The meaning of A.A.P

The deafening roar of approval for the ‘Aam Aadmi’ political party is a the sound of deathknell for modern India and progress. Indians (present and former) who have arrogated to themselves the beliefs that they are educated, elite and informed have found in AAP a salve to their faux-secularist conscience.

This is how I had begun my blog post six days ago and had not proceeded to complete it. I hope I will do it today. I had promised Ms. Smita Sanyal – wife of good friend Sanjeev Sanyal and a woman of many accomplishments in her own right – that I would do a blog post on the AAP economics. She had written a good post at NITICentral on the anarchist tendencies of AAP.

With all due immodesty, I was about to prophecy that India would face a economic crisis in the second half of the year, if the ‘Aam Aadmi’ Party (AAP) managed to prevent the formation of a NDA government led by Narendra Modi.

I doubt if this prophecy would be necessary for two reasons. One, the Party is causing disillusionment to its core middle class constituency faster than any of us, who wish well for India, could have wished for. Godspeed.

Second, two very good articles had been published on the economic damage that AAP will cause to India. One is by Sunil Jain published in ‘Financial Express’ dated January 14:

While trying to fix private sector corruption is very important, let’s not forget the huge corruption that takes place in  government each year. Between the centre and the state, government procurement budgets run up to around R5 lakh crore a year, and subsidy expenditures by the centre alone add up to over R3 lakh crore—at a conservative 50% leakage, that’s a whopping R1.5 lakh crore of theft each year from just the subsidies. But when is the last time you heard anyone, in government or outside it, talk about curbing this corruption with the same level of passion as curbing corporate  corruption? [Link]

Sunil Jain was polite but S.L. Rao, former Director-General of the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) was more forthright. His byline states that he was also the first chairman of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC). He concluded in his piece, also published in ‘Financial Express’ that the AAP was a bad augury for India’s growth and development.

The AAP’s mindset seems to assure the turning back of this clock. Nostalgia about rural life is no substitute for better livelihoods for millions. If the AAP succeeds in winning, we will see the decline of India. This is because competitive politics will compel other parties also to take the AAP’s ‘popular’ and ‘pro-aam aadmi’ actions….

……. the AAP will put the country back in its growth and development because of its illiteracy on economic matters. We cannot expect the AAP functionaries to change their mindsets of a lifetime. The AAP is a bad augury for India’s growth and development.

Of course, he too makes a concession for their integrity. But, I would not like to hold that against the AAP. They are still young in the game. Where there is populism and centralisation and concentration of power, corruption is inevitable. Just give them some time.

The important point that Shri. S.L. Rao makes is that AAP’s populism will encourage the ever-ready traditional Indian politician to ape their populism. They do not need excuses to do so but still AAP policies will provide them the right motivation to go one step ahead of them. I understand that AAP’s general amnesty to power thieves in Delhi from March 2013 has been put on hold. Thank god for that. But, the Haryana government has already decided to take a leaf out of AAP book.

The middle class – whether they voted for AAP (if in Delhi) or not – saw in him a neat compromise between the Congress and the BJP. But, their judgement was as lazy as it was incorrect. Lazy because they had not bothered to examine and validate their priors about Narendra Modi and equally, they were not rigorous enough to examine the feasibility and desirability of AAP goals and methods. They went for AK’S magic broom, not knowing or bothering to know their intentions and goals.

I would like to highlight two blog posts that I wrote in 2011 on the anti-corruption agitation led, at that time, by Anna Hazare and gang of which Arvind Kejriwal was a part and on the comments of Prashant Bhushan on India’s post-liberalisation track record on corruption. I had drawn attention to his wrong attitude towards economic reforms and liberalisation.  I doubt if the wrong attitude was borne out of ignorance. It was deliberate.

In a more recent MINT column written after the announcement of results to five State Assemblies, I had mentioned the following:

Some of the positions it has taken on matters of national importance and security have been, to put it charitably, questionable and naïve and, uncharitably, anti-national. [Emphasis now added] – LINK

Now, calling their positions ‘anti-national’ no longer sounds uncharitable or unfair. But, logical. Look at some of the remarks and actions:

Expressing solidarity with the anti-nuclear protest in Koodankulam, Aam Aadmi Party leader Prashant Bhushan has invited PMANE leader SP Udayakumar to join his party. [Link]

Udayakumar’s agitation against the nuclear power plant in Koodankulam was a well-planned and executed obstructionist move against India’s development imperatives and the power needs.

Then, there was the remark by Prashant Bhushan on the need for referendum on the deployment of security forces in the areas occupied by Maoists. Arvind Kejriwal issued an unconvincing denial that he said that.

He had also called for a referendum in Kashmir on the deployment of Indian armed forces. He has not said anything about the only known instance of ethnic cleansing in India – the systematic ‘explusion’ of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley.

The AAP government in Delhi scrapped the previous government’s decision to welcome Foreign Direct Investment into multi-brand retail in India. Multi-brand retail would be neither a panacea nor a disaster for India.  But, to reverse a decision taken is to send a bad signal to outsiders when they are already being scared out of India by a overzealous and arbitrary Income-Tax Department in the country.

While industry bodies were alarmed at the decision, it is baffling that some of their own had found reasons to join the AAP. That gives us reasons to doubt their intellectual rigour.

In fact, the futuristic satire that Salil Tripathi wrote for MINT on the future of India under Narendra Modi would have fitted too aptly for the future of India under A.A.P. Pity that his blind hatred for Modi precluded his seeing that. In any case, to mention ‘future’ and ‘AAP’ in the same sentence is an oxymoron.

Then, just a few days ago, the AAP government in Delhi meted out one of the worst possible humiliations to women and that too, African women. This news came on the day when the Chinese government had decided to extend visa-free travel to Nigerian officials and diplomats. The contrast could not have gone unnoticed in African capitals and media. It would have been impossible to come up with a worse diplomatic disaster than this.

When I expressed my alarm at the anarchy deliberately spread by the AAP to a friend, he reassured me that the genius of modern-day India is that it neither allows good people to succeed nor bad people to succeed for long. I was not convinced but I hope he is right.

I had also asked him if one should label A.A.P a Naxalite party. He disagreed. He is right. Naxals believe in violent methods to overthrow the existing order. He said that the A.A.P was better labelled Nihilist. It is more accurate. Naxalites are nihilists but Nihilists are not Naxalites.

One definition of Nihilism is this:

a doctrine or belief that conditions in the social organization are so bad as to make destruction desirable for its own sake independent of any constructive program or possibility. [Link]

That fits. The A.A.P had no interest in governance. It wanted the displacement of the existing social order and it did not think it necessary to offer an alternative. Hence, the anarchy that they have let loose on Delhi is not incompetence but deliberate.

I was tempted to rename AAP into AAAP where ‘AAA’ stands for Arrogant, Arbitrary and Anarchic. Then, I realised that ‘Arbitrary’ was superfluous. The arbitrariness is deliberate and arises out of the goal to create anarchy. Surjit Bhalla gets it. He says that, if asked to choose between the AAP and the Congress, he would opt for the decrepit, corrupt and failed Congress Party.

Hence, AAP stands for the Arrogant and Anarchist Party.

Two messages for those who are still besotted with AAP:

(1) You could do a lot worse than reading this article by a ‘Aam Aadmi’

(2) I am aware that the pathetic performance of the UPA government and its shameless defence by its incompetent leader has evoked a rage in all of you. Yes, he has earned ‘good men a bad name’. But, I hope that you do not allow the rage to become so impotent as the man who was responsible for it. Channelise it well and choose wisely in the national elections. AAP is as much part of the problem as the Congress party is.

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4 thoughts on “The meaning of A.A.P

  1. Brilliant post. My point two months back was that aap should be allowed to win Delhi (Delhi should be sacrificed to aap I’d said) so that all their crazy ideas get borne out well before the national elections. I see that’s happening.

    I was afraid a couple of weeks back that aap might not implode enough before the elections and end up damaging the bjp in the parliamentary elections but it looks now like they’re well on their way to implosion!!

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  2. Would like to disagree……on some points

    Post the elections, when the prospects of governer rule loomed, BJP and Congress by turns were on record on media questioning why AAP did not go ahead and form the gov (A lot of harshvardhan’s interviews). don’t you think it’s ironical…BJP had more seats and yet was mocking AAP or was it baiting them. As soon as AAP came in to gov, the same guys were out questioning AAPs credibility since it had supposedly taken congress support (or was it shovelled upon them). I’m sure its not lost on AAP that they fought on the grounds of not aligning with any political outfit and so Kejriwal was initially on record stating that if they took support it would vitiate the very cause they embraced…so why the volte face…i feel he took a calculated risk…use this window of opportunity to show that he is out to implement his agenda and in the process if congress finds itself in soup, all the better for AAPs subsequent chances..the other defense is obviously that BJPs alignment with yedurappa does not exactly give them the higher moral ground. Personally, it seems more sensible to me that AAP percieved that it’s finally a numbers game and they prioritised coming up to form the government and give it a go rather than take the (convenient, in this case) morally correct path and do nothing…..i do not know if you have seen the recent interview that Kejriwal gave at CNN IBN to Sardesai, but it helps to understand there actions and motives better

    u take exception to prashant bhushans endorsement of the anti Kudankulam stance….firstly, .i’m not sure if Bhushan’s stance is the official AAP stance….in any case if you look at the latest outcomes from the Fukushima episode ( i can elaborate here if you need)….i feel there is ample reason to rethink Nuclear Power …..given that our safety protocols are well documented as being inferior…i fully appreciate that opposition to Kudankulam could be for vested interest and not necessarily the reason i have in mind….in any case why does this stance seem regressive…and if it does not voice the official AAP stance…whats wrong there…not all in the party will have the same opinion on the matter…

    As far as anarchy goes, do you consider the normal state of affairs in India not anarchic……..i thought the innumerable and brazen instances of corruption we saw under the incumbents rule was a manifestation of anarchy, AAPs pifling attempts at trying to restore a working state of affairs in schools, hospitals or police will always run into resistance and they tend to take recourse in headfirst revolt….i am not sure that qualifies as anarchy…. i would also sincerely like to hear from other commentators what methods and processes they would like to suggest for attaining the objectives AAP might have tried to go for ( reduction of management quota in school seats and addressing healthcare delivery issues at government hospitals)..or may be even what objectives they feel should be targeted and what consequent events these objectives would translate to……
    I’ve read a lot of commentary on what is wrong in Indian governance but when it comes to pointed, well devised plans to actually resurrect what little is left of governance both at the micro and macro level, there are no thought pieces and definitely no action by the incumbents that i have encountered, only vague obfuscation. In any case, this is an area where there are always multiple opinions on right and wrong based on different perceptions. Kejriwal’s methods may seem blase at times, but they do not suffer for the want of pointed and relevant objectives and effort for implementation…..my assessment as the average man on the street….atleast he’s trying to get things done…and in the crawl, walk , run evolution some good is likely to come thru…

    his decision on water did not seem bad to me…he is incentivizing controlled usage and metering with these steps….they may not necessarily be a purist’s delight but they have sound presumptions on avg water usage and definitely create good incentives..and he intends to do more here…hes said as much and also what he has in mind….

    On the Ugandan women issue….what is your opinion of the treatment meted out to Nigerians in the BJP governed Goa…there was a lot of fracas on that recently , …but that apart, i heard the residents of the locality on TV telling there side of the story, there case was never addressed by the police……i completely agree that the way AAP handled this one was unsavoury…but there are underlying truths…that the police in India are apathetic to civilian concerns is well known…(that was the issue that was being addressed, why be oblivious to that), the other is that Africans in general in India are targets of racist slurs…i have seen that in University and now as a tenant in Mumbai…in my locality no one is willing to give African students a place on rent unless they hand over their passports (people generally complain of risks on drug trafficking)…and the general conversation you overhear is not charitable to them….this does not absolve AAP, but i am trying to say this is a deep rooted malaise that cuts across political or social affiliations in India…

    i’m sure that there are wrong moves by AAP…….but it seems unreasonable to expect that in 20 days of governance they will achieve or even target what various stakeholders and their proponents have in mind…i have never seen the congress or BJP being so closely monitored and i am sure their evolution went through the same difficult path….on the other hand i find the congress/bjp slandering on public media devoid of any discourse on economics or other policy positions…it is strange then that this newcomer is expected to hit the ground running and that too with precision….at least they start with an agenda and try to put it to work.

    As far as the power issue goes…i am no expert and cannot take a technical stance…but if the CERC can discuss giving tata and adani a revised tariff without a public hearing….is it not subsidizing the corporates and does it not smack of the capitalist with no stomach for capitalism when it has adverse outcomes.

    A a lot of corruption in government is at the junction of the corporate/government interface…..so what is wrong if they start on one end and go to the other

    i feel that the reward for capitalism goes to the corporates, but the risk is almost always socialised….to my mind governance is about efficient provision of public goods by the people’s representative…..in India it seems like a tale of crony capitalists and corrupt politicians with a misplaced sense of entitlement going hand in glove….the common man well..he’s just incidentally there…..AAPs appeal lies in that they try to focus on this…..why presume that they will not address corruption within the government……just because they started out by trying to address corruption at the corporate level…..and these are just two faces of the same coin…

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  3. Dear Ananth,

    What is all this nonsense about AAP’s “integrity”? How is it any different from Maun-Mohan Singh’s “personal integrity”? What is the basis for assuming that the AAP jokers have “integrity”? Simply because they keep shouting “baaki sab chor hai”? I think it is high time we stopped accepting all of these self-bestowed certificates from the likes of AAP.

    Anyway, as you rightly said, Godspeed to AAP! The halos around Kejriwal and his merry men (like Somnath Mittal) seem to be melting faster than an ice cream cone in the Hyderabad summer. The spectacle of a so-called “Chief Minister” sitting in a dharna instead of doing some actual work must be a turn-off to most of his middle class supporters, who bought into his whole “anti-corruption” act and were hoping for some improvement in their day to day lives. If Congress shows some political savvy and does not pull the plug (thus not giving Kejriwal an excuse to play martyr), I doubt they would even repeat their success in Delhi, let alone make an impact elsewhere.

    Best wishes.

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