11 Feb 15

Communism at Dilli Gate

The Aam Aadmi Party is opposed to every idea, every scheme and every development that the communists are opposed to.

Arvind Kejriwal is to Communism what Tony Blair was to Old Labour. Back in the mid 1990s, when Britain’s Labour party had forgotten how to win a general election, in came the young Tony with a brand of Labour the British hadn’t witnessed earlier. He knew that the nation he wanted to rule was now a different one from its dharna-ridden three-day-weeks or miners-on-a-perpetual-hunger-strike image – it had been metamorphosed irreversibly by the Iron Lady – and to rule it now would require a brew that didn’t taste as bitter as the Old Labour. Enter New Labour, enter soft Thatcherism; enter Tony Blair.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government needed a jolt – all governments do – for the best way to keep them in check and prevent them from succumbing to hubris is to show them their place from time to time. Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have done just that. It is a spectacular achievement, unprecedented in its scale and repercussions. But it has come at a cost that is not immediately evident. The cost is that the people of Delhi have voted for communism. It is not about one man, who is indeed worthy of all the plaudits that come his way today. It is that he stands for what we tried so hard to escape from.

The thin lines that divide communism, socialism, or populism, are there for a purpose – Hopscotch. You win elections by jumping from one square to another; populism today, socialism tomorrow, communism forever. While populism provides the daily fish to a hungry man, socialism and communism institutionalise it. It is the right of this man to be provided a fish every day, they cry. He must not be taught how to catch it, we will do it for him.

AAP is opposed to every scheme, every idea, every development that the communists are opposed to. It is opposed to FDI, to GMO – even calling it “false technofixes”, to the land acquisition bill, it is opposed even to non-permanent sarkari jobs.

But communism does not win elections anymore, and so the need to hopscotch to a new square – populism. The AAP manifesto reads like a Santa Claus laundry list. It is populism gone berserk. Water, electricity, housing, wi-fi, 1.5 million CCTV cameras – one only has to name the freebie and it’s there in the laundry list. The government of Delhi – a state with a population of 16.7 million – has a yearly budget of only $6 billion. When the money runs out Delhi will look to the Centre like West Bengal did for decades, and Delhites will look to the skies for another sleigh saviour. When the electricity runs out, Delhites will blame the power companies; when the water runs out they will blame Haryana (now a BJP-ruled state).

The easiest promises to keep are the ones backed with certain debt. Make no mistake, AAP will keep its promises.

Democratically elected communism is tougher to uproot than when it operates by force for it provides succour, is a weapon for vengeance. Communism appears as a mirage to the thirsty. It is that sun that blinds you if you look at it directly, and so you don’t. You only see it during the eclipse, when it is too late. You wanted a free lunch and so you ran towards that mirage, and now all you see around you is sand. It can take generations for citizens to realise this, as was the case with Bengal. The body rots, it decomposes, foul gas escapes from its bloated morass, flies settle on it, they rub their forelimbs in glee, and when the time comes to identify it only the chipped tooth is of any help. Yes, this was my state once; I can confirm it from the gold filling.

Before the 2013 Delhi elections, anyone applying for an AAP ticket had to read Kejriwal’s book Swaraj first. It was a pre-requisite. The reason given was that the candidates would become pracharaks of the book. This book, which talks of referendums and gram sabhas and power to the people in every sense of the word, might as well be called Kejriwal’s motorcycle diary. A glimpse: “If five percent of the gram sabhas on the district level pass a proposal then the state government will have to send that proposal to all villages of the district. If fifty percent or more of the gram sabhas ratify that resolution then the state government is duty bound to accept that resolution even if it requires the change in existing law”.

“We are seeking a change in the law that directs a company to put up an application for permission to set up a factory in a gram sabha in whose vicinity the land falls. His application for permission will then be decided in the gram sabhas in whose vicinity the land falls.”

“The water sources that fall under the boundaries of a village will automatically be treated as the property of the village. No decision should be taken, like building a dam, on large water resources like river, without the consent of the village sabhas.”

It follows that the decision to construct a nuclear plant or a radio telescope or a dam will rest solely on the gram sabhas. That is how nations progress.

It is ironical that the only people who haven’t been fooled by AAP are the communists themselves. Prakash Karat, the leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) stated in no uncertain terms that Kejriwal’s agenda has long been the agenda of the communist party. But it is astonishing that in their eagerness to see someone pummel Modi to dust – again, nothing wrong in that – the capitalist media has turned blind to what lies ahead – an eclipse. They are prepared to allow the state to keep providing the daily fish to the hungry man so long as they get their daily portion of fish eggs. How soon will the penny drop is anyone’s guess. “AAP victory to be psychological boost for Opposition parties” is today’s headline in The Economic Times; “AAP’s mob rule: Wake-up call for all Indians” was The Economic Times headline exactly a year ago.

True, there is every possibility that AAP would eschew dharna politics this time round, that their language would not be structured with the grammar of anarchy this author talked of previously. The fear is that when, a few months from now, Delhites stand squeezed and huddled together in the hopscotch square, of a colour red, it is they who might turn to anarchy, it is they who might become what AAP was in its earlier avatar.


This article first appeared in newslaundry on Feb. 11, 2015.

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