It's 'change or perish' for traditional political parties

It’s been over a week now, and the talk about the recent state assembly election results – the arrival of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Congress’ miserable performance and worries in the elated BJP camp – still refuses to take a backseat.

Soon after the outcome of elections in four states, an important reaction, worth taking serious note of, came from NCP chief Sharad Pawar. He spoke strongly and harshly — one can’t recall such an exhaustive reaction by the maverick leader who has been into electoral politics since the last 47 years without a single break.

Pawar stressed on two important things – people’s expectations of a strong and decisive leadership and the need to understand why the younger generation of the nation was angry. As if on cue, the state government organised a special programme at Nagpur on Sunday, where Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan interacted with the local youth. A notable feature of this event was that the district collector hosted it, which forced the CM’s colleagues from the Congress to sit in the audience. The youth wing of Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) too issued an advertisement in newspapers about its charter of demands for students and unemployed youths.

Certainly, the rise of AAP and the thrashing that the Congress received at its hands has cast a shadow on all political parties. It is because AAP defies barriers of conventional politics that are the soul of the Indian political system i.e. if you want to build a political career, you need to be a part of conventional political parties such as Congress, BJP and regional political outfits. It also seeks to end an age-old belief that one cannot win comfortably without the support of a prominent party.

When a seasoned leader like Pawar says there is a need to mull over the reason for the anger among the youth, it will be naïve to believe he was unaware of the public’s ire against the system. People are fed up with the existing political system that is suited to leaders and their offspring who usurp the best available opportunities. His statement also insinuates that people were not happy with the younger leadership introduced by established political parties. It is because chieftains of these parties have promoted their children or close relatives to occupy prime positions.

Surely, the AAP’s emergence on the political scene has disturbed the apple cart and has confirmed that anybody with fresh ideas on governance, and a strong desire to end the all-pervasive corruption can enter the political fray. It has also helped break the belief that politics is a reserved field for people with special calibre and background, added with money and muscle power. AAP won the trust and confidence of people when it was believed that unless one spent money and offered special goodies to voters, one couldn’t win elections.

Today, politicians from Maharashtra are worried and shaken. It is because they did not concentrate on issues most dear to common voters. When Congress and NCP have nothing new to offer, the same goes for opposition parties such as BJP and Shiv Sena. State politics is revolving around the outdated concepts of sops to slum dwellers in urban centers, and appeasement based on caste and religions and special packages to cooperative institutions in rural areas.

No serious attention is given to the fact that the state has lost significant investment in industrial sector and power generation, affecting overall growth. As a result, rising unemployment has added to the woes of the younger generation that is completely alienated from the government and the political setup. The present-day youngster, who doesn’t have any strong political backing, isn’t happy to be a part of politics. This big chunk of society can disturb the equations of conventional politics by supporting new outfits.

When Pawar spoke about strong and decisive leadership, he was expected to offer a few words about his party’s second-rank leadership in Maharashtra and the performance of NCP as a part of the DF government. Once known as a party of youngsters, NCP – with big guns like Ajit Pawar, R R Patil, Jayant Patil, Sunil Tatkare who were ready to take the party ahead of Congress and others — is tottering. A series of scams uncovered in the recent years has put a big question mark over its identity. The Congress too isn’t in the comfort zone, just because CM Prithviraj Chavan is known as Mr Clean.

For the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in Maharashtra, Gujarat CM Narendra Modi is the only savior, thanks to their lacklustre performance as the opposition. Its hopes are on MNS leader Raj Thackeray because of his capacity to garner public support. If Congress, NCP, BJP and Shiv Sena refuse to change, the AAP can disturb present political equations in Mumbai, Thane, Raigad and Pune — a highly populated region with an urban face.

— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY¬†

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