Change and its limits

Why AAP's success mirrors the best and the worst of our political system.

The Aam Aadmi Party has had spectacular success, of that there can be no doubt. But even its most hardened and committed supporters will agree that the government in Delhi will last only a few weeks — at most, a few months. It simply will not have the time or opportunity to prove its capability to govern. Its success has ironically thrown into sharp relief the best and worst of our current political system. It has established the vibrancy of our politics and the maturity of the electorate. At the same time, it has made clear the disjunct between the exercise of individual franchise and the delivery of stable governance. What one must question is the positive of a political system which enables the expression of protest but does not promote a steady and enduring government.

Kejriwal deserves the accolade of "man of the year". His conviction, tenacity and simplicity are admirable. But compared to another "aam aadmi" who has also had comparable impact, albeit on a much larger scale, his limitations are obvious. Unlike Pope Francis, he does not have the mandate or experience to deliver. This is not his fault, but that of our political system.

Pope Francis was a little known Jesuit priest from Argentina called Jorge Mario Bergoglio. The cardinals of the papacy surprised the Catholic community by electing him the 265th successor to St Peter a month after Pope Benedict had roiled the church by resigning. At the time, the church was engulfed in a sexual scandal, the Vatican Bank was facing charges of corruption, papal institutions had hollowed and parishioners were leaving in droves. Pope Francis could not have inherited a more difficult chalice. His response was "aam aadmi" in character. He rejected the "lal batti" Mercedes and stayed with his clapped-out Ford Focus. He did not move into the apostolic palace but chose a two-room abode. He celebrated his 77th birthday with four poor people and a dog. His every action has exemplified humility and compassion. More substantively, he challenged conventional orthodoxy. He commented that the church was "obsessed" with abortion and contraceptives, and in response to a question on what he thought about gay priests, he replied "who am I to judge". Further, he sidelined the traditional synod of bishops and appointed his own group of cardinals to advise him on bureaucratic and institutional issues.

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