By Kancha Ilaiah
Jan 15, 2014
It is nice to see men who would normally not like to be seen wielding Jhadoos at home brandishing brooms in public like trophies. The Aam Aurats of India must be feeling good that, at least, some middle class Aadmis have snatched their Jhadoos, if not to sweep their homes then at least to sweep away old, fogy parties and politicians.
The emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party, as the second best performer in Delhi Assembly elections, has created euphoria about political change in several parts of the country. So the question is whether the AAP experiment would get replicated across India with the middle- class youth and so called conscientious people supporting it to displace all other parties? It is often said that the AAP has set aside all divisive politics — caste, gender, communal, regional — and a change of radical nature has ushered in. I would say, not yet, not in its current avatar.
Let me cite two historic examples of success and failure of earlier such experiments. The first is the Paris Commune experiment of 1871. An organised working class group took over political power in Paris with the support of the middle and working classes. It tried out the first-ever socialistic distributive administration in the world. It was a short-lived experiment yet it taught the world how class politics could be organised. It threw up the first women’s liberation ideology because it was totally pro-women. It restructured the taxation system. That became a model for later communist parties of the world. It, thus, was a short-lived success.
The second comparison could be with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) coming to power in West Bengal in 1977 on the main plank of land distribution. It believed in non-casteist class transformation and distributed land under Operation Barga. It did not recognise the social justice principle, never acknowledged the caste background of leaders and cadres. That resulted in only the Brahminic Bhadralok ruling the state for 35 years. The CPI(M) rule is also known as corruption free, but the wealth remained only in the hands of Bhadralok. The life of the working class, slum dwellers and Muslims in Bengal, including Kolkata, is worse than any of those living in southern Indian states where social justice through reservation has improved the lot of all sections. The CPI(M) experiment was a long lived failure.
Now let’s look at the AAP. The AAP is categorically a male-centred party and, so far, this aspect has not been criticised by women activists, within or outside the party. The very name of the party suggests that the women’s movement that challenged the man-woman equation has been set aside, and this fact is reinforced by the fact that the forces around it haven’t yet uttered a word about the long pending Women’s Reservation Bill. Their agenda was and remains the Lokpal Bill. The women of this country need to think about its name, form and non-ideological rhetoric of settling women’s issues.
But if the rhetoric of anti-corruption is a revolution, then the concept of revolution itself should be removed from the dictionary of political science.
The AAP is a party built on Hindi chauvinism. And this was obvious in its Janmabhoomi — the Jantar Mantar — where Anna Hazare unknowingly fostered its birth to chants of Bharat Mata Ki Jai. Those days, recorded for posterity, smacked of neo-fascism, as does their favourite slogan. All the convent educated members of the party, including founder Arvind Kejrewal, talk like Hindiwallahs in globalised India. The AAP’s Gandhi Topi flaunts letters in Hindi, not English. For this aspect alone it is not likely to find acceptability in south India.
The AAP leadership comes from the middle- class intelligentsia with an agenda of moral politics. The main anchor of that political morality is corruption. But elimination of corruption is not an ideology in itself, like abolition of class or annihilation of caste. Corruption has been a cultural practice of the Indian castocracy for centuries. The roots of corruption are not in political system; they are in Indian social system. The AAP has no programme to change the social system at all.
Unlike many European and American countries, India adopted a political democracy over the social system of castocracy, which sustains the caste centred corruption in the society. Despite a constitutional democratic system in place, some castes never do productive work but acquire the maximum wealth. A vast number of lower castes carry out tedious tasks related to production and the returns they accrue is hardly enough for survival. The super rich in India hail from the same unproductive castes and the poorest from the lowest castes. Caste divide and class exploitation make the lives of people more miserable. The entire life of the rich depends on the historically evolved mechanism of corruption. Yet the AAP wants to treat corruption as an independent variable, a thought process that cannot sustain a political party. Nowhere in the world could a political party survive for long, working around only issue of corruption.
The AAP’s key leaders, who hail from the same upper caste-middle class, do not want to treat corruption as a historically evolved cultural and social practice. They want to treat corruption as an accidental residue of immoral rulers of other parties.
It, at least, does not have school educational reform that can change the very base of the society in their agenda. Even in this realm they are not clear whether like the children of AAP leaders all other slum children have a right to English medium education or not. Can they tell the nation that the Delhi school education would be uniform and bilingual in public and private schools? So long it does not touch any basic issues it cannot go anywhere near the short- lived Paris Commune experiment either.
Kancha Ilaiah is director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad