Delhi mohalla

AAP wants to win this election, but its manifesto suggests it doesn't need an election.

New political parties in India's complex electoral landscape have typically branched out of existing ones. When they do spring up from outside the system, they predictably have an insurrectionary tenor. Understandably so, because pitching one's agenda to voters used to supporting one of a few established parties is easier done if it carries a promise of radical change. The Aam Aadmi Party, coming as it does off street mobilisation on the one-point agenda of the Jan Lokpal legislation, already had some of that revolutionary positioning, and would therefore be expected to project its manifesto for the Delhi elections as a rebuttal of business as usual. It does. But in its attempt to cater to every prospective voter's wishlist, it sheds oblique light on the difficult art of crafting a political agenda, of reflecting the voter's dream world in a workable draft for good, sustainable governance. As a party nominating itself as a contender for power, the AAP has some way to go.

The AAP manifesto, of course, makes the Jan Lokpal Bill essential to its agenda, promising to pass it within 15 days, should it come to power. This newspaper has deep reservations about the school monitor nature of the anti-corruption ombudsman envisaged by the AAP, given the implications this would have for institutional checks and balance. But such is the nature of existing checks that any legislation would necessarily have to go through a process of scrutiny, by the legislature, president and courts, a process that can persuade votaries and opponents of any legislation to a middle, constitutionally tenable ground they may well not have considered previously. It is, however, the nature of governance the AAP recommends that begs the question, what is the function of an elected government? To take dictation from the constituencies it sought to woo, committing the administration to stern punishment if it falls short of precise targets? Or to more expansively crowdsource popular demands and embed them in an agenda for inclusive governance that is larger than the sum of municipal-level issues? The AAP tips towards the first option, adding for good measure the promise of citizens' direct and vigilante participation in the form of "mohalla sabhas" and "citizens' security forces", never mind that the Delhi chief minister is not responsible for law and order. Or that there is no mention of how will these be set up.

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