Not just AAP
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Its achievements in Delhi are remarkable, but not as unusual or unprecedented as they are being made out to be.
A general consensus seems to have emerged in the past few days. Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party are being tipped as the hottest entrepreneurial ventures in the current political marketplace. Everybody wants to learn from the AAP model and embrace its ideals. Everyone appears to see its successful debut as the arrival of a "new kind of politics" in India.
In our opinion, political observers have gone overboard in celebrating the AAP's performance and describing how its presence is challenging established models of electoral politics. Leaders, movements and opinion-makers are sometimes not constrained by facts. They are more interested in shaping outcomes. A careful look at the evidence suggests that what the AAP has achieved is notable, but it is not as unusual and dramatic as is being made out.
First, the AAP's performance in the Delhi assembly elections was historic but not unprecedented. The media and AAP supporters have many reasons to celebrate. The AAP has all three women, nine out of 12 Scheduled Caste legislators and the 10 poorest MLAs in the Delhi assembly. However, it's not as if the AAP is the first experiment in giving a voice to common citizens, or of political novices becoming leaders overnight. The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) under N.T. Rama Rao in 1983 and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) under Prafulla Mahanta in 1985 won a majority of seats in their respective state assemblies. Agreed that NTR was an iconic film actor at that time, but Mahanta and half his cabinet ministers stepped into the Assam chief minister's secretariat almost directly from their Guwahati University hostel quarters.
Second, most movements and their political avatars during the early stages of transformation were no less (if not more) radical than the AAP. The self-respect movement that later became the DMK in Tamil Nadu (AIADMK is an offshoot of the DMK) challenged the Brahminical social order in south India. Similarly, the JP movement during the Emergency galvanised a generation of youth in the country. Many of the apprentices of that movement became chief ministers of north Indian states. Much of the leadership and cadre of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) came from BAMCEF (the All India Backward Minority Communities Employees Federation) and DS4. These two organisations preached and practised B.R. Ambedkar's mantra of "organise, educate and agitate".
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