In today’s world, the election of a political party of the common man to govern a divisive society is a rarity, especially in countries as diverse as India where it is extremely hard to govern at all. The victory of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi this month is for that reason all the more stunning.
India’s capital is the centre of the country where people from all states and backgrounds reside; bound in to a single formation with a single voice, AAP found the winning factor after just two years in existence. Years of agitation for the right to information or against the malaise of corruption helped this party to become the voice of people whose lives, even after 67 years of an independent India, are still a daily struggle for basic amenities. In Delhi itself there is a sharp contrast between the ruling classes and those whose votes help to get the ruling classes elected. Though development is an important slogan for all parties, for most it only means the building of high-rise infrastructure, at the expense of removing obstacles which hinder the common man. In this light, AAP’s victory is understood much better.
If one looks 80 years back, we see that a disciple of Mohandas Gandhi, one Baikunth Mehta successfully contested the 1935 Maharashtra Assembly elections and won with the support of the people having spent not even a single rupee. To some extent, it has taken almost a century for this act to be replicated where common people like the journalist Jarnail Singh was elected through the might of people power; by a symbolic show of protest, he resisted the might of the Congress Government and forced them to withdraw the candidature of leaders tainted by their involvement in Sikh-carnage. Jarnail Singh is reflective of AAP as a whole in this way.
Delhi has a significant presence of Sikhs, of whom about 57% voted for AAP in support of the now Chief Minister Kejriwal, who infamously during his last stint forcefully advocated the formation of a special investigation team to bring complete accountability for the Sikh carnage of 1984. He also openly wrote a letter to the Indian Higher Court urging the commution of Professor Devinderpal Singh Bhullar’s death sentence. Now again, we Sikhs will remind him to help in bringing Professor Bhullar home which a sustained effort will greatly help, and I have faith that we will also see some justice served, though delayed, in regards to the Sikh carnage too. I hope that this victory will open a new chapter for Sikhs to look beyond themselves and learn to strengthen the community’s self-esteem and valour; to free ourselves from hollow slogans and exaggerated claims of self-importance that define politics in the Punjab.
Indian politics has lacked the fresh air that a party like AAP has created in the last two years. In these recent elections, people from all walks of life in Delhi, be it the rich or the poor, the underdog or the privileged, have responded in single voice and equal measure to the desire for political change. The two main political parties of India have underneath them human skeletons, the legacy of a governance that operated by generating fear in the minds and souls of people. The aspirations of the common people are for transformational politics sweeping the other parties to their fringes and bringing AAP to the fore.
The important message that this election has sent out is that to contest an election in India today against the two main parties slush with unaccounted corporate finance and a history of blatant carnage up their sleeves, must be through people power, provided you have the courage and will to do so. It is hoped that this trend will make communal cash-rich political parties adopt accountability measures for party funding in the long run.