If anything, what I don’t want to do is look back at 2013, annus horribilis that it was. Even if I say it in Latin, it doesn’t take away the fact that the year gone by has been terrible. As the year draws to an end, there are some small signs of hope about the year that lies ahead. There is hope because we will elect the 16th Lok Sabha this spring.
The 2013 assembly elections results have been a wake up call to the Congress Party. It cannot sit pretty and hope to get re-elected by doling out freebies. It cannot take its allies for granted. It cannot think that going to the polls without a PM candidate will be an acceptable model. And if their PM candidate is Rahul Gandhi, then he too will have to make himself acceptable to the people. A famous last name alone won’t do anymore.
The entry of Aam Aadmi Party, L’enfant terrible of Indian politics, has changed the way politics is now conducted. Participatory politics has made its entry in the country. The entitlement era is set to make a reluctant exit. But idealism is a difficult path to walk on. AAP will probably not be able to deliver many of the promises it made at the time of elections. Some reality checks are in store for the ministers who will assume office.
They will have to deal with babus who are so deeply entrenched in the system that they know how to pull out one vertebra after another till the person succumbs to the system. AAP’s spectacular entrance into the political spectrum has broken monopolies. Many have drawn parallels with the time when V.P. Singh or NTR broke similar political consortiums to chart out new paths. AAP is setting new trends: simplicities which break moulds, which make us ask uncomfortable questions, which boldly talk of creating responsive systems.
Of course Arvind Kejriwal will fail to deliver on many of his promises. We are cynical enough to know that. But the people of Delhi have still pinned their hopes on him to prove that you can try to change things. Traditionally a BJP stronghold, Delhi, voted for Congress three times and has now rejected both, to vote in a novice political party. Not just that: 80 per cent of the funds that AAP got to fight Delhi elections came from non-Delhites. If this is not a gamble with hope, what is?
The BJP will do well to recalibrate its way of functioning too. The overwhelming support that the AAP is getting for the way they are going about their functioning is something that can be emulated. A little less arrogance by party spokespersons and top rung leaders of the BJP, and the Congress, would go a long way in winning friends and losing enemies. The same holds true of other regional leaders like Mayawati and Jayalalithaa. When you block traffic so that your cavalcade can pass, when you encourage prostration at your feet, when you encourage sycophancy, when you think entitlement is a way of life, you are so 2013.
Holding people behind thick ropes and seating them 100 feet away at public meetings while you sit on pristine white sofas on 30-feet high podiums is so yesterday. Mammoth rallies are like ostentatious weddings, nobody really appreciates them. The razzmatazz is so far removed from the lives of the people who attend the rallies.
Smaller personalised town hall meetings or panchayat sabhas where leaders meet locals to explain their policies and programmes may work better. Fake outrage and adopting mannerisms, which are clearly alien to you, are going to win you neither applause nor votes. “Aapko pata hai garibi kya hai” and “statue banana hai” miss the point. The BJP, the Congress and the regional parties should quickly realise that they have to do less of talking down and more of listening and responding.
Time surely is running out for old style politics and politicians. Idealism is returning to politics. Fake simplicity and melodramatic speeches will get the boot as they did in the assembly elections of 2013. Those who won in the 2013 assembly elections are already worried about the 2014 general elections. Governance is being judged by the week. Indians want change, for themselves and for their country. And they want it now. At the end of 2013, one is hopeful that in the New Year we will see a new kind of politics dawn in India.
Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on Twitter @smitaprakash
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