arvind-kejriwal-aaps
Akhil Misra
Understanding AAP Through Its Manifesto

The manifesto of the party provokes fears of a return to a mai-baap sarkar

Manifestos are not to be taken seriously. More often than not, they promise utopia and then naturally fail to deliver. Though the approach to issues and the ideology of the political party is very much apparent in those few pages.

While the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) may have failed to deliver on its promise of Uniform Civil Code in the country, the constant inclusion of the issue in their manifesto clearly defines their belief on cultural unity and national integrity. On similar lines, the manifestos released by the Congress party are an indicate the party’s support to socialist ideas and welfare state.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on its part, comes out as an amalgamation of various ideologies brought together by a single point agenda of corruption alleviation. The party is clearly dominated by left-leaning group of leaders, though it also has some membership from the upper echelons of the corporate world. Confluence of such diverse opinions has the potential to create a truly democratic forum for public discourse and policy, while also creating fears of a Janta Dal-like chaos.

To truly understand AAP’s idea of India, which they hope to try on a smaller scale in Delhi, one can study their manifesto and try to decode the psychology behind it. The party’s leftward tilt is not a hidden fact – free or almost free bijli, paani and now WiFi, is what they wish to offer to the people of Delhi. Though the basic principle of Economics tells us that if a government provides somethings for free, it has to arrange funds for it by cutting short some other activity. While your electricity bill may decrease by some percentage, there will surely be a flyover which failed to materialize due to want of resources. It takes a high degree of political naivety to believe that reining in corruption can bridge the gap in funding. There is no doubt that bringing down corruption will have a positive impact on the finances of the state but it would be overzealous to assume that it can alter the principles of economics.

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Another point which is worrisome in the seventy point manifesto is pertaining to the proposed “Higher Education Guarantee Scheme”. The twentieth point mentions that “Students who wish to pursue any diploma or degree course after finishing Class 12 from any school in Delhi will be given bank loans with the government standing as a guarantor”. This supposedly harmless statement carries excessive potential of financial mismanagement and recklessness.

While the government has the responsibility to facilitate good education to the citizens, how justified is it to act as a guarantor for the same. This is an issue of propriety as the government is risking the tax payers money on hedging against a default by the student. The job of the government is to create an atmosphere which promotes entrepreneurship and employment creation, while leaving actual employment to market forces. Acting as an insurance against bad loans is not only financially nonviable but also setting a bad precedent for the future.

To understand the implications such policies can have, one needs to look to the UPA government’s farm loan waiver scheme of 2008. It led to decline in economic activities, blocking of government funds and increase in the Non Performing Assets (NPA) in rural areas – due to willful defaulting that the scheme encouraged. The loan waiver scheme differed from the proposed “Education Guarantee Scheme” in the sense that the former came into force after a poor monsoon and the farmers were initially unaware that such a waiver may be offered. The proposed scheme goes a step further in profligacy as it provides insurance from the day a borrower gets a loan from a bank. The security that the government will take the fall in case of default, will lead to reluctance on the part of the borrower and promote willful defaults on the loans.

The scheme description goes on to take an authoritative tone and proclaims that “Under this scheme no loan request will be rejected”. This comes out as a Soviet style dictat to the banking system in the state, depriving it of its right to reject loan applications. Such ad-hoc approach and interference in the working of the banking system has a potential to grow into a full blown crisis. Dictating terms to the financial institutions is not only detrimental to the economy but also against the interests of the depositors.

Whatever be the result of the Delhi elections, Indian democratic ideas should prevail. The voters of Delhi do not want the return of the nanny state – the mai-baap sarkar. We can hope that AAP will see the practical problems that are inherent in their manifesto and try to rectify them. Going back to the era of all pervasive government is the last thing we need. It took many decades to break the shackles of the powerful, arm-twisting state and to make way for relatively free markets. We can hope that which ever party comes to power, it understands the importance of facilitation and the troubles of excess regulations.