Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Modi versus Kejriwal? Not quite.....

AAP is the flavour of the day, having made a terrific showing in Delhi. The party makes no bones about its national aspirations. It plans to contest Lok Sabha seats. There are those who think it has the potential to replicate its success in Delhi at the national level. Sections of the media are euphoric about the outcome and think a new dawn has emerged in Indian politics.

Opinion polls conducted during the Delhi elections suggest other wise. A large number of those who voted for AAP said they would vote for Modi in the general elections. Surjit Bhalla, in his article,provides an even more interesting statistic: only six out of every 100 BJP voters voted for the AAP, but six times as many (36 out of 100) Congress voters did so. If this is replicated elsewhere, it is the Congress vote that will get split and the BJP stands to romp home. (Here, of course, we are ignoring powerful regional players in UP, Bihar, Orissa and elsewhere). Bhalla believes there was a strong Modi wave in both Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, otherwise it is hard to explain the margin of victory. 

At the national level, voters are bound to ask whether the AAP has anything more to offer than an anti-corruption plank (which often amounts to no more than saying, "We should have no evil in this world"). The middle class enthusiasm for Kejriwal& Co is understandable, given its moral outrage over corruption. But businessmen rooting for AAP is astonishing. The AAP is, perhaps, to the left of not only the Congress but even the CPI (M) in its last years in West Bengal. Bhalla writes:

Economic policy according to the AAP/ Kejriwal should be as follows (obtained from interviews, manifestos, etc): "GDP growth should be directly related to the lives of the people, but such growth affects very few people.... The AAP opposes privatisation, wants government in oil extraction (and much else), recommends an increase in effective taxes on the middle class and supports increases in fuel and electricity subsidies. The AAP would take measures to ensure basic facilities, for example electricity expense reduction of 50 per cent and 700 litres of free water. Further, the AAP believes in government provision of high-quality education and health, regulation of fee of private schools, implementation of minimum wage, etc." 
The markets don't appear to have taken the AAP seriously so far, otherwise they would have tanked by now. Should the AAP come to power as part of any coalition, the chances of a rating downgrade by the rating agencies must be reckoned to be pretty high.

What of the AAP's prospects in the future? We need to ask whether a crusade against corruption suffices for a party to govern or even to sustain itself. Several anti-corruption movements have erupted from time to time- the Andolan in Gujarat in the time of Chimanbhai Patel, the JP movement, the Hazare campaign- but they tend to fizzle out. For a party to maintain its image in the grime of electoral politics is not easy: in the Delhi polls itself, the party drew serious allegations which voters seem to have overlooked for now.

The AAP faces a huge challenge in building the organisational infrastructure and creating the leaders in order to make a national impact- Kejriwal's call to 'good people' from other parties to join him already points to a measure of desperation. Not least, should  a party become serious about rooting out corruption, the entire weight of important interests- the corporate world, the political class, the bureaucracy- will be brought to bear on suppressing it. That is the grim reality of politics today. 

In sum, AAP looks poised to act as a spoiler for the Congress and thus boost the BJP's chances. The idea that Kejriwal is a challenge to Modi does not appear plausible at the moment.


Anonymous said...

Interesting article. But also unfortunate that some one who is trying to be "good" will not get support of classes & masses because it backfires to themselves. Does that mean that as far as corruption is concerned - we have reached a point that there is no turning back? Because if we turn back (and whatever road we adopt to go back), it is going to back fire on us. So let the things go 'As Is' (the 'Chalta Hai' attitude).

Other analysis of AAP being a challenge to Congress and in a way benefit to BJP is congress.

Also, AAP has to show its plan on growth fronts (of course not bringing Swadeshi movement back) in order to sustain itself, not only at national level but even in Delhi.

Interesting to watch out 2014 politics.

Anonymous said...

at least we have a good opposition. even if aap does not become ruling party, it is still great to have a good opposition!!!!

other parties should learn what they should do by being in opposition!!!