The Aam Aadmi Party’s maverick ways, especially its 36-hour-long Rail Bhavan dharna led by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal himself, have drawn unprecedented flak from its political opponents, the middle class, and the media: “utterly irresponsible”, “political posturing”, “descent into anarchy”, “anti-constitutional”, “holding Delhi to ransom”, “threat to the Republic”… Some commentators believe AAP has either “lost it” altogether, or has larger, devious plans for the national elections. AAP’s supporters however see the dharna as an audacious means of citizen mobilisation to change the rules of India’s political game and bring governance down to earth (literally!)—a confrontation from which AAP has emerged a “clear winner”.
What AAP will do with its growing leverage remains unknown. Its character is as yet somewhat hazy and fluid. AAP is India’s first political-party product of a civil society mobilisation since the 1970s. NGOs. AAP’s leadership (or political base) is strongly middle class and dominated by technocrats and professionals. But its social base, which voted for it, is “a coalition of extremes”.
AAP claims to have no ideology or affinity to doctrines like socialism, secularism, liberalism or Hindutva. Ideology, it says, is “for the pundits and the media…” AAP is itself content to be “solution-focused”. It deplores the “tendency to pin down political parties as Left, Right, Centre…”
In an optimistic scenario, the BJP’s “three-state” gamble may pay off. More realistically, it may not. The BJP has the advantage of having emerged as an urban winner in a few states. For instance, in Gujarat, it bagged 58 percent of city votes, to the Congress’s 28 percent. But Gujarat is 40-percent urbanised. The BJP can’t replicate its performance in Bihar and UP, with their 11 and 22 percent urbanisation rates.
The Aam Aadmi Party’s dizzying ascent to power in India’s capital should make all political parties revisit their long-held assumptions about what platforms and strategies succeed in elections and how they shape the equations underlying national politics.
It speaks poorly of India’s public discourse that the slightest perception or allegation of “hurt” to “national prestige” instantly produces a disproportionate, indeed hysterical, reaction.
Within days of making a stunning electoral debut in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party finds itself in a dilemma. Both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress have offered to support AAP if it forms a government with 28 members in the 70-strong Legislative Assembly. Should it accept the offer and assume governmental responsibility? Or, should it, in keeping with its “idealism” and the popular mandate, stay out of power until it wins a majority?
Praful Bidwai, speaking in September 2013 on the need to reduce the power of military and militarism in India. (Audio recoding via sacw.net audio archive)
'The Congress can't return to power unless it reins in prices, lowers interest rates, taxes the rich,' says Praful Bidwai. 'If this means sacking those most responsible for the UPA's pro-big business policies including Finance Minister Chidambaram, so be it!'
Three recent developments should jolt all thinking Indians into introspecting on the colossal harm that blind faith is inflicting on this society.
''The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress has emerged triumphant in the just-held municipal elections in West Bengal, and reduced the Left Front to insignificance. The TMC’s victory run, from the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the 2011 Assembly elections and rural panchayat polls last July, has established it as Bengal’s pre-eminent party, ahead of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM). ''
The agreement reached between Iran and the P-5+1 (the UN Security Council’s five permanent members plus Germany) is a big step towards resolving the crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme. Even better, it could eventually bring about a historic rapprochement between Washington and Tehran, whose relations were ruptured by the Islamic Revolution of 1979. If the agreement leads to stable long-term arrangements that limit Iran’s nuclear activities to peaceful purposes, it will become a game-changer in West Asia and radically alter power balances between its major states.''
Swiss radiation experts have confirmed the worst suspicion nurtured by independent observers of West Asia—namely, that the death of Palestine Liberation Organisation leader Yasser Arafat in 2004 in France was not natural. Doctors were unable to specify the cause of Arafat’s death, which occurred barely a fortnight after he vomited during a meeting and then lapsed into a deepening coma. No autopsy was conducted in keeping with his widow’s request.
''Militant-nationalist euphoria is invariably conjured up whenever India conducts a seemingly sophisticated scientific experiment or makes lethal bombs, missiles or submarines. India’s entry into a supposedly “select” or “exclusive” high-technology “club” is uncritically celebrated, although the club’s members are willing to rain mass death upon innocent civilians—as are all nuclear weapons-states—or seek a figleaf of legitimacy to cover up heinous crimes against their own citizens. ''
Whatever its other sins and there are many one charge can never be made against the Sangh Parivar: that of having produced a halfway tall intellectual. No star in its firmament, from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s founders, to the present leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party or the Sangh’s 30-odd other affiliates, remotely approaches the description ‘intellectual’.
On October 15, the Central Bureau of Investigation did something unusual in the coal block allotment scam—if only under the Supreme Court’s goading. It filed a First Information Report against top industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla and former coal secretary PC Parakh for illegally allotting two coal blocks in Odisha in 2005 to the Aditya Birla group-owned Hindalco Industries to generate electricity.
What is the significance of Manmohan Singh’s visit to Moscow and Beijing, probably his last one as Prime Minister? Beyond all the pomp and show, military and energy deals, and talks on settling India’s Eastern border, lies the real substance. Singh is finally rethinking the approach of putting all of India’s eggs in the United States basket and exploring a consolidation of India’s economic-political relations with other countries, especially China and Russia.
So addicted has India’s power elite become to being treated as the proud representative of a rising great power embarked on an unstoppable march forward that it finds India’s declining global stature and influence in recent months simply incomprehensible. The signs of decline are unmistakable. The “India Story” is no longer the world’s flavour of the month, “the Next China” metaphor has faded from the Western media, and the seamy side of Indian reality is being highlighted, including the country’s raucous politics, poor social indicators, and the embattled state of a government mired in internal strife and corruption.
Three recent developments highlight the issue of weapons of mass destruction and India’s policy towards them. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize has gone to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), dealing with armaments that figure prominently in the Syrian crisis.
As many Indians expected, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has succeeded in scuttling an odious ordinance which would have enabled lawmakers sentenced to jail for two years or more to hold on to their seats. It took the cabinet a mere five minutes to withdraw it.