Why prefer AAP over BJP and Congress?

Dr Sandeep Pandey and Dr Rahul Pandey, CNS Columnists
For the first time since Narendra Modi government has come to power in the centre and won state after state in assembly elections it faces a tough challenge from AAP in Delhi. AAP is not like any other political party. It has emerged from a movement and represents a changing mood in this country, giving a chance to especially the youth to get involved in political process. It is a different matter that equal or more number of youth are involved with BJP now. BJP has more effectively used methods, which AAP brought into Indian politics, to its advantage.

Transparency of Political Funding
The biggest malaise of Indian political system is the financing of all major political parties, except for possibly the Communist parties, by corruption money. The elections which should be contested within the expenditure limits set by Election Commission incur expenses running into crores. Major part of the money spent on elections is unaccounted. That is why Arvind Kejriwal can openly encourage the voters to take money from BJP and Congress but vote for his party. The Election Commission has issued a notice to Arvind Kejriwal for making this statement but it would have been better if they would have instead tried to curb distribution of money and liquor just before polling by the bigger parties. Arvind is able to directly attack the other major parties on the issue of corruption because his party is openly disclosing the sources of its income. AAP has also demanded that funding of political parties be brought under the RTI Act. Curiously, except for CPI, no other party is in this favour, giving an indication of how deep rooted this problem is. The transparency that AAP has tried to promote brings in fresh air in Indian politics. Since the existence of other parties depends on corruption money they feel threatened by Arvind's stands and get untied to oppose it.

Social and Economic Development Model
AAP has also taken stand on a number of issues raised by various people's movements on which other parties are ambiguous. For example, in the upcoming Delhi elections AAP has made the issues of ordinary people – both lower income and middle class populations – central to its policy agenda. It has proposed to enhance the responsibility of the state towards providing essential public services such as water, healthcare, women’s security, education, and electricity. It has professed to improve quality of these services by reducing corruption and increasing accountability of implementing agencies. Going by AAP’s earlier 49-day stint in Delhi one can say that it has sincere intentions to implement its agenda. In addition, AAP has also taken a clear stand against communalism which threatens to tear the Indian social fabric.

In contrast, BJP government’s actions at the center so far indicate that its policy is against the interest of ordinary people of India and in favour of large corporations. While AAP has proposed to increase Delhi’s health budget, BJP has cut India’s health budget by about Rs. 6000 crores, i.e. 20 percent. Cutting health budget will only result in cuts in supply of medicines and other materials needed regularly by government hospitals and primary healthcare centers. BJP has also diluted important provisions of Land Acquisition Act and environmental laws in order to make it easy to take away lands of farmers and bypass environmental and social audits for the benefit of large corporations. In effect, BJP (NDA) has accelerated the economic development policy of the Congress (UPA) government – privatization of India’s natural resources by processes that do not involve local communities’ consent and are non-democratic. AAP, among a few other parties, has taken stand against these anti-people policies.

On economic development front AAP’s manifesto encourages small industries and traders. Whereas Modi government’s thrust is to make foreign investment (FDI) the core of ‘make in India’ policy on the one hand, and to grant favours to selected large Indian business houses on the other hand. FDI centered economic growth will certainly bring in foreign investment but will compromise domestic capability building in India’s agricultural and industrial sectors. Favours to select businesses will accelerate the culture of crony capitalism. Robust economic policy should be to provide support and level playing field to small farmers, small industries and entrepreneurs. AAP’s industrial agenda for Delhi seems to be in the right direction.

Nuclear Power
The latest diplomatic achievement of Narendra Modi is to consummate the civilian nuclear deal with the US during Obama’s visit. This was also a pet project of Manmohan Singh that he could not conclude successfully. The fact that nuclear energy has proven to be uneconomical and unsafe worldwide has been lost in the noise generated by our diplomatic achievement and excitement to court the US. Share of nuclear fission energy in electricity industry has been declining in most of the high income countries and so the powerful nuclear industry has been desperately seeking markets in lower income countries. Countries such as India are willingly becoming pawns in this game and sacrificing their own people’s interest. Not surprisingly, the Indian government has ignored the open letter written by heads of four villages including Mithivirdi in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district to Modi and Obama calling for a public debate on the proposed 6,000 MW Mithivirdi nuclear power plant with support of the US firm Westinghouse Electric Corporation. AAP is possibly the only Indian political party to take a stand against nuclear power plants because there are local movements around each of the proposed and some existing plants.

New Style of Conducting Politics
AAP has certainly politicised the Indian middle class, which was apolitical or in some cases even anti-political. It is only by political involvement of the citizenry that the quality of polity may mature. AAP has also initiated a culture where the leadership is accountable to the people. They have tried to involve people in decision making also, although not very successfully. But they profess the important concept of 'swarajya' or local self governance. This idea will strengthen grassroots democracy. Again the other parties which are used to centralized way of working would not be in favour of decentralization of political power.

Thus AAP has not only introduced new concepts but also brought is a different style of conducting politics which has the potential of transforming the corrupt Indian political system. It is for this reason that it must be preferred over BJP and Congress in spite of its various shortcomings.

Dr Sandeep Pandey and Dr Rahul Pandey, Citizen News Service - CNS
28 January 2015