WORRYING SIGNALS MR. KEJRIWAL, YOU NEED TO CHANGE THAT!

December 28, 2013, he took oath. Today, it’s January 16, 2014. Mr. Kejriwal is now 19 days old in the office of the chief minister of Delhi.

The slate, though delicately balanced on spots of positives and negatives, has not much to claim. And that is worrying because the Aam Aadmi Party should not fail and Mr. Arvind Kejriwal should not go down the political, social and communication annals as a co-opted and compromised activist and political reformist.

Yes, it is ridiculous to write anything in just 19 days when the other political parties have taken decades but have failed to perform. But writing here is about the valid concern over the ‘possibility of the renewed hopes of the common man failing so soon’ because the politics promised by AAP is the need of the day and so there has to be an intense scrutiny on every step by the stakeholders involved; because AAP does raise expectations about a ‘politics of change’, something that has been a rare event in Indian politics.

And though AAP is running out of time with just two months in office before the Lok Sabha poll-schedule is declared enforcing the model code of conduct thus debarring any more steps to be taken, we, the voters, have already run out of time. So, this concern has valid grounds.

Yes, the slate that looks delicately balanced in favour of AAP has corrosive elements that can easily alter the way the public is going to perceive Mr. Kejriwal and the AAP government in Delhi.

Yes, an AAP government in Delhi headed by Arvind Kejriwal – it is just the beginning of the formative phase of AAP and if the perceptions go wrong now, if they get the negative hue in this phase, the formative phase can easily become the summative phase eating up the consolidation and expansion phases.

And the signals from these 19 days are worrying.

The AAP government rode to the Delhi Secretariat on big promises. And from the day-1, from December 28, it looked to be in motion to fulfill them.

But the way it has moved so far puts the very intent under scanner. The way it has moved so far indicates more of a rush to lure the voters somehow before the Lok Sabha elections.

The biggest one on power tariff saw a temporary measure with subsidy compensating for the reduced bill amount. Free water is even more costly beyond the insufficient cap of the free monthly usage. And both of these measures are not uniformly distributed. They target some sections of the population while ignore some others.

Mr. Kejriwal and his team have had a series of flip-flops on cracking down on the VIP culture that easily outdo the quantum gains, if any, of this promise in the initial 19 days.

Their symbolic efforts to use the Delhi Metro for the government inaugural ceremony or the high cost involved in organizing the ceremony at the Ramlila Ground or their repeated ‘yes and no’ on availing the ‘earmarked’ government accommodations and vehicles, or the miserably failed show of organising a Janta Darbar to hear public’s grievances at the Delhi Secretariat where Mr. Kejriwal was coordinating the show from the rooftop while public was buzzing around aimlessly and helplessly, or a ‘sincere’ effort of a young colleague of Mr. Kejriwal’s cabinet to glamorise a small incident as a security threat to her, or the episodes of the repeated theatrics of Vinod Kumar Binny and AAP, have raised question marks on AAP’s and Arvind Kejriwal’s intent.

Yes, it has been just 19 days. Mr. Kejriwal, you have time to write your rulebook on how you and AAP are going to be perceived in the coming days, in the days of electoral chaos of the Lok Sabha polls and the days beyond that.

We have got worrying signals in these 19 days, and more worrying is the prospect that these signals look to get gloomy even more. Mr. Kejriwal, you need to change that.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

MAINTAINING THE SYMBOLISM: TOUGHER TASK AHEAD MR. KEJRIWAL

It was a tough job in 2011, during the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare the centre of which was Delhi that has earned the Aam Aadmi Party this unprecedented success in the recently concluded Delhi assembly polls.

It was that symbolism of being an anti-corruption activist, the operating mind behind the 2011 achievement, with an honest intent to correct the prevailing wrongs in the Indian politics coupled with the high anti-incumbency against Congress that led to the support-swell to AAP.

If the Delhi electorate has given such an unprecedented support to AAP, in spite of the not-so-convincing role of Arvind Kejriwal in abandoning that 2011 anti-corruption movement, it tells how frustrated the electorate has become the existing political lot and how big a responsibility Mr. Kejriwal is carrying.

But the way AAP and Arvind Kejriwal set look to move, it tells more of an attitude on looking at the huge public support as ‘easy votes’ and it gives a feeling that somehow, they have stumbled upon a magical formula of manipulating the populist polices to appeal to the intended sections of the voters. The way they have moved on power and water tariff and VIP culture in Delhi, it seems the concept of ‘easy votes’ might well be the focus of their strategy in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

What the AAP government has done in the name of power and water tariff is more on the line of Congress politics manipulating different sub-sets of votebanks, doling out sops to some at the cost of some others, to appeal to the voters with populist measures.

But the electorate of India is not electorate of Delhi. Even the Delhi electorate may not give AAP the next chance if the symbolism fails.

Also, the urban, the youth, the corporate, the educated lot, that AAP is intending to target, can easily read and react accordingly the way AAP moves on delivering on its promises in Delhi.

That has to be free of the class-oriented votebank politics. Mr. Kejriwal, don’t move in the trap of addressing a section of voters at the cost of the other. It is the dirty game being practiced for years by the political parties you are targeting.

Mr. Kejriwal, beware of the risks involved.

Preserving the sanctity of the high symbolism is even tougher a job than winning so many seats in the Delhi assembly polls and riding to the Delhi Secretariat as its top functionary.

Mr. Kejriwal did have a taste of it. Isn’t it?

The social media backlash on his 6000 Sq Feet palatial set of twin duplexes in one of the poshest localities of Delhi, after which Kejriwal was forced to say no to, even after agreeing to move in, is a clear warning signal.

Tougher task ahead, Mr. Kejriwal! Beware and tread cautiously.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

AAP IN DELHI: NOT A PROMISING DEBUT, BUT CAN STILL CLAIM THE BENEFIT OF DOUBT, BUT..

They began with high promises, dubbed impossible or near-impossible to achieve, by their political adversaries, by many experts.

Therefore, they began with proportionately placed sky-high levels of expectations, dubbed, again, impossible to fulfill by many.

So, a clear and tough, almost impossible sounding, job was already cut out.

Aam Aadmi Party government led by Arvind Kejriwal did act on the two major promises within a week and is in process of acting on the third one – on power and water tariff and on cracking down on VIP culture (at least it looks so) – the most potent and symbolically the most important for Kejriwal and AAP to prove their mettle behind their claims of cleaning the politics and being an ‘all out’ ‘aam aadmi’ party.

But have they really initiated to deliver the way they should have?

They haven’t.

Being dubbed as masterstrokes, the steps taken by Arvind Kejriwal and AAP government in Delhi should raise valid points of doubt and they must be raised if the political experiment, AAP is a test subject of, has to move in a right direction.

What the AAP government has done in the name of power and water tariff is more on the line of Congress politics manipulating different sub-sets of votebanks, doling out sops to some at the cost of some others, to appeal to the voters with populist measures.

What they have done has established elements of the votebank politics to reflect on. (And that is not acceptable.)

Reducing power tariff for two power slabs while not touching the third one, the highest one, is silly. The power bill pinches most in summers and is a problem for the huge middle class living in Delhi. And it is true that, in Delhi, even many lower middle class families use air-conditioners in these days of easy EMIs. So, the power tariff rejig is not going to be of much help. But the AAP purpose is served in the short run as the Lok Sabha polls are scheduled for April-May, before the summer peaks.

Similar is the story of the water tariff. Most of the middle class households are going to pay 10% higher for the bills as they would easily surpass the 20 kilolitres of the monthly free limit. Also, many of the intended beneficiaries would not be able to avail it, those living in slums and in irregular colonies with no regular metered water connections.

And these are not reduced tariffs. The AAP government is subsidizing them. Okay to restructure and so to bring down tariffs, they need time and so subsidy is okay in the short run.

But, are they going to restructure the power and water tariffs? Are they going to make the reduced power and water bills subsidy free so that it doesn’t come at the cost of hampering the development work?

And above all, segregating the voters in different classes like Congress does. Like Congress doles out a Food Security Bill diverting a huge share of public exchequer’s fund even if the economy is in mess, even if it comes at a prices of making food grains more costly for the middle class.

And not just the population living below the poverty line, the huge and burgeoning middle class, that is rapidly becoming a pan-India phenomenon, they all are ‘aam aadmi’ Mr. Kejriwal. They, too, voted for you.

You and your party need to learn this soon.

Now that you have begun to bring down power and water tariff, make them structured and class-free. That is the only way to clear the valid doubts being raised.

And remember, you don’t have time. Also, please stop faltering on ‘cracking down’ on the VIP culture promise. Not taking government bungalows, then accepting two palatial flats, then saying no on public outrage, SUVs for your ministers, trouble for common public on your Delhi Metro sojourns – these are putting you in bad light.

Yes, you still have the benefit of doubt as you and your party need some more time to draw clarity on the complex matters of state finances and governance and how to make them independent of the layers of the votebank politics.

But remember, everything is under intense scrutiny and if AAP is different, as claimed, it needs to show us soon.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

AAP GOVERNMENT SWORN-IN: SYMBOLISM OF SYMBOLISMS

This was the obvious comparison to be drawn and it was drawn by many. High on symbolism, Arvind Kejriwal took the Delhi Metro to the venue of his swearing-in ceremony, the Ramlila Ground. There were placards showing the movie ‘Nayak’ poster with Anil Kapoor, the protagonist, an unwilling political reformer and the transcendental chief minister of Maharashtra and Amrish Puri, the anti- to the protagonist, symbolizing everything bad in Indian politics.

Elevation of the Aam Aadmi Party and Arvind Kejriwal into the mainstream of Indian politics is being compared with many symbolisms and let’s don’t think long term, let’s don’t’ analyse the ‘ifs and buts’, let’s just enjoy the high point of these symbolisms only.

Yes, let’s enjoy the high points of these symbolisms as reflective of the misery of the incumbent political lot, the so-called mainstream political parties and politicians who have become synonymous with everything negative in the method of the sociopolitical science; who have become the fountainheads of corruption in the Indian society.

I liked the movie Nayak, for its strong anti-establishment symbolism, leading to the radically fundamental ways the politics being practiced was changed.

Crushed by the atrocities of the dominating political lot, most of the Indians are a frustrated lot who think about but don’t see solutions reaching out to them, to the society, and such imagination of imagery, as portrayed in the movie, appeals to the senses, to the suppressed sensitivities from the oppression of the political lot.

So, it was good to see someone defying them, slapping them in the face.

It was good to see that even if the mainstream politicians were using harsh language, abusive words and were scoffing at AAP and Kejriwal (as shown in sting operation of a news channel), they had no option but to support the AAP government unconditionally, even if AAP was threatening to probe and jail the corrupt ministers of the previous Congress government.

It was good to see the bureaucrats of the Delhi Secretariat destroying the files that could expose their splurging on public money fearing the wrath of the AAP government.

It was good to hear that politicians and bureaucrats of the Delhi government would not use red beacons on their vehicles.

It was so good to know that ministers of AAP would not accept the sprawling bungalows. They, including Kejriwal, have demanded flats as their official accommodation. Even if it is a conscious political branding exercise by AAP, think of the misery of those politicians more than eager to inhabit such palatial houses in the heart of Delhi. What would they do in future if it establishes a successful trend?

(Think of the misery of the sophisticated bureaucrats and the mainstream politicians used to a lifestyle of ‘excessive’ excesses).

It was good see the power distribution companies in Delhi not demanding a power tariff hike even if they presented a deficit account in their annual review.

It was good to see the Delhi Police talking like common men while dealing with common men.

And it was good to see the ministers wearing the everyday stuff while taking oath.

Many other symbolisms can be added to the list. Some will exit. Some will make it to the list as the time rolls on.

Yes, valid doubts about AAP remain, but let’s enjoy the symbolism of these symbolisms, if not for AAP, then for making life miserable and troublesome for elitist and corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/