Politicians should accept that ‘Kejriwal factor’ is here to stay

Little has Indian political class learnt from the overwhelming response the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) received from voters in Delhi.

Days after the party bagged 28 of the 70 seats in Delhi assembly, the political leaders in Parliament acted in their usual manner to disrupt proceedings and later to stall passing of the Lokpal Bill, which can be an important milestone in checking corruption.

On Friday, the Rajya Sabha failed to discuss the Lokpal Bill introduced by minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office V Narayanasamy, as Samajwadi Party created ruckus over the issue of price rise. Incidentally, the party from Uttar Pradesh and ally of the UPA government had forgotten about inflation for the last so many days and brought it to fore only when a pro-people bill was coming up for discussion.

On its part, the UPA government had also forgotten about Lokpal bill for almost a year, but brought it back in a bid to checkmate Aam Aadmi Party – who emerged as a strong force in the national capital — before 2014 general elections. The bill has been introduced not because the government is serious about checking corruption but wants to halt Arvind Kejriwal’s bandwagon riding high on the anti-corruption movement and correct is image. It is must mere posturing before elections.

The next one week will again witness politics of the weak Lokpal Bill between the two usual culprits — the Congress and the BJP — seen a year ago also in Parliament in 2012, resulting in the bill not getting passed in Rajya Sabha after getting consent of the Lok Sabha. The BJP wants all the 15 recommendations of the Select Committee to be accepted whereas the Congress is not keen. In the end, both the national parties want to score some brownie points by blaming each other for non-passage of the Lokpal bill first conceived in 1960s.

On the other hand, Kejriwal made non-passage of the Jan Lokpal Bill an election issue in Delhi and made people realise that it can be an effective tool to fight corruption. The government by introducing its Lokpal Bill has now admitted that Kejriwal was right but is shying from taking dramatic action as prescribed in the Jan Lokpal bill. Another example of the UPA’s posturing.

The renewed Lokpal debate also shows that the established political parties are not willing to listen to wish of people to eradicate corruption from society and want to come up with half-baked formula that keeps control of the bureaucracy with a few political bosses. Giving power to people is still not on the agenda of the government or the opposition.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was candid enough to admit that the grand old party of India has to learn lessons from how Aam Aadmi Party contested polls in Delhi, turning Congress politically insignificant here. Gandhi incorporated some AAP innovations in assembly elections for five states but failed to get desired result.

The reason was simple — the credibility of established political leaders has hit rock bottom and Gandhi failed to take any corrective steps in this regard. Around 22% of the Congress tickets in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were given to people with tainted past or criminal record. Members of political families entrenched in the Congress again got tickets but not an Aam Aadmi.

The AAP has shown both to the Congress and the BJP that its notion that people from political families, rich and influential, and with intimidating intent can win elections is wrong. A person who is ready to serve people can easily win elections without much spending and exercise of muscle power. Distribution of liquor and money is no more a key to win elections. The age old methodology of touch basing with voters works.

In a week since AAP’s spectacular win in Delhi, it appears that the political class is not willing to accept the reality of people’s power and instead had opted for regressive tactics of attacking Arvind Kejriwal and his team. Both Congress and BJP have identified AAP as its common enemy for 2014 and are in unison to attack Kejriwal.

The two main parties have failed to realise a fact their attack on Kejriwal is creating more sympathy for him and making him a stronger force for 2014 elections. Over a lakh people have already expressed their willingness to be members of AAP and people from across India have approached the party to field candidates from their constituencies. It reminds me of the wave created by Jai Prakash Narayan after his anti-corruption movement in 1970s.

The tall political leaders of India should admit that Kejriwal factor is here to stay and will create huge uneasiness in the bonhomie between the Congress and the BJP. Just wait and watch!

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