Karthik Dinne
Why AAP is not the Radical Left

The voters in Delhi and people in general must understand the nuances of the debate and not be swayed by the mainstream political commentary and prejudices

This is in response to Rupa Subramanya’s piece titled ‘Why Radical Left AAP Should Sorry Us’. In the present article, this author discusses the three arguments discussed in the aforementioned post– Kejriwal’s self claim about being an anarchist, leftist nature of AAP and decentralization.

First, the anarchist claims of Kejriwal. The video cited in the Rupa Subramanya’s article clearly shows that Kejriwal was saying ‘Yes, I am an anarchist’ only rhetorically, more in a sarcastic sense, on him being repeatedly called an anarchist. The simple definition of anarchy is that it refers to a society without a publicly enforced government. As per this, there exists nothing called law. In this context, in the very same video, Kejriwal has requested the crowd numerous times to act ‘as per law’ and not to indulge in any violent activity.  Also, the fact that he is contesting to form a government means that he nowhere fits into the definition of anarchy. We need to exercise caution while extrapolating rhetorical statements from a political speech, taking them out of context and drawing far reaching conclusions.

Second, the leftist nature of AAP. Rupa Subramanya’s article discusses about some people in AAP and their writings in the past and thus calls AAP as radical left. However, this is no metric to call the party as leftist or the nature of policies put forward by AAP as leftist. By this metric, BJP would stand for Swamy’s opinion of refusing voting right to those who don’t accept Hindu ancestry. On the counter side, there are also people like Meera Sanyal in AAP who is the President of India Liberal Group. She is one of the core members who led the preparation of manifesto for Delhi Assembly Elections, 2015. There are examples on all sides. The fact being, AAP is a party that has come out of a public movement. For the first time, many people found this as a good platform to engage in politics and hence there are wide variety of people within the party. The true nature of policies are known only through the manifesto and not by opinions of specific individuals. Some excerpts from the manifesto

– “AAP will formulate trader-friendly policies and streamline rules and regulations for setting up and running businesses. We will simplify compliance and licensing for traders and put in place a system of single window clearance. We will also ensure that starting a trade or business in Delhi takes a maximum time of one week.”

– “AAP will simplify VAT rules, processes and forms. The 30 page long VAT form will be crunched into one page for traders.”

In a speech at CII, Kejriwal said “Government has no business in business. Government should not do business. All this should be left to the private sector.”  CPI(M) also has accused him of being a crony capitalist for making this remark.

At the same time there may be some issues which aren’t under this category. In such cases, we should carefully examine if it is the nature of the particular policy and analyze vis-à-vis the other parties’ policies regarding the same. In this context, we must observe and understand an important distinction here. The manifesto and policies of AAP are formulated through a 4 month long consultation with people, giving them opportunity to contribute to the policy at every step. For people who are genuinely interested in pushing the policy ideas, AAP gives a platform with more opportunity than any others.

Third, Swaraj and decentralization. ‘Swaraj’ as advocated by AAP is nothing but the decentralization of governance as envisioned in the 73rd and 74th amendments of the constitution. The Mohalla Sabhas are nothing but the decision making bodies which form part of the typical decentralization process, except for a different use of terminology. There are two common arguments or doubts expressed by people regarding this; how can everything be decentralized? Will mohalla sabha start deciding foreign policy? and what if the gram sabhas indulge in illegal activities? Decentralization doesn’t mean that every power is devolved. Obviously, things like national security, foreign policy will be decided by Central Government and their equivalent parts to be decided by State Government. Swaraj or decentralization only envisions to decentralize those parts of the governance and delivery which can be handled at a local stage.  This also doesn’t mean that the local bodies are above the system of law. There will be checks and balances to not let this happen. In fact many of the government programmes today are overseen and monitored by the Gram Sabhas. Many people have been advocating this idea, including Jayaprakash Narayan of Lok Satta, who advocated for powers to ward committees with funds of Rs. 1000/- per person. Never was  he called an anarchist for arguing so. Decentralization of governance is as much needed for India as anything else and we should understand that this is a process that has to evolve. We must separate the arguments about the specifics of decentralization from the general idea.

Thus, none of the points discussed in the article are a complete representation of the truth and hence don’t withstand scrutiny.

The voters in Delhi and people in general must understand the nuances of the debate and not be swayed by the mainstream political commentary and prejudices.