Sunday November 19, 2017
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Delhi’s Election Dilemma: Debate vs Mandate

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Delhi assembly elections 2015

by Aditya Bhaskara

Delhi assembly elections 2015

The voting day just three days far from now, politics in Delhi has suddenly become awkward and some parties are quite remote from addressing the real issues that impact the people. The article strives to join the missing pieces as the political arguments go trending on social media platforms.

Image Credit: Darryn van der Walt

A spate of accusations over the two crores of donations received by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rocked the political scene in the Indian capital for more than a day. From PM Narender Modi to finance minister Arun Jaitley to former AAP leader Shazia Ilmi to various other politicians, everyone tried to make a heads and tails of it without much factual accuracy. The incident was reported by Avam, an outfit formed by former party volunteers. In recent development Congress suspects what Avam did might just be a conniving move constructed by the BJP.

The immediate question amid all this is whether the parties have forgotten to address the real issues of the people of Delhi during the last part of the whole election campaign? All the political parties might like to remember that whenever the engagement of the public is more as an onlooker and less as a participant, the votes go further down.

As the political buzz on Twitter shifts toward the hashtag #DelhiFightClub, bringing to context a report by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), an independent electoral watchdog, would provide some vital insights about how clean the image of the national parties actually is. On December 15, last year ADR published a press release backed by its interesting report. In its memorandum to Special Investigation Team (SIT) chaired by Honorable Mr. Justice M B Shah, it requested for ‘strict regulation of political party funding and expenditure’. It argued that the check on the flow of black money cannot be complete unless the money used for electoral and political processes is thoroughly accounted for.

An analysis on the IT Returns filed by the National Parties shows a whopping 72.98 percent of total income came from undisclosed sources. Parties also tend to forget to file or delay their Election Expenditure statements. A simple and shrewd way to keep the sources unknown is to show the voluntary contribution as less than ₹ 20,000, which eliminates any legal obligation to disclose the details.

Most of the guidelines related to declaration of income and assets are ignored by the politicians and parties. Just about two years back, Congress and BJP were found guilty of accepting foreign donations as per the Delhi High court petition in WP(C) No. 131 of 2013; Association of Democratic Reforms & another vs. Union of India]. This revelation takes away a lot of credibility of the accusation made on AAP by the parties or politicians who themselves have to come clear.

Although there are just three days to the Delhi Assembly elections, the people have a lot to think about before they vote the candidates to power. A government is a liability to the people if chosen without much thought. Probably this time Delhi would get it right.

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Let’s start with a clean slate? Pehle AAP!

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Delhi Elections 2015 and AAP

by Harshmeet Singh

Aam Aadmi Party’s landslide win is an indication of sorts that the people of Delhi have risen above the politics of caste, community, religion among several other things. The write-up aims to observe the expectations and transition of the soon-coming-to-power government.

Subhash is having trouble holding back his smile. A resident of Delhi’s Patel Nagar area, he grins every time the TV screen flashes the trends in the ongoing vote count of the Delhi assembly elections. He was never prouder of his vote. Amazingly, he is not alone. Millions of Delhities who preferred keeping a ‘safe distance’ from politics are cheering for the Aam Aadmi Party. For the two year old party, pulling the common man into politics and charging up his emotions is a much bigger achievement than the landslide victory in Delhi that it is headed towards.

Where do we head from here? Delhi would finally have a Chief Minister. A Chief Minister who, by the admissions of his own party leaders, would come with a fevicol to remain stuck on his seat for the next five years. A number of experts have remarked that the Arvind Kejriwal has mellowed down considerably as compared to his last tenure as the CM during which he launched a dharna against the Central Government and slept on the streets on a couple of chilly January nights. Having said that, it won’t do justice to AAP if people start expecting overnight results such as clean air in Delhi or a Police department that has Singham to solve the cases or even a Yamuna clean enough to see your reflection. Perhaps that is why the constitution lays down a tenure of five years for the Government, and not a couple of months.

If there is a lesson in AAP’s victory, it is ‘How to change your liability into your strength’. With the opponents taking potshots at Kejriwal for ‘running away’ in a matter of 49 days, the AAP was happy to bring a flashback of its 49-day tenure and remind people of what the party was capable of delivering. Amidst the permanent face off with different authorities including the Delhi Police and the Central Government, the party was also able to remain in the headlines for reasons such as deflated electricity bills, stress on setting up night shelters and the launch of an anti corruption helpline.

If the AAP’s previous stint in the capital is anything to go by, it won’t take long for the touts to desert the Government offices and this time, for a much longer duration. For a political party which takes pride in its ideals of swaraj, the AAP has set up for itself an ominous target of organizing mohalla sabhas to connect with the people at the grassroots. If there is one aspect which remained untouched during AAP’s last tenure, it was women security. Pointers mentioned in their election manifesto, such as appointing woman marshals in the public buses, if implemented on the grounds, have the potential of transforming Delhi into a world class city. Those who would witness the oath taking ceremony on 14th February at the Ramleela Maidan would have a feeling of déjà vu. This time, hopefully, the dream would not end soon!

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In retrospect: Arvind Kejriwal – the most-preferred CM candidate in Delhi Elections 2015

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Delhi Elections 2015 and AAP
Arvind Kejriwal: From a Whiz Kid to a Revolutionary Politician
by Dr. Bhan Garg

Delhi Elections 2015 and AAP

Just a few hours later as the Assembly Elections 2015 begin, Delhi would start voting for its own destiny. So far Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party is the most-preferred CM candidate. The author takes an elaborate view about the person who nearly changed all equations of the Indian politics just within a year.

 

A child born in a middle class family in a small town in Haryana was once envisaged as a whiz kid. It was expected from this son of an engineer to become an IIT-ian which he did and nobody would have been surprised had the same IIT-ian made a fortune abroad or risen high in the IT-corporate corridors with the name of his company on major stock exchanges in India and even abroad as lots of IIT-ians have already done. However, instead of making his brand name in the IT sector, this IIT-ian took a different route and became successful in creating a new brand in Indian politics.

We all have read about different revolutions in the history of the world and we have also witnessed the Arab Spring where authoritarian rulers such as Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi and Ben Ali were taken out of power in bids to establish democracy in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia respectively. India in this context is a different ball game as, instead of a dictator, India is ruled by those who are elected by its own people. Unfortunately, the politicians who are elected turn by turn mostly behave as autocrats for five years and some of them are dynastic rulers. To make matters worse, these powerful politicians are all hand-in-glove with each other in terms of corruption, protecting and favoring their donor crony capitalists and other propagators of irregularities. Kejriwal was using the lesser-known Right to Information Act (RTI) to provide a solution by silently preparing for something very different and custom-made to address the complications of a rotten political system that has a nexus of megalomaniac politicians, crony capitalists, dissolute bureaucracy, and lax police. He was preparing the Jan Lokpal bill with the help of some eminent lawyers – the father and son duo of Shanti and Prashant Bhushan. He was successful in creating a buzz by igniting an anti-corruption movement popularly known as the Anna Hazare movement. The movement was nothing short of a revolution of its own kind – it was comparable to the Arab Spring, which was going on in several countries at the same time.

Arvind Kejriwal, an IIT-ian turned IRS officer, strongly believed that charity starts at home. He kept his image clean despite being a joint Commissioner of Income Tax – a position in the Income Tax Department, much known as one of the most corrupt departments of the Indian government. Instead of becoming part of the same corrupt culture in his department, he not only kept himself away from corruption but also started an NGO called Parivartan, which means change or transformation. This is where he successfully used the RTI to bring effective changes in the lives of people at the lowest level of the social hierarchy, earning a prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2006 for emergent leadership in a campaign against corruption. This award was a considerable milestone in his life, as it was enough to label him as an anti-corruption crusader. This former taxman and a silent, hidden crusader against corruption became much more visible and vocal as a hero on Anna Hazare’s platform for the Jan Lokpal bill. Anna Hazare may have been the face of the movement, but it was Kejriwal who was its brain. He was rightly accepted as the brain behind the movement as time proved and was projected by the media as a rising star in the civil society. The majority of middle class people including the intellectuals lost hope when the Anna Hazare movement fizzled away upon passing of the lame Lokpal bill, ridiculed as the “Jokepal bill” by Kejriwal, but he was unfazed and accepted the challenge thrown at him by entering into politics himself. He made a political party which is now popularly known as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) because it is a party for the common people he himself belongs to. Sometimes, it seems that destiny was in his favor – on top of an excellent name, he chose the broom, a symbol of cleanliness, as the party’s symbol. He proudly waved a broom during the election campaign, as it symbolized his promise to clean the rotten, corrupt political and bureaucratic systems. The broom quickly established itself as a brand in the Indian politics, making it an incredibly powerful party symbol.

Kejriwal, the whiz-kid was known to achieve success at everything in his first attempt, whether it was entering the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) or cracking the Civil Services Examination, which is the most difficult Indian Administrative Services exam. However, despite his track record being limited to academics and social activism, he surprised everybody when he took the oath as the Chief Minister of Delhi after his debut election. He reluctantly agreed to head a minority government after consulting the “aam aadmi” (common people) in 287 special gatherings throughout Delhi, called “jansabhas” (street corner meetings), consequently earning praise from his people for an unprecedented exercise and example in the history of Indian politics, hesitating before forming a government whereas other political parties typically try their best to form one in any way possible including unfair means such as political horse-trading and luring MLAs from other parties by offering ministries. As surprising it was to see him form government, it was just as surprising to see him resign on moral grounds after a mere 49 days of governance. And Why? He could not pass his Jan Lokpal bill which was dear to his heart and the centerpiece of his political agenda, thus proving once again that his brand of politics is of a unique kind since he wants to change the system, not acquire power. The majority of electronic and print media, which was playing in the hands of established political parties and crony capitalists, labeled Kejriwal a “bhagoda” (he who ran away), but he once again won the hearts of the people by admitting and apologizing for his political mistake in assessing the outcome, successfully blaming the Congress government at the time for not conducting a fresh assembly election along with the general elections, and successfully blaming the central government for delaying the elections while continuing to rule indirectly through the governor’s rule.

Revolution has mostly been seen as a violent exercise using the power of bullet rather than the power of politics. Kejriwal started practicing revolutionary politics – a combination of revolution and politics – in order to prove that the power of a ballot is mightier than that of a bullet. He catalyzed a transformation in the political system even before he formed the AAP and he continues to do that today at an alarmingly high speed, setting off what we can call a political revolution. With elections around the corner once again, this ‘muffler man’, another name he recently earned in social media, is poised to emerge even stronger than before despite the media and all other political parties trying their best to stop him as the status quo suits them. This muffler man, very dear to NRIs who saw his brand of politics as the only way to save India, will definitely succeed in his endeavors sooner or later and all of the forces trying their best to stop him are poised to fail. Since his entry into the political arena, he has been continuously slandered by both the grand old party, Congress, and Bharatiya Janata Party. The slander includes accusing him of foreign funding despite each party previously filing an affidavit in court declaring that contributions by NRIs cannot be labeled as foreign funding, thus contradicting their own propaganda. Despite the accusations, however, he has remained unfazed and both of the parties have failed to prove any wrongdoing on his or his party’s behalf. Now, both of the national parties are failing in the herculean task of tackling the rising popularity of AAP in Delhi. It is pertinent to mention here that those in the Third Front are trying their best to join hands with AAP without realizing that they are part and parcel of the same rotten political system that Kejriwal is fighting hard to change. Though the grand old party is virtually finished in Delhi, the ruling party, BJP, might use all possible unfair means to get the upper hand in the upcoming assembly election, ranging from fake votes to fielding dummy candidates with the same name and matching symbols, buying votes, and distributing liquor and money to lure voters. BJP accepted defeat when they could not find any credible CM candidate to match Arvind`s stature in honesty, and brought his one time associate Ms. Kiran Bedi, a fresh face in politics. BJP subsequently made its own local leaders peeved by declaring her the CM candidate, over night. She, instead of adding to the credibility of BJP, lost her own and now almost all opinion polls are showing AAP edging ahead of BJP with Arvind Kejriwal as the most-preferred CM face. Mr. Prime Minister and his team are rattled miserably and working overtime, indulging in smear campaign by deploying 19 Ministers, 125 MPs and 13 Chief Ministers to stop a ‘common man” but history indicates that this “revolutionary politician” will succeed once again against all the odds and the hurdles created by the saffron party, marching ahead with an echo of ‘Jai Hind’ to change the India’s destiny for good.

The author is a practicing veterinary surgeon in Canada. He can be reached on Twitter @bcgarg. These are his personal views.

Image Credit: Wikipedia