Aam Aadmi Party-Congress ‘jugalbandi’
New Delhi – Mani Shankar Aiyar is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha
When Bismillah Khan plays the shehnai and NG Jog the violin, the violin does not become the shehnai nor the shehnai the violin. Thus, when the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress stand on the same side of secularism against the BJP’s communalism, it does not make the AAP the Congress or the Congress the AAP. Much like any jugalbandi, sometimes the two instruments are in consonance; at other times, they are contrapuntal.
In the case of the AAP-Congress jugalbandi, it is almost always contrapuntal. In season, and mostly out of season, AAP leaders and spokespersons vilify the Congress, paint it black to portray themselves white as driven snow. Notwithstanding weeks in office, abuse and slander remain their stock in trade. And now that they are in government, to abuse and slander they have added threats.
As for policy, it largely consists of empty gestures: dithering over forming the government and pretending to have this decided by opinion polls; turning up for the swearing-in by Metro only to jump into sleek cars thereafter; summoning, or rather attempting to summon, judges to pay obeisance to the aam aadmi durbar; and reserving seats in Delhi colleges for Delhi-ites only instead of focusing on increasing colleges and college seats.
As for fulfilling election promises, 667 litres of free water is to be provided to each family – subject to the caveat that this will be available only to those who have a meter, which means the well-off in regularized colonies will get free water while the really needy will have to get regularized to get connections that are then metered. And what about defective meters? In campaign mode, did not Kejriwal earn brownie points by disconnecting electricity meters he believed to be defective? Why should water meters be any more reliable?
Then there is the repeated invocation of mohalla sabhas without explaining who will be held responsible by the mohalla sabhas. The DDA? Municipal corporations? The NCT Delhi government? But DDA is under the Lieutenant Governor; municipal corporations under elected councillors, not one of whom belongs to the AAP; and with only half a dozen ministers in the Delhi government, how many of the over 2000 mohalla sabhas are they expected to attend? And what of compatibility with the constitutional provisions of the 74th amendment which firmly makes not State ministers but ward councillors responsible to their respective ward sabhas?
Apart from helping Kejriwal decide whether to brush his teeth with Colgate or Pepsodent, there is precious little that mohalla sabhas will achieve until the constitutional and legal structures are in place. Moreover, at least 70 per cent of those who are in mohalla sabhas did not vote for the AAP MLAs (which, in any case, have only legislative authority except for the handful who have made it to minister and, in any case, do not have the authority to encroach on the domain reserved by law for the municipal councillor). Confusion, thy name is AAP, compounded by arrogance and a large dollop of ignorance.
So, even if the AAP’s head is in the wrong place, their hearts are in the right place. They genuinely entertain no communal feelings; they genuinely want a plural, democratic, participative democracy; they are not in the business of inciting riots; and they do not regard the minorities as puppies. Moreover, they do not believe Alexander visited Patliputra, nor do they mix up Taxila with Nalanda. And where some others confuse their founder, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee with Krishna Shyam who died a century ago, they do know that Kejriwal is not the same as the industrialist of the same name. Not bad for a beginning. They can be taught. They can learn.
That is why it is all to the good that instead of disenchanted Congress votes drifting to the BJP for want of a third alternative, the AAP card has turned out the one to trump the BJP in Delhi. Wherever in the country this happens in the Lok Sabha election, the BJP will be the big loser. And since defeating the BJP is at least as important as consolidating secularism, the bonding adhesive of our nationhood, while the Congress would like to win as many seats as it possibly can, it is understandable that seats it fails to win go to the secular AAP instead of the communalized Sangh Parivar. Indeed, one calculation shown on TV last week has it that for every percentage point of the national vote that goes to the AAP, the BJP loses 10 seats. Hurrah!