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Transparency and simplicity alone do not ensure effective governance
Wednesday December 25, 2013 10:13 PM, S. Mohammed Irshad

The results of the 2013 assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chatisgrah and Delhi could have been a normal exercise of parliamentary democracy, however, this time the results were significantly political due to the presence of the Aam Admi Party (Common People's Party). Otherwise, there would not have much political significance for the results. The political significance is the manifesto and the responsibility of the AAP to implement and do justice to their promise. AAP phenomena remind us about the Jayaprakash Narayan's movements. JP fought corruption and the then Prime minister of India, Ms Indira Ghandi had to face the brunt of it. JP's movement did not have any direct political party affiliation or nature, however, the slogans were political in nature. The term, 'total revolution' was a significant political slogan at that time ( it is still important). Corruption and nepotism of the Congress Party were the target of the JP movement, it brought out some of young leaders like Lalu Prasad Yadav, however, the movement could not keep the momentum of the action, rather it could not withstand the tactics of parliamentary democracy and the influence of interest group over it. Ironically Lalu Prasad Yada later on turned to be a corrupt politician.

Unlike JP movement AAP party has tried parliamentary democracy and had huge success in its first trial. JP movement did not do that, it was more of a corrective force based on political morality rather than political party itself. That is the fundamental difference between AAP and JP movement. Anna Hazare had that stature, however, does not have the ability to take on the political forces. Now the onus is for AAP to prove that they are politically and economically different from other parliamentary parties. The winning strategy of AAP was successful beyond any doubts, however what is more important is the sustaining strategy. Congress and BJP do not have this crisis; their mandate is clear since they have the common economic policy. Both of them promote right wing economic policy and have completely aligned with private corporate sectors. The private business houses have nothing to do with these results, since, the parliamentary parties aren't going to put any restrictions on them. Apart from that people who have voted for BJP and Congress do not expect any differences in-terms of economic policy. Hence, for them there is absolutely no reason to worry about the governance.

This is indeed the most challenging job ahead of AAP, although they claim that they are neither right nor left , the party has to demonstrate its capability to take on the market ideology. The ideological position may not be a matter; however, the response to the current economic policy would be a significant challenge to the party. The Left parties have kept saying it, but could not demonstrate it to the public. They could not make a difference in West Bengal, although they had ruled the state for 35 years. This is the challenge, and voters of Delhi opted for the AAP precisely because of their slogans and promises. The major challenge ahead of the party is to control the price of essential commodities, water supply, electricity and combat corruption. Apart from that AAP has to show how does the party respond to the coalition politics. These are interrelated in our system, corruption is a symptom and not a disease, the larger question is whether Jan Lokpal is a solution? It is true that, Jan Lokpal is applicable to some extent and not the only solution.

The political corruption can attract people's attention in a poor country like India, and no parliamentary party is free from corruption. There is limited space for BJP to question the Congress party in this regards and vice versa. This made JP movement different during the 1970s, and this makes AAP different in Delhi. JP had national appeal, however, AAP yet to prove their national acceptance as a political party. JP movement did not have any pressure to prove their national character, however, the AAP has to prove it. It is a fact that the majority of Indians does agree with the current economic policy, so, whoever offers an alternative would get an opportunity to prove it. This is what AAP got in Delhi. The real political challenge is with AAP, if the party is successful, it would have national implications, at least it empowers civil society groups.

The most critical question is the economic policy of the party, would they able to regulate the market price through government interventions? or continue with the populist rhetoric. The major promise of the party was price reduction and it is obvious that, the major beneficiaries of the price rise are the private sector. In principle AAP does not suit for any coalition in Indian politics, so that is going to be a political crisis. The existence of the AAP as what it stands for depending on their fight with the market. The party has not yet expressed any significant view on this critical issue, if not the party would end up with an NGO.

The success of the party exposes the personality politics of BJP and Congress, if the BJP had not projected Narendra Modi as prime minster candidate, BJP would have the same result. Similarly, Rahul Ghandi was not responsible for his party's poor performance in the election. They are not the winning factors and the winning factor is the lack of alternatives and the lack of differences among other political forces. Both Congress and BJP went far ahead in creating that vacuum. AAP's success is they had broken that vacuum and place an alternative force. The parliamentary left could have done that much before than AAP, however, the parliamentary left party leader is more confused than Congress and BJP.

AAP's transparency in keeping accounts and simplicity alone does not ensure effective governance. The growth of the movement as a parliamentary political party depended on, a) alternative economic policy and b) expose the fake personality trait of communal leadership. There is nothing wrong if Aravind Kejrival becomes another Jayaprakash Narayanan, yet, he has to categorically demonstrate its economic policy and position on market economy.

S. Mohammed Irshad (PhD) is Assistant Professor at Jamsetji Tata Centre for Disaster Management. Tata Institute of Social Sciences. He can be contacted at

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