His numbers game

Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party has its work cut out, living up to 71 manifestos

In this year's Delhi assembly polls, it will be raining manifestos. Like objects under a doubling charm, they will multiply before the eyes of an amazed Delhi electorate, until there are 71 one for each constituency and one more for the capital as a whole. Or at least, that is Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal's plan, announced this Sunday, after he delivered 10.5 lakh letters of complaint to Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit's address. Sacks full of letters, scores of manifestos Kejriwal's pet theme of decentralisation seems to have mutated into a spectacle of numbers.

Devolving power, ensuring that decision-making filters down to the grassroots, is a noble ambition and intent. Yet Kejriwal's version of decentralisation seems to result in a spectacular politics without a centre. Whether it is crowdsourcing opinions for his manifesto, inviting members of the public to apply for candidature in elections or burning electricity bills in protest, the AAP agenda bears uncanny resemblance to a roster of individual complaints. A fragmented agenda could explain why it must address each constituency separately.

Like all politicians, the AAP chief does not scrimp on poll promises electricity at half price, 3,000 litres of free water per family every month. In 2011, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee promised a government influenced by Tagore. After she came to power, this was manifest in Tagore songs blaring out of speakers at busy Kolkata crossings. UP CM Akhilesh Yadav promised laptops for students in 2012. They were distributed this March, complete with a wallpaper featuring Akhilesh and Mulayam Singh Yadav. When students tried to remove the wallpaper, the laptops crashed not unlike the rest of the party manifesto. If one manifesto is hard to live up to, Kejriwal will have his work cut out living up to 71.

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