Once the victory drums go silent after the Delhi Municipal carnival, the conscientious Indian will be left wondering what the noise was really all about? What are we celebrating today? A change of faces in some dingy government offices? Or is it really about something that can have a bearing on our destiny in the long run? In this hullabaloo, what is more important? The victory of Narendra Modi-led BJP or the defeat of the Aam Admi Party? Why is no one even talking about the defeat of the Congress and is focusing mainly on the rout of the AAP?
The journey of AAP from the Anna Hazare’s Aam Admi Project to Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Admi Party signals the downfall of a noble dream into dirty dungeons of a power play. Anna’s AAP was a dream that had sprouted into a feeble yet promising plant before it was over-run by the rampaging crowds shouting a personality cult above its core principle. The day Anna’s AAP was downgraded to Arvind’s AAP, the Project was already ruined, and the Party was over.
Why were the MCD elections important – or why at least is the poll being projected as a national event where it is nothing more than a local civic election? There is a reason to it, and that reason is AAP. The issues at stake in the local election were not the issues that are at stake in local elections ever anywhere in the country. What after all can be the issues at stake in a municipal poll that should so interest the entire nation that the entire media, even international media, should find itself interested in its outcome? What implications do these issues can have on the future of our country, our children and their children?
Well, there was just one issue: a dream. Some time back – roughly three years ago – the conscientious Indian found its eyes rolling to a new dream. The dream was that the ugly reality around us not only needs but even can be changed. The dream produced a dreamer who resembled a messiah. Just three to four years later, the conscientious Indian has been left wondering what happened to that dream which promised to completely transform our national narrative?
How often have these dreams been promised and betrayed in the past? Will the people of the country ever be lucky to find a champion to carry such a noble dream to the victory post, or will we forever keep missing its realisation, mired as remain in petty mutual incriminations and recriminations at the cost of ‘the dream’?
On August 14-15 midnight 1947, we were told about “a tryst with destiny” which India had made long before that night. The goal defined by the star-cast of the tryst was drawn from a group if Individuals who appeared like a Club of the Idealists, and whose words and dreams were built around some truly noble ideals: dignity of man, rule of law and equality before it , regardless of caste, creed , sex or region or language. The fine print also read interesting because it spoke of the ideals laid down before us by the great saints, seers, gurus and prophets. Gandhi, Jawahar Lal Nehru and a few others, with all their faults, still endeared themselves to the idealist Indian because they seemed to speak about an uncommon future of the nation in the language of the common man.
But by the time the country came to face the humiliation of the Chinese Aggression in 1962, the heroes had already begun to look like pale shadows of their own selves. 1966 brought in Indira Gandhi demonstrated how illusions can be confused with dreams for political opportunism. Garibi Hatao was a new dream. But by 1974, that dream had already been exposed for what it truly was: a political slogan. In between, Bangladesh provided the only instance of reality looking larger than dreams in the country’s history, but that reality itself was a mirage, yielding practically nothing to the good of the common Indian. A dream shattered led to the country waking up to a reality which was worse than a nightmare: the Emergency.
Soon came Jay Prakash Narayan with a new dream – Total Revolution. This was truly the first time when the country dreamt of a genuine democracy rather than a sham which was nothing more than the iron hand of dictatorship hidden in the velvet gloves of democracy. A people’s movement in the truest sense, Jay Parkash Narayan’s movement led the country to its first tryst with hope and his call for Total Revolution against the corrupt junta had a ring of sincerity about it which has seldom been seen again on the country’s political landscape.
But JP’s dream crashed on the rocks of the Janata Party, India’s first experiment with a non-Congress coalition at the center. When Morarjee Desai was sworn in as the Prime Minister following the Janata Wave elections, India seemed to be sitting on the hour of a glorious dawn into a genuine, people democracy – clean, transparent, accountable and above all, truly people’s own thing. But in less than 30 months, it was all gone. People who had backed this dream as a chance to transform the fabric of our national character felt betrayed. Fortunately for him, JP was already dead by then – an utterly disappointed, disillusioned and neglected lonely figure in Jaslok Hospital.
Indira Gandhi roared back to power. The old empire had struck back. Dreams lay shattered all about the deserted spaces between the Inda Gate and the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
On a lesser scale, the dream showed signs of being re-kindled. Manpreet Singh Badal in Punjab gave a call for a new frm of Revolution, using the metaphor of Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh to underscore his idealism. People seemed to believe him and they flocked to him in hundreds of thousands of Punjabis. Manpreet’s PPP ( Punjab People’s Party) spoke of a system in which the common man would be the King, the VIP culture would be gone, transparent and accountable administration the top priority and above all, the gap between the rulers and the people would be completely abolished. It was the high noon of Punjab’s tryst with a new form of idealism, one which had never captured the imagination of the people of Punjab like it did under the influence of Manpreet’s oratory. Personally, sitting in the opponent camp, I never believed that Manpreet meant to live up to the dream he was sponsoring. He didn’t, and that was that as Punjab’s first experiment with a people’s revolution fell on its face, largely due to the insincerity of its heroes.
I did not think that Punjab would be ready for a similar gamble anytime soon. Yet, to my surprise, came the Aam Admi Party, basically a Delhi phenomenon. Nobody quite knew when it developed roots in Punjab. The party that did not even seem to exist walked with four seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections, and almost all four belonged to a category that was somewhat different from the run of the mill politicians.
That started a political and idealistic tsunami. Kejriwal descended on Punjab and for many months, it seemed that he was ruling the dreams of all Punjabis. And perhaps, he was – till he blew it all away through sheer arrogance and a resort to tricks of the old-world politics: excessive centralization of power in his own hands, utter neglect of the backbone of his movement, the workers, horse trading, selling of tickets, pandering to the radical constituency, caste-ist cards and so on. This was a game which his opponents knew much better than him, and he was outclassed.
Even before Delhi-2017 happened, AAP had lost its sheen, rejected by the very Punjabis who were the only ones in the country to give it four seats. Punjab is where AAP dug its grave ith its own hands.
Now that even Delhi shock has been delivered and AAP would not even know what hit them, much less how to recover from the shock, it is clear that we are close to writing the obituary of a most significant experiment in Indian democracy, an experiment which was a dream – and a dream worth pursuing.
One feels so sad for the way the AAP leadership has frittered away a glorious opportunity which they had themselves created for the country. It seems that the people who got attracted to AAP showed greater faith in and sincerity towards the AAP-vision than those who had presented it as a political alternative. To me, AAP, and before this, the Manpreet Badal experiment were actually more of social phenomena and ethical upsurges than political alternatives. In both cases, the parent killed the child.
True, as someone loyal to the SAD and more particularly to Sardar Parkash Singh Badal, I was always opposed to both the PPP and AAP but the reason for that was not my opposition to what they presented but the absolute certainty I felt about the insincerity of the movers behind the idea.
And I feel extremely sad to be vindicated in this case. Even though I would always want only my own party to win, yet I cannot deny a lurking admiration for the ideals which this party originally seemed to propagate. But the AAP leadership deserves a hot place in hell for having woken up the people from a deep slumber, then presenting them with a dream which must be realised with eyes wide open, and finally ditching the dream and millions of dreamers just because one man and his coteries loved power above everything else. What were they accusing their opponents of? The traditional parties at least did not sell sacred dreams. AAP did and then sold its armies away for personal gain.
I believed and still believe that both PPP and AAP were noble ideas but unfortunately for them and even more unfortunately for the country, in both instances, it was a case of a right idea falling into wrong hands. As noble as the dream was, the motives of those selling the dream were far from noble. Therefore, from the start, the experiment was destined to crash sooner or later. That it crashed much sooner than even its opponents expected is thanks to the glorious molestation of a virgin dream by the opportunists who paraded the virgin dream in the streets just to fill their own kitties with power and a lot else.
I still mourn – sincerely mourn – the premature death of an off-spring that could have turned into a Messiah. It’s an infanticide: the offspring killed by its parent, the dream betrayed by the dreamer. There were those who wanted to market this dream for their own ends, and eventually, the dream suffered a deliberate infanticide – an abortion because the pregnancy wasn’t producing the desired gender: power.
The off-spring has been killed. Unfortunately, the acts of the promoters of the dream have set the nation back by several decades because it will take quite some time now before the people of India begin to trust someone else who comes to fight for a place of respect for the molested virgin.
We must all hail the ship that was originally the motif behind Anna’s AAP experiment. But the sad thing is that it was sunken by bad commanders. They had an excellent crew at the junior level and all the passengers wanted to reach a dream destination. But they have been sunken because of the greed and ambitiousness of the commander/s.
All said, Aam Admi Project is not dead: Aam Admi Party is. The dream is still relevant and deserves followers and needs champions.
All in all, it is a sad day for India that this dream collapsed. There will indeed be new generations keen on reviving this dream. There are millions who want this dream to succeed. But their task has been rendered extremely difficult by Kejriwal and company. And they will not be forgiven easily by the people of this country.