Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury

aam aadmi party

Has the idea of AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) died? No, it’s idea and need are not dead. That there should be a political alternative from the grassroots which is of the common citizens without any entitlement whatsoever, and not aligning to any extremes of right and left, keeping people’s welfare at the centre, cannot be ever over-stated in a large populous and poor nation like India.

Should the AAP change many of its strategies and tactics? Should it re-invent and its cherished objectives stated earlier? Yes, it should. This piece is on what and how of these strategies and tactics. And it is relevant to relook at AAP with the Delhi state elections ahead where it currently rules, apart from the Haryana state elections, where it has a presence.

Manish Sisodia

AAP was born against the high command culture which plagues almost all national and regional parties. But it soon fell victim, by default or design, to another high command of its own. So, first thing first, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal should either resign from the post of the party convener or pass the baton of Chief Minister to Manish Sisodia and focus as convener in taking the party to the next level. AAP should not be Kejriwal centric party and he should not be the two most crucial positions.

Second, AAP should now have an elected Political Affairs Committee, with members elected from each state in proportion to the number of active volunteers, and in the true letter and spirit of the founding principles of the party. Even the mass front bodies at every level should have elected members. Focusing on mass fronts of students, youths, women, traders, professionals, farmers, workers and their issues is an important work never focused by the party yet, except some work in Delhi.

Third, all district and tehsil committees of the party should be activated with specific district level development and other issues of the people. Such committees must initiate local level active role on these issues, and in collaboration with as many forces of positive movement they get. The committees can never create local impact depending upon central instruction, without local outreach. And state and district committees need not be controlled and commanded by central ‘observers’, though can be mentored. Negative group dynamics affected several state bodies earlier, especially in Maharashtra and Punjab.

Fourth, the nearly 1.5 crores voters of Delhi state needs to be addressed mohalla by mohalla with a dedicated team of two or three volunteers in every locality, taking all the pro-people measures of the state government to the families, and helping the families under their supervision as much as possible. Engaging with the electorate was done during the Lok Sabha polls too, but the people had a different perspective in electing a central government.

For Assembly, the focus will be on state government’s role, and contrast of the same with earlier Congress and BJP governments needs to be communicated aggressively. Winning Delhi all over again in spite of central non-cooperation will help AAP establish its political credibility further. AAP has an enviable track record of good work in school education, public health, power, water, completion of road projects, door-step delivery of government services, et al, and they need to be made visible and communicated to every voter. The newest decision on free public transport rides for women will have positive social impact in Delhi and electoral benefits for AAP.

Fifth, as a party, AAP must ideally elect a new Convener who must reach out to every past member, left of the centre activists across India, social workers et al for a more broad-based structure. ‘Kejriwal’s cheerleaders’ image of a band of dedicated volunteering social workers needs to be shed. This image has been nurtured by the media and rival political forces, but AAP functioning is also responsible for the same. In its short period of existence, AAP has actually received support from many quarters, and the outreach from the top has to be re-invigorated through the PAC members.

Sixth, strengthening the party in Haryana and Punjab is the next most important task. This can only be done with a democratic approach, accommodating diverse opinions and forces within the party so long as they adhere to the basic values, principles and norms. Short term gains will not help as is evident. And surrendering to vested interests of small groups or of turn-coats at the cost of dedicated volunteers will also be of no concrete outcome. Current intra-party imbroglio in these two states bear testimony to this.

Seventh, the need to write the party constitution, processes and values afresh, to define the objectives and structure of the party bottoms-up, and to create a standard operating process for mitigating conflicts and ensuring collaboration is needed today more than ever before. There have been several allegations of moving away from earlier declared positions, say with regards to nomination of candidates etc, and these positions must be codified now. AAP has limited clarity on national security issues, on social justice of Dalits and with regards to the empowerment of women and minorities. Most recent known positions of AAP have emanated only from the needs to the state government of Delhi, which does a great disservice to the idea of AAP and its evolution pan India.

indian politics

Next, AAP was a whiff of fresh air in the dynastic and religion dominated Indian politics, and it lost its novelty being maligned by media and rivals on one side, and falling victim of some populist measures and political posturing, including seen as fighting the PM personally, on the other. Hence, the original principles of volunteers’ driven politics and decisions, public fund-raising for operations, mohalla committee driven development initiatives, complete negation of caste and community based politics, and preparing constituency specific manifestos and dialogues-based goals should all need to be ensured. These were the features of novelty of AAP which have been lost in the din of regular politics.

Ninth, AAP has always been known over the last half a decade for articulate spokespersons, young educated volunteers, strong positive social media messaging, creative mass contacts, and contributing to alternate visions of governance and public issues. Once again, AAP needs to resurrect this intellectual capital, and even appoint shadow ministers in every state, as many as possible (out of Delhi state), including the central government, who will follow every central and state ministry, present AAP perspective in these domains and speak on policy issues that matter in each. For example, the proposed National Education Policy of government of India needs an AAP response from its perspective of education for all and strengthening public education and its infra-structure, among other things.

aam aadmi party

Tenth, AAP gobal has been a strong network of support, funds, people and views. It is in a poor shape now by all estimates. The global network of AAP has been a lifeline and must be once again invigorated. Also, there are experienced volunteers at every level and they need to be taken to the next level with higher responsibilities while more must join below.

AAP is not about a few known leaders, it is about an alternative vision of politics and governance. Now, in the din of hyped up right wing rule in the nation, the alternative vision is further needed to be strengthened and outreach to larger masses ensured.

The author is a noted media academic, columnist and participant in TV debates.