Raising Aspirations of Aam Aadmi

In the results declared on 10th February, 2015, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by Shri Arvind Kejriwal has a landslide victory. Winning sixty-seven seats (54.3% votes) out of the seventy assembly segments is no ordinary feat and the party convener, top leadership, candidates  and supporters deserve full marks and appreciation for this unprecedented victory. In a parliamentary democracy, what really matters is the people’s mandate and people in Delhi have this time solidly rallied behind the AAP on their dream agenda of good governance and better life for citizens. Irrespective of any difference in opinion or party affiliation, people’s mandate and faith in AAP must be endorsed and respected.

It may be remembered on the last occasion in 2013, the AAP formed a government with the support of the Congress Party and the government lasted only for 49 days. The period was characterized by retreating from the hasty decisions, freebies to common public putting undue stress on the exchequer, confrontation within the Legislative Assembly, Dharna and agitation against the federal government before quitting within the short period. This was followed by another fiasco in General Elections at  the national level where the Party fought against the maximum seats all over the country and miserably lost. Ever since Shri Kejriwal, often branded as the runaway Chief Minister, and the AAP have been constantly apolizing and pleading before the Delhi public that they could not deliver last time because of fragmented mandate given to them and will now meet all promises made if the Party is given another chance with full mandate. Commensurate with the sky high raised aspirations, the common public has now given them another chance with a thumping majority with hardly any opposition left and now it will be an acid test for the Party to deliver on the promises made.

Losers, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and Indian National Congress (INC) need to do some soul searching now. While BJP has some face saving by winning three seats with vote share dipped by only about one percent to 32.2 as compared to previous assembly elections about a year back, the Congress has to really worry with their complete rout and the vote bank shrinking to about 9.8% as compared to 24.55% in 2013 assembly elections. In other words, the major chunk of traditional Congress voters have switched over to the AAP that has ensured a landslide victory with virtually no opposition left.

Though the author has no affiliation, sympathy or aversion with any political party yet at the same time he has not been appreciative of the AAP particularly keeping in view what they did last time after winning the people’s mandate. But the outcome of this election and meteoric rise of the AAP has certainly compelled him, like many others too, to ponder as to what are the likely reasons behind this extra-ordinary feat. Obviously, the answers mainly lie in the AAP Manifesto and seventy-point Action Plan on which perhaps they have been able to successfully persuade and convince the Delhi electorate in their door-to-door campaigning and canvassing. Then BJP’s disproportionate and aggressive campaign with massive involvement and deployment of the Central leadership, manpower and material resources in a small state election and last minute change of the flag-bearer are perhaps negative factors having failed to convince the electorate. Of course, total disillusionment and alienation of the electorate with the Congress is another significant factor.

The salient points from the AAP Manifesto and Action Plan are briefly summarized here:

  • A Delhi that provides employment to all.
  • A Delhi provides high quality education to all.
  • A Delhi that ensures excellent healthcare to all.
  • A Delhi that is safe for women.
  • A Delhi that keeps pace with an ever increasing population’s demands for more roads, transport and traffic systems.
  • A Delhi that provides affordable electricity and clean drinking water to all its citizens.
  • A Delhi that provides essential services to all its citizens.
  • A Delhi proud of the Yamuna brought alive by clean water and beautiful riverbank.
  • A Delhi where all communities live together, secure in a social fabric that is inclusive and peaceful.
  • A Delhi that is pollution-free; and
  • A Delhi where the citizen is made an equal stakeholder and voice in the city’s progress.
As can be seen from the above, it looks like a dream come true for the citizens or Ram Rajya which we often talk about in India but in reality it appears like chasing a mirage ever. It cannot be denied that in 2014 Parliamentary elections, the NDA formed the government with massive mandate, if not so ambitious then on somewhat similar assurances and commitments. Apart from the Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill, Swaraj Bill and full statehood, the AAP has committed on reduction of the electricity bill to half, clean drinking and free lifeline water, 500 new schools and 20 new colleges, 2,00,000 public toilets, increased spending on education and healthcare, 900 new Primary Health Centres and 30, 000 additional beds in Delhi hospitals, 47 new fast-track courts for speedy justice, Wi-Fi freely available across Delhi, lowest VAT regime, 8 lakhs jobs in next five years, regularise all contractual posts, at least 5,000 new buses in Delhi fleet, and so on so forth. These are only some illustrations of the large number of commitments and assurances made by the Party for the next five years.
Stability and good governance are indeed key factors for the sustained and long term development and growth of any community, state or country. General public which actually constitutes electorate in a democratic set up must also learn that it is their bounden duty to pay at least for the cost of the service they receive, barring certain unprivileged sections of the society for whom the state must render partial or full support for a given period through subsidy etc. If a person is using electricity or water or cooking gas, he or she must be willing to pay for the reasonable cost of the same. India is a vast country of over 1250 million people and surely Delhi is better placed than the rest in terms of resource deployment, infrastructure development and civic amenities etc.
To provide any service - free or otherwise, to open any school or college, to augment health and sanitation, and for that matter for any other development, the government needs resources through an approved budget. In ordinary parlance, the budget is an estimate of all revenues and expenditure of the government for the given period which, at best, could be partially supplemented by certain miscellaneous mechanism such as borrowings, raising of treasury bonds etc. In the common Jargon, we call it the tax payer’s money and any government can spend only to the extent it has raised resources. If a government does not realize the cost of service and keeps taxation to naught or minimal, and resorts to freebies and subsidies as a populist measure, it remains questionable as to how it will augment resources to create housing, new schools and colleges, hospitals and healthcare, roads etc.
The massive infrastructure growth in India in the infrastructure sector like power, roads, communications etc, in the recent years have been achieved not by the government spending alone but largely through public-private participation which enabled heavy in-flows and investment in the sector. Such investment is not possible unless the government creates investor and developer friendly policies and reforms. After all, a private investor or developer company is not a charity organisation; they will be willing to invest and participate only if the commensurate recovery with a reasonable return is assured.

So today, if you are travelling through a hassle free drive on a four or six lane highway, you have to pay a premium at prescribed outlets. If you expect free or concessional amenities and services, oppose FDI and other private investment, and oppose levy of taxes and duties but, at the same time, heavily rely on such assurances made by any political party in the poll fray, you are bound for sure to learn bitter lessons in five years before making mind to go for another change. But sadly in the process, you will also be pushing back the state or country in terms of development and growth by the same period.
It is ironical and sad that many of us are not able to appreciate worth of a programme or scheme unless they perceive or actually receive some free material or financial gain. A case in point could be the Jan Dhan Yojana of the Central Government. Prime Minister Modi had formally launched this scheme on 30th August, 2014 declaring that the scheme was aimed at eradicating financial untouchability by providing bank accounts to the poor. The scheme was aimed at targeting about 7.5 crore people by January 26, 2015, who will be provided with zero-balance bank account, a RuPay debit card and the life insurance cover of Rs 30,000 besides an accidental insurance cover of Rs one lakh. It was also envisaged that each account holders will be provided an overdraft facility up to Rs 5,000 in due course.

By mid January, 2015, banks had opened about 11.50 crore accounts surpassing the target significantly with a cumulative deposit of about 9,188 crores covering more than 99% of the households that were outside the banking system. Of this, the share of women account holders is about 51% and 60% of the accounts are in rural areas. Here the case in point is that a large number of rural folk, women and illiterate people have been hesitant in the past to go to bank for opening of an account due to various hassles and tedious procedure involved. With the government initiative to facilitate it, most of them have successfully opened their accounts, are inculcating banking habits by saving money, with the accrued benefits of the stated life insurance and accidental insurance cover. But the critics and opposition parties still criticise it often by twisting facts by saying when will government fulfil its promise of depositing Rs 5,000 in their account.

Now the point is the NCT Delhi has elected its government on the most populist agenda under sky so far with virtually no opposition for the next five years. The next in the line comes the formation of government and implementation of the AAP Manifesto and Action Plan. This remains to be seen in the times ahead whether the party and government would revisit its Manifesto and Action Plan to fine-tune it realistically commensurate with their revenue resources or they will soon go on a warpath with the Central Government by demanding disproportionate share to meet their massive commitments and start passing buck and blame on the latter for every failure.
Irony is that the political party raises the aspirations of people and bureaucracy is told to translate it to reality.


More by :  Dr. Jaipal Singh

Top | Opinion

Views: 3312      Comments: 7

Comment AAP had every right to give promises to the people at the time of election but it is to be seen whether it can fulfil them to what extent and with which priority
All these depend on monetary resources under its control.And also on how Kejariwal
maintains his relations with centre for guidance and monetary assistance.He has support of the voters and he should not fail them under the conditions which are in Delhi.

pranlal sheth
19-Feb-2015 09:10 AM

Comment Thank you, Dr Gopal Singh, for your mature and valid observations. Democracy has its own price to pay but the mandate of people must be respected.

To my mind, one of the major issues these days is the politicians and parties making plethora of commitments on concessions and freebies which suits a large section of populace including those who could easily afford it.

My apprehensions are mainly because on one hand the AAP talks of every facility and concession under the sky for people in Delhi, on the other hand they also talk of the lowest VAT and other tax regime in Delhi, which happens to be main source of revenue. To rely too much on Central assistance may not be a right approach, besides it may be unfair on the latter's part too to disproportionately allocate overlooking competing priorities of 30 States.

18-Feb-2015 05:20 AM

Comment Very well articulated !

All the challenges that you enumerated are real and immediate. However, the mandate allows them to proceed with some degree of efficiency.

The real change that I see here is the will of the electorate to overcome the prevailing trends. Modi wave was such an event, mostly shaped by the electorate (more so than Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh or the RSS). People were just fed up with corrupt and inefficient governance and they saw hope in Modi. This time, the people in Delhi, feel that AAP is a better choice than Modi (or BJP if that really matters) for Delhi. It is becoming more and more clear that the political pundits and strategist cannot manipulate the electorate as in the past. That speaks volumes for Indian Democracy.

As far as, whether they voted to gain benefits from the promises, real chance to participate in the local level decision process, getting rid of living with corruption or all of these remains to be seen.

The biggest challenge that AAP faces is to homogenize their government and organization to act as a cohesive unit without losing their individual idealistic aspirations. Young parties and idealists face this challenge repeatedly. Most of the idealists and crusaders are fiercely independent and lack the discipline to work within a group or a system.

As you pointed out, only time will tell where all this goes. I personally feel that this experiment bodes well for India and Indian Democracy.

15-Feb-2015 01:07 AM

Comment Jeti Ji, having a reasonable understanding of Budget and Finance, I think 70 Point Action Plan appear indeed very optimistic. Yet I feel it's better to wait and watch...

14-Feb-2015 07:18 AM

Comment Thank you, Kulbirji.

14-Feb-2015 07:11 AM

Comment It is envisaged that to meet heavy commitment, there is bound to be confrontation with center and in addition chaos on Delhi roads and destruction that will follow.

14-Feb-2015 01:11 AM

Comment Jaipal Sahib,

Thanks for enlightening the readers of Boloji.

12-Feb-2015 10:21 AM

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