its activist mindset and set a broader agenda. Arvind Kejriwal needs to become a politician, more adapt at the art of compromise and of forming the right allies to make progress. He needs to manoeuvres through the democratic process and be willing to accommodate new perspectives which are essential in a diverse country like India. AAP needs to offer an inspiring vision of future that energises the nation. But till now Arvind Kejriwal and AAP have offered no such alternatives, and their politics is getting reduced to that of sensationalism, which India needs less of.