Get the priorities right: India first, AAP second
BY Chetan Bhagat It is not easy to write a column with views that run against the wave, particularly against well-intentioned people you have yourself encouraged. I face this dilemma when I write about AAP and its need for a reality check. AAP is the flavour of the month. The media is going gaga over it, the poor see it as their messiah, and rich but bored executives are quitting their jobs to join the ‘movement’. It deserves some of the hype. It is honest, humble and responsive. The party quickly adapts to public opinion, even if it means changing a previous stance. This responsiveness alone makes it stand out from existing political parties, led by dinosaurs that couldn’t move even if their tail was on fire.
If AAP plays its cards right, it can be a leading national party over the next decade. However, AAP needs to realize that the bigger concern is not AAP, but India. Sadly, some recent policies and decisions have been highly questionable in terms of national interest. In a bid to come across as a hero to voters, AAP announced free water, and a bizarre subsidy-based cut in electricity tariffs in Delhi. Some estimates say this could cost thousands of crores a year. This money could have been used for hospitals, schools, flyovers, employment generation and a dozen other purposes. The poll promise was to reduce the alleged corruption in the electricity sector, and pass on the efficiency gains to the people. The cheeky accounting and subsidy-based reduction was irresponsible.
If the AAP tariff decision is extended pan-India , the cost could be lakhs of crores a year. Such moves can not only wreck the country’s finances, they will send the wrong signal to private players who will shun investing in India’s electricity sector. It helped AAP win some instant applause, but did it help India? Another example is AAP’s bid to have 90% reservation for Delhiites in Delhi colleges, many of which are national brands. Note the damage this creates at many levels. It prevents students across the country from joining the best colleges. It denies the colleges the best talent, and damages their brand. It creates pressure to move to Delhi, adding stress to urban infrastructure. It encourages parents to send kids abroad to study, costing us foreign exchange. Shouldn’t we discuss all this? Why don’t we have top Delhi colleges opening branches across the country, for instance?
Again, this move may have helped AAP, but did it help India?
You may be honest, but if you are ok with raiding the national treasury and hurting national brands to aid your party, are you completely pure?
There also seems to be a self-righteous attitude towards an ‘aam-aadmi’ lifestyle, and a disdain for affluence. While conspicuous consumption is wrong, I fail to see how aspiring to a good lifestyle, or living it with one’s hard-earned post-tax money is less virtuous? Millions of Indians have worked hard in the past decade and upgraded their lifestyle. That has increased our per-capita GDP. Should we discourage that? Do we want an honest, but poor India? Is AAP pro-poor, or pro-poverty? Why is AAP getting it wrong already? One, an explicable hurry to compete in the LS elections. Two, a mindset that lacks vision on what India needs to be, apart from being corruption-free. I wouldn’t blame AAP for the latter. They were meant to be an anti-corruption movement. Now they aspire to be a national party. There is a substantial re-think and reinvention required before it goes ahead with its new goals. It needs to learn governance, and have clarity on how it can deliver not only a corruption-free India, but also a thriving economy with millions of opportunities for youngsters .
All this needs time.
However, the upcoming election and the overrated ‘momentum’ it seeks to capitalize on, is hampering this crucial process. In this hurry, AAP also risks attracting the wrong people who seek power over a better India. If AAP opted out of the LS 2014 race, only the truly dedicated would join. AAP’s entry in the LS race will increase the chances of a hung parliament and a khichdi government. For what it’s worth, a lot of foreign governments, investors and local entrepreneurs feel Modi can put India back on the path of growth. I am not sure they feel the same way with AAP. What is best for India then? Similarly, the Congress, with all its ills, has the most experience in governing India, while AAP has none. Does that experience amount to nothing? Should these factors not be considered in 2014 when we think of India? Or is it not about India anymore, but only about AAP? Let us citizens also place India’s progress over any political party’s progress. The keys of the nation should be given to people who are not only honest, but can also take India to the next level.
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