The Aam Aadmi Party led by Arjun Kejriwal has stunned the entire nation by its astounding performance within a few months of forming their party. They have come close to capturing power in Delhi. Their arrival on the national scene with this shock performance came as a huge surprise for me. Like it caught the two national parties, the B.J.P and the Congress, napping. AAP people were the only ones who believed they would win. Money and lack of organization or experience were no deterrent for them. They had an overriding goal.
More than a year back, when Anna Hazare’s movement was at its peak, I was not very amused by the strident tone and tenor of Arjun Kejriwal, Kiren Bedi, Prashant Bhushan and the like. I hated their guts for questioning the status quo and for being iconoclasts. I liked Rahul Gandhi of the Congress party and I did not want the world around him to crumble. I trusted the genuineness that seemed to emanate from him.
Over the last few months, I toned down my prejudices and developed a sneaking admiration for what the Aam Admi Party represented.
What are the lessons for us from Aam Aadmi Party’s terrific performance?
If we have a burning dream you can claim it, if you believe in it passionately. This is an example of the power of dreams and purposes, at least as inspiring as Obama’s rise to the top. We can all blaze a trail with dreams provided there is enough fire power in the dreams.
There was something fiercely passionate about how Kejriwal, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan etc., communicated their cause. They exuded sincerity and honesty of purpose. And their cause seemed much larger than themselves. Common people who cherished similar values, were drawn to them. The trickle of such people slowly but surely reached the tipping point. Before anyone had realized, it had become a movement.
The common man in Delhi turned in several hours of voluntary work and cast their vote for the broom – not for or because of Kejriwal and his group. They did all these for themselves. Because the dream that burned within them had the same hue and aspirational value as those dreamed by Kejriwal and group.
This is precisely what Simon Sinek in one of the most popular Ted talks – ‘How great leaders inspire action’ – expounds very convincingly. The brunt of his message is, people do not buy something or buy into an idea because of what is offered. Instead, they do so because they identify with the belief systems of those leaders who offer them.
Sadly for the Congress party, people at the very top, Dr.Manmohan Singh, Sonia and Rahul hardly communicate their vision for the country. There is an opaqueness about what they really stand for and hence they are losing the perception battle. If leaders do not share their vision, how will people see the light of hope? Of course, to share a vision, they need one, to begin with.
Sonia and the top rung of her party may soon realize, citizens of the country are a discerning lot. They will no longer be bought over because they are inundated with populist schemes. Until they allow strong local leaders who are efficient and humane to emerge from the shadows, the grand old party may stay confined to the fringes.
While it speaks of the humility of Rahul when he conceded that his party has to learn from the Aam Aadmi party, it also indicated he has been quite clueless and in the dark so far. I hope he and his party sheds its feudal mindset – that the party will be run through a system of command and control from above.
These elections to the 5 states as also several preceding ones reveal people want to identify themselves with capable, decent people who speak their language. Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Raman Singh are perceived as good and efficient people with whom people can connect. The Congress Party, on the other hand, did not project such faces.
There is also a big constituency supporting Modi. To me, he is B.J.P’s biggest asset and potentially also the greatest liability. He is without doubt, very efficient. There is however ruthless meanness about him. When he speaks, he spews venomous ridicule. He will do well to remember that the law of diminishing returns could apply to him and his party if he persists in low level politics and rhetoric.
While people look for efficiency in leaders, they also want them to uphold lofty human values. What holds a nation together is not efficiency alone, but the common thread of decency, compassion and eternal values – without which we would all descent into chaos even as we flourish.
A nation gets the leader and government it deserves. Leaders are essentially barometers of the consciousness of the citizens. The arrival of Kejriwal and his party is indicative of the thirst among millions for a corruption-free, honest India. And the clamour for Modi and his ilk may be indicative of the impatience among volatile millions, for a ruthless, divisive, no-holds-barred push to take the centre stage, come what may.
Ultimately, we fashion the country as we are within.
Coming back to the rise of Aam Aadmi Party, we have to temper the euphoria with some measure of reality. We are yet to understand how the man on the street is going to decide the prices of essential commodities, petrol etc. I really hope the revolution they are trying to bring about is nothing like the failed revolution in George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’.
Leaders in the past have spoken the language of empowerment, equality and liberty, to end up suffocating the financial aspirations of people. Karl Marx, Fidel Castro, Mao, and in our country the leftists and Mamata held and hold similar lofty ideals. Yet they all managed to impoverish people with their short sighted, blinkered visions.
If Aam Aadmi Party’s vision of India is to usher in a corruption-free, utopian island cut of from the relentless and merciless pull and push of markets, the pendulum could very well swing the other way. Kejriwal has promised too much and I wish he finds creative ways to deliver them. The way to hell is paved with good intentions.
Yes, AAP has brought about a new thinking. They have broken to smithereens several established myths and notions. They represent a new paradigm. The churning that is happening is good news. Because, like the poet T.S Eliot says in The Murder in the Cathedral,
For good or ill, let the wheel turn
The wheel has been still, these seven years, and no good.
For ill or good, let the wheel turn.
For who knows the end of good or evil?
But, let us hasten, slowly.