If the transformative agenda has to be pushed and the new experiment in democratic politics is to fulfil its minimum promise of redrawing and re-ordering the limits of what ordinary people experience as the political, then the current momentum must be maintained. The most important part of this experiment is the fact that rank outsiders who speak the language of ordinary people have now taken charge, however temporarily. The beginnings of a new political culture are already becoming visible. For the first time in my memory, a government has openly challenged the might of the two biggest corporate houses— Tatas and Reliance— by demanding that they submit to a CAG audit or face a cancellation of their license. For the first time, the water tanker mafia that had close connections with the major political parties, has been taken on. This is unprecedented in a country where communist parties have ruled some states, in one case for three and a half decades continuously without taking on the really powerful. You don’t have to declare that you are radical and anti-capitalist to be able to take such daring steps; all you need— and the AAP government has shown this— is the guts to stand by the interests of ordinary people.
If this momentum has to be maintained, the government and Arvind Kejriwal will do well to leave rhetorical posturing to the ideology warriors and concentrate as they have been, on doing rather than saying. In the present context, it is of utmost importance that this process go forward, for that alone will initiate a process of change in thinking as far as ordinary people are concerned. New and different ways of doing things initiate different ways of thinking. As Lenin said, it is in moments of actual political turmoil that people learn in months, what they would in years in ordinary times.
But all this is not to say simply that all is well. These are also dangerous times for AAP. It stands at the point where the headiness of its successes combined with the inexperience of its ministers in Delhi, and its leadership more generally, can easily lead it astray.
This brings us to the second issue, the logic of the party-form. There will be pressures to compromise in a myriad ways, as there will be attempts to trap the leaders in situations where they, despite themselves, become embroiled in problematic decisions. It is also clear that within AAP, there are elements whose instinct is to take the more conservative position that goes with the so-called ‘national mainstream’ in matters like national security and nuclear energy. They will try and steer the party in that direction. I have long maintained in various articles and comments on Kafila and elsewhere that, at the root of our political miseries is the specific creation of the last century and a half— the political party. In the spate of contemporary movements across the globe— from the anti-corruption movement in India to the Occupy Wall Street movement in the USA to the indignados and across countries of the Arab world, it is the political parties that have been the target of attack. Political parties have been identified as being responsible for the hijacking of the democratic impulse and for the transformation of democracy to an arrangement in which the rule of capital is entrenched through what all the movements refer to as corruption, thievery and fraud.
This is not an isolated phenomenon in India. Political parties perform, on behalf of the state, the aggregative function of reconciling diverse interests and most often in a way that is favourable to capital and the more powerful interests. In countries like ours they are also entrusted with the ‘responsibility’ of ‘national security’— of rooting out ‘antinational’ forces. There is therefore, always a pressure on all political parties to mainstream themselves and become part of the ruling nationalist consensus. It is not surprising then that both the Congress and the BJP while attacking Prashant Bhushan and AAP on the Kashmir issue, underlined that AAP is no longer a movement engaged in activism or an NGO, but a political party proper. CPI (M) too, added to the criticism by stating that army deployment is a matter for government to decide, not the public.
Clearly, across the political spectrum, all parties are rattled by this new creature that insists on retaining elements of a movement-in-struggle— an identity that is meant to be dropped when you grow up and become a political party.
All these pressures will begin to tell on the party in different ways and resisting them will not be easy. At the moment, AAP embodies something that is a party and yet not one. And yet, it has been pitchforked into a position that demands increasingly that it become a full-fledged party. I am not very hopeful that it will be able to resist such demands for a very long time.
However, if there is one lesson that the twentieth century experience must teach us, then in my view it is that we must learn not to invest in political organizations as long term formations. If the current experience continues through the next election and is able to transform political discourse in some significant fashion, enabling fresh thinking on democracy and politics, it will have laid the ground for a longer term change in political culture as well. If AAP were to suddenly disappear after that into thin air, it will nevertheless have played its historic role.
Aditya Nigam is a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). He blogs at Kafila where this piece first appeared
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
RC Ghosh >> Yogendra Yadav was asked about cases against Sheila and his response??? They are still collecting evidence!!!!
Dont worry, they (AAP) plan to get all the evidence and show to us once we give AAP 270 seats in Lok Sabha !!!
AAP's entire governance model is based out of one movie (Nayak /2001, btw this Anil Kapoor starrer is also a remake of a Hit Tamil Movie called Mudhalvan/1999)...
But if one sees the movie it will show the man who made change aspire to rule a state/city and make it great, but even a 3 hour movie was realistic in that it did not promise to make whole India as one heaven..
Sadly AAP Fanboys/Fangirls have gotten lunatic and believe that entire India can be transformed like in that 3 hour movie. The reality is that India is such a massive, diverse and complex country that defies such pop solutions.
Now slowly the reality is biting.. AAP has two options now :
1) Focus firmly on governing Delhi next 5 years, and maybe for now aspire to capture another neighbouring state like Haryana and keep off national politics, prove yoursefl and then aspire to be a national party
2) Waste time and energy on national elections. pretend that AAP/Kejriwal is a challenger to NAMO or RAGA and fail on the current job (ruling delhi) and simply collapse.
Wish AAP selects first option. If they select 2, they have to face disaster.
Yogendra Yadav was asked about cases against Sheila and his response??? They are still collecting evidence!!!!
What happened to the 360 page evidence which Kejriwal had??
I hope people of Delhi realize what they have voted for.
The party is in power for less than three weeks and what is their primary focus----next lok sabha polls. That is where maximum energy is being spent by AAP. Governance has taken a back seat.
Is this the bunch people of Delhi want? I hope their answer is no. One has to be extremely stupid to answer yes.
Let us look at AAP's prospects. A lot has been written about how it will split the anti-congress vote and thus weaken the BJP.
Look at it from a different angle. For all the hype received by AAP for nearly six months, AAP managed to get only 29% of the vote in Delhi. 71% of the people voted against it. Now is the 29% flooring or ceiling?
Is there anyone who believes that AAP will improve its vote share in Delhi four months from now-given all that has happened? And if we assume AAP will lose votes even in Delhi, why should anyone assume they will gain significant votes elsewhere?
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