As Delhi goes to polls, we cannot help but think about the massive and intense election campaigns waged by all the political parties. Notwithstanding the mud-slinging and the usual drama and rhetoric that underlines Indian elections, the huge coverage and focus that this Assembly election received was unprecedented. After all, think about it, this was just an Assembly election. That too for the Delhi Assembly which is not even a complete state. The powers of the elected government as well as the legislators are severely constrained. Why didn’t Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Haryana and J&K receive the same attention and energy?
While some would say that Delhi is the national capital and what happens in Delhi reflects the national mood and so on, these may be some of the reasons, but they ignore the elephant in the room. Without taking any sides here, one can safely say that the existing paradigm of electoral politics has been challenged in Delhi. The elections received so much attention because of the presence of the Aam Aadmi Party – which symbolised the rise of an unconventional leader from the middle class to challenge the ruling elite. It represented a challenge to the entrenched arrogance, smugness, conceit and high-handedness that has been traditionally associated with politicians. It has tried to bring electoral politics closer to the people with its leaders standing right in the middle of the crowd instead of distant secure rostrums during campaigns and rallies. It has tried to remind the forgetful political class of who the real sovereign is – we, the people.
In no way should this be taken to be an endorsement of AAP. What we are stating and discussing is not one particular election, but the larger undercurrents in Indian politics and the contributions of the Aam Aadmi Party to the political discourse. This is not to take anything away from the achievements of any other party. For whenever there is an attempt to reform and clean up politics whether by any party, it is ultimate we who benefit.
Now consider what has transpired since the India Against Corruption movement. It was a broad based, non-partisan grassroots movement to end corruption in public life. When the Jan Lokpal Bill failed to be passed, one of the participants (Arvind Kejriwal) entered politics to achieve what could not be achieved outside the portals of power. When this became a significant challenge to the BJP, they were forced to bring in another leader of the movement (Kiran Bedi) into the fray. Despite all the allegations made and questions raised on the intent of both these leaders, there is hardly anyone who would accuse or rather would have accused them before they entered politics of having questionable credentials. These are people of utmost integrity and are considered models of rectitude. Their commitment to public service is undeniable. The allegations and counter allegations are merely campaign rhetoric. The battle is between two efficient administrators with an impeccable record which is a refreshing change. The entry of Kiran Bedi into electoral politics has to be seen in this light. No matter who gets the larger number of votes or seats or who wins the elections, in the larger scheme of things it is we the people who have won.
There is a new hope in the air, a renewed interest in politics among the youth unlike the days when politics was anathema to us, a new found belief that things can change and a commitment to be that change.
And that my friends, is the power of the vote, the power of democracy.