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लम्बी दौड़ का घोड़ा : Why I think AAP is here forever


By Ratnakar Tripathy

AAP: breeding leaders rapidly

AAP: the art of breeding leaders 

Sorry Congress. Sorry BJP. This is about your worst nightmares come true. Yes, AAP is not going to prove the ephemera that you are dreaming of. Right now it may seem like a gadfly. Tomorrow it may well turn up at your doorsteps and become a fixture as a much bigger animal and match the many-winged, many-clawed fire breathing monsters that visit you at night, even as you get comforted during daytime by the polls sponsored by you and the simpering supporters thronging your vehicles. Let me clarify – my claim is not based on conversations with AAP leaders, some of whom I have known as friends, neighbours and acquaintances. It is not even based on my conversations with cab drivers on my way from the airport. It is not based on any conversation at all. It is frankly something easy to term a hallucination, an apparition seen at a moment of imagined clarity.

The trouble is like some other hallucinations in the past, my vision has been modified innumerable times in the face of constantly streaming reality and has now acquired the shape and feel of a hypothesis. Come 16th May, it may even become an established fact. I think my way of thought is better in that I begin with fantasy and get progressively closer to reality, while I feel you take off from a solid ground of reality and vanish into a cloud of delusory fulfilments and confirmations based on pseudoscientific polls. I have always wondered why politicians who are supposed to have their fingers on the voter’s pulses need to depend on the shaman pollsters to get a lay of the land.

Let me clarify further – I could if I wished produce a few dozen reasons why AAP is here not to go. But I will focus only one reason and that may suffice for the time being. This one reason has to do with the central idea of any political party in democracy – its idea of leadership.


Congress Party

Let me start with the Congress. It is widely known but rarely acknowledged that today the Congress party headquarters spends more time suppressing and reining in leadership in its own fold than encouraging growth of future leadership. This applies to both – the distant states where over time, the growth of serious leadership gets clipped routinely the way a gardener maintains his hedges. They must grow but only so much, which in reality amounts to – they cannot be allowed to grow beyond the heights dictated by the first family. Growing leaders are not like flower beds. Once you curb their spontaneity and force them to give in your will, they lose their natural drive.

Yes, of course the first family in a monarchic style allows the growth of parasites and mushrooms in and around Delhi. These are not leaders who will survive an election. They are party animals and their job is to fight and bark on TV shows against people with whom they cultivate deep intimacies with politicians from other parties.

And that is the end of the story of leadership as far as the Congress is concerned till another child is born, grows and gets groomed or an inactive sister decides to come to the fore.

The question remains – how did we end up with a first family in what is supposed to be a democracy? In its very inception as a ruling party, the Congress turned into a paternalistic regime of an extreme sort. Congress began to see democracy and all the accompanying rights and liberties as gifts given by it to the nation. In case you didn’t know – our rights are gifts from above, our liberties are manna from the heavens, our welfare schemes are personal favours of the benign and large-hearted top shots.  According to the Congress version, people of India did not win their rights – they were given them on a platter out of magnanimity.  This conception of democracy ensured the haloing of a first family which gets replicated in limited ways even among the state leadership.

You see the irony now – our democracy was spawned and re-spawned by an animal of the monarchic sort. Democracy as baksheesh?


BJP and its greater variety of leaders

BJP has its own well springs that show greater variety. First the RSS – the nursery, the ideology factory that mass produces its faithful cadre in the manner of an indoctrination centre. Catch them young, seems the primary policy. The thinking behind it may be, the RSS ideologyis difficult to stomach for an adult. Human beings are notoriously difficult to train into automata but if you start really young, you may expect some success. So you start by mixing your formulae in the milk bottles of the toddlers. Mullahs in Pakistan have also perfected this art.

Then there are those who join the BJP directly in adulthood and are always seen with some suspicion by the core members since they tend to show ideological latitude. Also, such late entrants fail to carry sufficient amounts of hatred for other Indian communities and falter at decisive moments. But they are indispensable as the public face of a shadowy organization. Some of these start as student leaders and are at times capable of switching parties. Such leaders must often develop two-way masks to thrive – they exhibit hard orthodoxy within the party, and then they show their soft liberality to the world.

There are of course the other shadowy elements – the innumerable affiliates of the RSS-BJP who busy themselves with various aspects of social service, mainly education, often among the tribals. RSS-BJP has their own frozen version of history and encourage exotic theories such as those that claim the Indian civilization is 10 million years old.

In recent times, the BJP has received significant entrants through what the press mistakenly calls the ‘fringe’ elements, and the BJP endorses the terminology. These are the vigilantes who attack women in pubs and on the road. They also attack exhibitions and meetings in the manner of lightening squads and vamoose before the cops turn up. The BJP has an interesting relation with them – they do not belong to RSS-BJP officially. But they are central to its existence. They are the fringe that’s indispensable. This fringe is a good deal as it comes with much deniability. Some fringe!


AAP and its mushrooming leaders

With the Congress thus busily crushing its rising leaders and the RSS-BJP imposing ideological straightjackets that are getting straighter by the day, becoming a political leader these days is a tough proposition unless you are family – this is encouraged equally by the Congress and the BJP. Even the smaller or regional parties must choose between the two options when it comes to their leadership policy.

On the other hand AAP is a loose embrace of its few slogans – RTI, Jan Lokpal, anti-corruption, and opposition to violence. The leadership is open to all – rich, poor, young and old. Although I do expect an AAP candidate or leader to be rather educated with or without a college degree! AAP seems to permit what a growing leader would love the most – you are the master of your own destiny as long as you can prove yourself. You don’t get carried on anyone’s shoulders but you don’t have to carry anyone on your shoulders either.

Which is why AAP is likely to enjoy a continued influx of leadership talent in the coming months and years. This will at times encourage the shams and the interlopers, but the open competition, lacking in BJP and Congress, will weed them out soon enough.

There is a hidden clause here – you must carry enough passion and anger in your heart against injustice and corruption. But isn’t that the prerequisite of a leader anyway?

What else does an aspiring leader in a democracy want?

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