What it means for India
By Asim Arun – asimup [at] gmail.com
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP, Common Man’s Party) landslide victory in the Delhi Assembly polls this month is a rare instance of a civil society movement succeeding in democracy’s ultimate test: elections. The AAP is the child of the “India Against Corruption” movement that reached a crescendo in 2011 under the leadership of Gandhian Anna Hazare. Thousands of people joined in across India but the demand for Lokpal, a powerful anti-corruption ombudsman, was not satiated by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government. Differences among the leaders of the movement led to its break up, stimulating a large chunk to form a new political party (the AAP) under the leadership of Arvind Kejriwal.
Adopting the broom as its symbol, the AAP brought with it a new political vocabulary of transparency, humility and, honesty. In the Delhi state elections of December 2013, AAP surprised many by bagging 28 seats in the 70-member assembly. After considerable contemplation, AAP formed the government with Congress’ outside support. In 49 days Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minster, realized the futility of running a coalition government without the majority to steer the crucial Lokpal law and resigned. But in those 49 days, Delhi saw some sweeping changes—a dismantling of VIP culture, pragmatic technology based anti-corruption measures and an accessible and open government. Corruption visibly declined.
Delhi went to the polls again this February and the AAP won a stunning 67 out of 70 seats. Arvind Kejriwal is again CM, this time with an outright mandate. But what does this mean for India, generally?
It can be expected that the Lokpal Act will be one of the first legislative creations of the new Assembly and anti-corruption measures will roll out swiftly. As the Delhi State government’s actions feature prominently in the media there shall be pressure on governments of other states as well as the federal government to follow suit. When Delhi’s ministers and bureaucrats shun the trappings of power—beacon lights on cars, police bodyguards and, government bungalows—it will be difficult for the “VIPs” elsewhere to continue with their privileges. Political parties will be under pressure to introduce transparent funding mechanisms like the AAP’s. In short, the existing ruling elite will be under pressure to reform.
Asim Arun is pursuing an MA degree in Public Policy (Asia Pacific Studies) in the MAAPPS at the University of British Columbia while on a mid-career break from his job as an Inspector General with the Indian Police Service.
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- Ronojoy Sen, “The Road Ahead for Aam Aadmi Party,” Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore (January 2014)
- Mitu Sengupta, “Anna Hazare’s Anti-Corruption Movement and the Limits of Mass Mobilization in India,” Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest 13:3 (2014)
- Prashant Sharma, Democracy and Transparency in the Indian State: The Making of the Right to Information Act (Routledge, 2014)
- Aalok Khandekar & Deepa S. Reddy, “An Indian summer: Corruption, Class, and the Lokpal protests,” Journal of Consumer Culture (2013)
- Anand Kumar, “A Constructive Challenge to the Political Class: The Aam Aadmi’s Party,” Economic & Political Weekly (February 2013)