Tuesday, 24 December 2013


The formation of an alliance in Delhi between the party, which "professed to cleanse Indian politics” - AAP and “the most corrupt political party atleast in India" - Congress, is apparently based on the age old principle that “Enemy of your enemy is your Friend”.  But they, especially AAP being a new entrant should also consider that in politics “A Friend in need, is an Enemy indeed”. Yes, a political party extending its friendship “Only when it needs it” is “Not a Friend & on the contrary is worse than an Enemy”. They also should remember that a political party should not be happy, purely based on “Promise of short term gains”, but should be more worried about “Possible long term losses”. But Power is the ultimate ambition for most politicians and Arvind Kejriwal has proved it once again. What an irony – he, who spoke of bringing a culture of alternative politics has now partnered with the same adulterous politics. AAP’s birth was by ditching Anna Hazare & his movement half way and now AAP’s coming to power, is by ditching the very voters, who voted it for an alternative. It’s another sad day in Indian politics when Congress is returning to power in Delhi by the back door. Congress has carefully assessed it’s costs and benefits in making it’s moves and is hoping that in the next couple of months, the dice will roll it’s way - at the Lok Sabha elections due in April-May and the Delhi assembly re-election – perhaps around the same time. People rejected Congress believing that AAP is against Congress. Post elections, AAP aligning with Congress, is like a big slap on the face of  the people who voted for AAP. AAP cannot fool people by saying that it is only taking outside support from Congress . Already 3 senior Congress leaders have made it clear that their party's support to AAP is not unconditional. The fact that AAP has agreed to this changed position within a week of demanding unconditional support shows how desperate its leaders are for power. People of Delhi deserve this and more for their foolishness to elect such an opportunist. Kejriwal wanted to take full benefit of the mandate he got and all this SMS, E-mail drama were only to fool the public. How can a man of principle, who had declared unequivocally, that he would not give or take support of Congress can suddenly change by this fake SMS and E-mail referendum??  We all can calculate what was the population who exercised their votes in the last election in Delhi and how many of them voted for AAP. Now if we match that with the nos. of SMS & E-mails, claimed to have been received by AAP, supporting it’s alliance with Congress, we can very well count the percentage of Delhi voters who supported this move.  AAP has demonstrated in this initial stage of its entry into politics, that it is a party without any values and ideology. By accepting the support of the corrupt Congress, their promise to the voters of providing corruption free governance is defeated. It has become the latest addition to UPA – “Na samarthan leenge , Na samarthan deenge” has been compromised. It will not be surprising if Kejriwal repeats his SMS tamasha in March/April to proclaim support for Rahul Gandhi as PM. AAP has proved that it’s no different from BSP, SP, NCP  etc., who criticizes the Centre's policies , but allows the Govt. to survive by giving external support for achieving their selfish agenda. Is there any difference between the political ambitions of Mulayam, Mayabati and Kejriwal?- none at all. All of them shout & scream against Congress infront of their supporters and public in general. But when it comes to forming/saving a Govt., they stand together with Congress, giving some excuses like keeping communal forces at bay or now Kejriwal’s new excuse that the Aam Admi wants it to form govt.
Running a government is fraught with risk, but being an activist is not. Arvind Kejriwal told Economic Times during an interview that  “providing effective governance is no rocket science.” Providing effective governance might not be rocket science but AAP will need a special escape velocity to get out of opposition mode. In the end voters elect a party to do a job and no party can expect the voters to do their job for them even via referendum. Electoral mandate is one of pragmatism rather than idealism, which will be a tricky balancing act for a party whose carefully nurtured public image has always been the other way round. AAP promised so many things in manifesto – but promising is easy and implementation is difficult. Given the manner in which AAP had attacked all political parties, accusing them of betraying the trust of the people, it will have to deliver on its promises double quick once it takes over the govt. and therein lies the rub.  However, if Kejriwal has bitten the bullet, it is not without his own assessment of a cost-benefit analysis. He has about 75 days to make his moves before the Lok Sabha election code kicks in around end February/beginning March - on Jan Lokpal, free water supplies, power tariff reduction and regularising the unauthorised colonies. Even if he can’t achieve all his goals, he will claim he needs a majority to make his moves and ask Delhi voters to give him the benefit of doubt in the next election. But, it is clear that the agenda of AAP run Govt. will be short-term in nature. Neither AAP nor Congress can be under any illusion  since this is an uneasy marriage of short-term convenience– AAP will aim to prove that it can implement its promises in a hurry so that it can go back to the electorate in a couple of months and say – look we did it – and seek a better majority. This means, in the initial weeks, it will try to legislate an anti-corruption Jan Lokpal Bill, mandate 700 litres of free water supply to every Delhi household,  cut power tariffs by auditing the books of power companies and start regularising illegal colonies among other things. But in doing so, AAP will be promising to implement exactly the kind of mind-numbing populist schemes that the Congress is famous for – never mind what fiscal prudence dictates. Since AAP plans to be in power for only a couple of months in its initial run, it may end up doing things that may do long-term damage – again similar to what the Congress party has done in its dying months at the centre. If Congress is run like a feudal family business, AAP is like a populist khap with no direction beyond populism. However, that does not make it a politically responsible party that can ever even begin to set things right. Its only mantra is its anti-corruption stance, but between the hype and the reality, it has failed to see the connection between theoretically wanting to reduce corruption and doing the right things to get this done. What the people needed in India is a party that speaks the truth and brings in honest people to govern the state with transparency and bring in systemic change. But the freebies and concessions Kejriwal promises to give are essentially about fooling the people. The systemic changes on transparency have to be combined with an intelligent application of the Lokpal law to make things work and people change. This is not something AAP has yet thought through. Next, consider the message being sent if it starts regularising illegal colonies – the corrupt class will see regularisation as encouragement to build more illegal colonies. Cutting power tariffs is easier said than done as these are set by the electricity regulatory commission and not by the govt.  Any decision of the commission can be challenged in court, and hence there is no easy way to get the commission to toe Kejriwal’s line. An easier route would be to simply subsidise power and bring the rates down, but this would not only be fiscally irresponsible, but also defeat the very point Kejriwal is making. If he says that power companies are overcharging  and then pays them subsidies, he would then be essentially subsidising power companies that are blatantly overcharging. The only sensible way to go about this is to set up an audit committee and then offer this audit report to the regulatory commission and hope rates come down. And even this process is not likely to deliver immediately – since the power companies can always seek a court stay order. The worst promise, of course, is the one on free water.  Let’s assume there is enough water to supply every household in Delhi with 700 free litres. First, there is the question of who will subsidise this delivery? Next, even assuming the subsidy can be paid for by charging more from those who use more than 700 litres, it would mean more corruption since it calls for charging differential water rates. It needs investment in better metering, better collection of bills, and better policing of the water delivery system. The huge leakages enroute would have to be plugged – both the physical leaks and the leaks encouraged by the water mafia which would be covertly supplying “free” municipal water to tankers. This is what happens to cheap rice supply through the PDS and water will be even easier to divert. More important is the moral hazard - once something is given free, it will not only be tough to roll back, but will also be wasted. Charging even a nominal amount for water is the right thing to do even from the poor – who anyway pay for water even in their jhuggis.
The first responsibility of a real leader is to discuss difficult issues with the experts, develop sensible policy options and explain why some things have to be done to the people/voters. Engaging voters regularly in important issues is the essence of democracy, but asking voters regularly on what the leaders should do is like outsourcing responsibility. If asked whether power tariffs should be cut altogether, people will always say yes. It is very easy to tell people, they will get free water or 50% off in power tariff. But It is tougher to convince the people why they should pay for water or why the cuts in electricity charges have to be less than 50% because if power companies are not reasonably profitable, no power will be supplied. The power companies may be manipulating their books, but the best way to deal with it is to allow competition in power supplies/distribution and instituting regular audits. Promising to cut tariff by half without proper audit and efficient distribution process is plain irresponsible. The signs of AAP using power responsibly to bring a systemic change without resorting to populism and developing genuine leadership are not at all positive.
The ultimate political winner of the Delhi polls is Congress now. Congress’s game plan looks all set for 2014 polls - use AAP to split the anti-Congress votes and create unstable situation. And finally regain power by showing the voters that except them none can provide a stable Govt. Today, the Congress leadership must be smiling and telling themselves “Haar Kar Jitnewale Ko, Congress Kahte Hai”. Hope, nation will understand the Congress game at least now and Aam Admi of this nation will wake up at least before the Lok Sabha elections. They have dug their own grave for the last 60 years by choosing Congress or it’s proxies. If they still continue doing the same, this nation will be done and dusted completely.