AAP: Populism over policy?

Jan 14, 2014, 12:55 IST | Akash Banerjee

Instead of addressing policy issues, the Aam Aadmi Party is pandering to populist sentiments

Instead of addressing policy issues, the Aam Aadmi Party is pandering to populist sentiments.

The ride is getting rougher for Delhi’s youngest Chief Minister. Ever since that euphoric swearing in ceremony at Ramlila Maidan, Arvind Kejriwal and his party men have be dogged by one controversy after the other. From the selection of his official residence to the selection of words by Prashant Bhushan on Kashmir; from the modus operandi of the so called ‘50 per cent cut’ in power bills to reservation of up to 90% of seats in state-funded colleges — every decision of the party has been scrutinised as per the high standards that AAP has set for itself. While we are still to see most of these decisions being implemented on the ground — Arvind and company are already being judged on the ever-so-fickle scale of public perception.

Poster boy: Arvind Kejriwal

Most of 2013, the Aam Aadmi Party spent screaming ‘media blackout’ — that the media had been coerced (or paid) by the powers that be, to not cover and publicise the party. Ironically, in 2014 (in the midst of all the media attention) it would do AAP a world of good, if it would spend less time with the press and more on how to deliver on some of the extremely tall promises made in its manifesto.

AAP began its tenure on a bitter note and came under attack for cozying up with the scam hit Congress party — now Kejriwal’s focus on the Lok Sabha elections is being seen as a rush job to capitalise on the anti-Congress/anti-corruption sentiment in the nation. Rival parties are having a field day painting Kejriwal as a man who would do anything to get power.

It’s no secret that Kejriwal is a man in a hurry — but as Saturday’s ‘Janta Darbar’ showed, he’s neither well prepared nor going in the right direction as Chief Minister.

While the lack of arrangements at the event is understandable, what is questionable is Kejriwal spending first half of a day trying to organise the Darbar and the second, trying to defend his sudden exit after a near stampede-like situation developed at the venue.

While the CM should be connected with the masses, he would do much better solving systemic problems of corruption, bureaucratic delays, law and order, women’s issues, employment etc, rather than scoring brownie points by hosting Darbars in full media glare. Priority must be given to macro policy issues rather than addressing micro complaints for populist purposes.

While Arvind is the poster boy for the media right now, he must take lessons from Anna’s dramatic rise and fall. Too much exposure to the limelight is never a good idea, especially among a citizenry that loves to toast you, and then just as easily roast you. Just as Anna’s frequent fasts became a bit of a joke — AAP’s celebrated penchant for being ‘aam’ could soon acquire nuisance value. Arvind Kejriwal must realise that more than this Wagon R, people will judge him by the actions he takes and the promises he keeps.

The ideal thing for AAP to have done was to deliver on a concrete basis in Delhi. But besides dubious subsidies, usual transfer of officers and customary media bytes, the revolution this party promised is far from real.

Already, the power distribution companies are threatening blackouts in Delhi because electricity rates are so low; if that happens AAP will come under intense fire. Also the citizenry of Delhi would be waiting to see how AAP flushes out corruption from the system — a promise that was supposed to be fulfilled within days of coming to power.

Hopefully, the party has better plans than running sting operations on government servants and hosting janta darbars in stadiums. What Arvind and his team need right now is a foolproof plan on speedy delivery and justice, because the aam aadmi, as we have witnessed, is no one’s fool.

— Akash Banerjee is the author of Tales from Shining & Sinking India

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