Thursday, April 10, 2014

Congress Double Speak Exposed In Kalpana Giri Murder Case

Why some of us don't really like AAP these days

What puts off some would-be AAP supporters is the party's ideological incoherence, says Rupa Subramanya

He came, he conquered and then, he retreated.

The story of the Aam Aadmi Party's tumultuous 49 days in power in Delhi, under its mercurial leader Arvind Kejriwal, resonates through the unfolding election campaign.

On a recent visit to the Bangalore South constituency, to which I belong, almost everyone I met told me of his/her deep disappointment with the AAP.

As one shrewd observer of the political scene told me, before it assumed power in Delhi, the AAP was like an "empty vessel" into which people could pour their hopes and aspirations.

After its stint in power, what the AAP was about and what it wasn't became clearer.

Many people I spoke to said Kejriwal's decision to form a government with Congress support was against a campaign promise. And, pulling the plug on his government when the going got rough was opportunistic and cynical, they said.

In short, it was no different from any other established political party.

It appears that Kejriwal's Delhi legacy is having a dampening effect on the prospects of AAP candidates in some key urban constituencies such as Bangalore South and Mumbai South, where I happen to live.

The AAP's feisty and refreshingly candid Bangalore South candidate, child rights activist Nina Nayak, agreed many potential AAP supporters had raised the matter of Kejriwal's Delhi stint with her as a concern. Whether her response -- the AAP is still a young party, feeling its way through such challenges -- placates disaffected supporters remains to be seen.

What also puts off some would-be AAP supporters is the party's ideological incoherence. When it has candidates from the far Left (for example, former social activists) to candidates on the centre-right (such as former banker Meera Sanyal), voters are rightly confused about where the AAP will stand on key issues around economic reform and the role of the market economy in a still heavily state-dominated system.
When asked about the AAP's ideology, Nayak replied it was an "issues-based" party and party members would put their heads together and work out each issue, as these came along. This isn't quite reassuring for a voter looking for a clear commitment to market-friendly economic policies in the unlikely scenario the AAP comes to power, or in the slightly less unlikely scenario of it forming part of a third front coalition.

Perhaps none of this should be a surprise, as those associated with the AAP still seem more like earnest social activists than hard-nosed politicians. Nayak is a former activist and many of her young team of volunteers, too, are activists involved with the India Against Corruption movement a few years ago.

Paradoxically, the AAP might be unwittingly working in favour of the BJP. While this won't be known until the votes are counted and analysed, anecdotally, there seems to be some evidence for this.

A Mumbai South voter told me she was grateful to the AAP for bringing to the fore the corruption and misgovernance of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, adding that was why she was supporting Narendra Modi and the BJP, because she believed the BJP could best tackle the problem. "Thank you AAP, but I'm voting for the BJP," seemed to be the message from this voter, as well as many others.
Another way in which the AAP might be a boon for the BJP is in a constituency such as Bangalore South, the AAP is much likely to drain away more support from the Congress, than from the BJP.

While Nayak isn't recognised as much as Congress candidate Nandan Nilekani, she is known among the deprived segments of this constituency, a natural vote base for the Congress. In what is widely seen as a tight contest, if the AAP manages to swing some of these votes away from the Congress and the middle-class vote base of the BJP's Ananth Kumar remains stable, it might just tip the election in favour of the wily five-time winner and incumbent Kumar.

This leaves many Bangalore South constituents wondering whom to vote for on April 17.

Speaking to me, a prominent AAP candidate offers some advice: "Vote for Nandan Nilekani, he's a good man."