AAP must know that politics is the art of the possible, more so in the coalition era.
A revolution, said Mao Zedong, “is not a dinner party.” Nor is running a government. Mahatma Gandhi understood well the difference between leading a popular upsurge and heading a popular government. He chose to stay out of the latter, having accomplished the former.
In fact, Gandhiji went to the extent of virtually seeking the dissolution of his instrument of national mobilisation when he said, “India having attained political independence through means devised by the Indian National Congress, the Congress, in its present shape and form, that is, as a propaganda vehicle and parliamentary machine, has outlived its use.”
In so saying, the Mahatma drew pointed attention to the difference between a “movement” and a “party of government”. It is the facilitation of this transition from one to the other that Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and all other Congress leaders in government enabled. This is the challenge before Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Can the party stop thinking and behaving like a “propaganda vehicle” and become a “party of governance” and of “government”?
The AAP has come forward with an 18-point charter on the basis of which it will accept outside support to form a government. There are two issues with this political manoeuvre. First, coalition building requires compromise and cannot be on the basis of the demand for full acceptance of one’s unilateral wishes. Second, there are many demands in the list that an AAP government can go ahead and implement through administrative action without seeking legislative approval.
Consider the list of demands. Of the 18, the AAP can legitimately seek a political ally’s support for the granting of full statehood to Delhi (a demand that former Congress Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has herself made on many occasions), for passing the Jan Lokpal Bill in the Delhi Assembly and for legislative regularisation of unauthorised colonies. Most of the other demands require administrative action on the part of the Delhi government that an AAP cabinet can authorise.
For example, the auditing of power companies, proper metering of power charges and reducing power rates are all administrative actions. Ensuring access to drinking water to all is again something that a good government ought to prioritise and do on its own, though AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal’s track record on the reform of Delhi’s water policy has been a negative one. As