India’s Newest Political Party Takes On Graft

Elections for New Delhi's legislative assembly take place on Dec. 4 and the Aam Aadmi Party is gaining momentum with populist policies. But can it govern?

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Raj K. Raj / Hindustan Times / Getty Images

Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, front left, and other party leaders attend a campaign event in New Delhi on Nov. 23, 2013

Snaking across the streets of Janakpuri in West Delhi, a fleet of auto-rickshaws — the daily transport of millions of middle-class Indians — blares feisty anticorruption slogans while the passengers brandish symbolic brooms out of doors and windows.

The rowdy cavalcade is the perfect visual expression of India’s newest political movement. Barely one-year-old, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), or the Party for the Common Man, has swerved off the main road of Indian electoral politics — defined by money, caste, power and dynasties — and toots its way down a path of its own. “We have tried out all other parties,” says Gaurav Singh, a 27-year-old AAP supporter, says. “I want to give this one a chance. Maybe there will be change.”

Many in the capital today share Singh’s sentiments, which is why the party is considered a serious contender in elections for New Delhi’s legislative assembly. The chamber is traditionally dominated by India’s two largest parties, the ruling Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But the AAP has “tapped the anger of the common Indian, especially that of the younger generation,” says Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, a New Delhi–based independent political analyst. “How far that translates into votes remains to be seen.”

The polls are on Dec. 4, with the results due four days later. The AAP is the only other party outside the main two to be contesting all 70 seats, and observers believe a positive result could see a push toward expanding nationally.

(MORE: The Race to Be India’s Next Prime Minister Is Narendra Modi’s to Lose)

Taking on India’s political goliaths is no simple task, however. The AAP’s election campaign budget for New Delhi is a meager $3.3 million as opposed to the $17 million that the Congress Party and BJP are each reportedly spending. Rather than plush offices, this new contender operates out of a rent-free office, donated by a supporter, with the help of volunteers.

“The AAP has challenged our established ideas of how political parties that revolve around dynasties and patronages can evolve in the current phase of neo-liberalization,” says Vidhu Verma, professor and chairperson of the Centre for Political Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “It arose due to the way public confidence in political parties had waned.”

The roots of the AAP lie in the populist antigraft movement of 2011 and 2012, a grassroots protest that spurred the government to introduce anticorruption legislation in Parliament (although this is yet to become law). Anna Hazare, the veteran antigraft crusader who spearheaded that movement, is not part of the AAP because of a refusal to participate in electoral politics, but the party is led by his onetime aides, with Arvind Kejriwal as party boss.

“When we started the anticorruption movement, the idea was that if we put enough public pressure on the government, it will pass the anticorruption bill,” Prashant Bhushan, one of the founding members of the AAP, tells TIME. “That didn’t happen. And we realized that the only way to pressure them was by contesting elections and getting into Parliament.”

The transition from a social entity to a political party, however, has not been easy. Its manifesto is popular but also impractical, including the halving of electricity tariffs among other examples of largesse. Critics say that a coherent vision of governance remains missing. “When Arvind Kejriwal speaks of ‘self governance,’ does it mean more or less government?” Verma asks.

AAP’s real challenge may begin once the New Delhi polls have closed and it tries to figure out how to sustain its appeal. Otherwise the goal of defeating corruption will be as elusive as ever.

MORE: India’s Prime Minister and ‘Crown Prince’ Have an Awkward Spat

24 comments
victor50
victor50

I WATCH OUR POLITICIANS IN LOK SABHA OR RAJYA SABHA BEHAVE LIKE MOST UN-ETHICAL WAY SHOUT ALL TOGETHER, CAN NOT LISTEN TO ANY ONE, IT IS MOST UN-CULTURE SOCIETY IN THE WORLD. I SUGGEST CONTROL OF MIKE SHOULD BE IN THE HANDS OF SPEAKER, EACH PERSON SHOULD BE ALLOWED 3 TO 4 MINUTES TO SPEAK, IF ANY ONE ELSE SPEAK DURING THAT PERIOD HIS MIKE SHOULD BE TURN OFF RATHER ONLY ONE MIKE SHOULD BE ON WHO IS ALLOWED TO TALK

victor50
victor50

some people think AAP started against Anna however I think these existing politicians never listened and implemented Anna's bill so there was no choice left, this is the only way AAp can save the country, Anna should openly support AAP and should not feel bad and question AAP at the time of election. I think AAP is going to have substantial number of seats in Delhi and hopefully things will start moving in a better way in India.

victor

vaibhavsri
vaibhavsri

जिसकी नीयत में अन्ना को भी दिखा खोट,
उस पर waste ना करें अपना कीमती वोट

damootwits
damootwits

What AAP will be able to achieve comes later.. Delhiites for once at least have a party to vote for in the elections with some hope for change for better. 

Tiger-Pi
Tiger-Pi

Best  of  LUCK  TO AAP  in their efforts to  bring back some  popular credibility into Indian politics. The Election Commission  has revealed that most of the candidates from the regular parties have criminal backgrounds! The common Man like Laxman's CARTOON figure in the TIMES OF INDIA  remains  mute, helpless and  accepts this 'hell on Earth' without  any complaints! Indians, please be warned about the utter  political chaos  and silly dramas in our neighbor Nepal and vote accordingly. So which thief and robber and rapist should you vote for? 

nautiyalrc
nautiyalrc

AAP has achieved that surprises every one. What other parties could not achieve in decades, AAP has achieved that following, & appreciation in just one year, despite all efforts of present political outfits to gag and suppress it so that their power is not lost. AAP should be thankful to people in India and Abroad (including NRIs), for their moral and financial support. Public has chosen the right path of supporting a party with ethics, and AAP representatives at different level are expected to live up to people's aspirations, that they have been able to do till now. Specially, educated masses, have great expectations for turning India to true democracy, where people's representatives don't have to sell crores of rupees to get a ticket, do scams to earn lakhs of crore rupees, MPs & MLAs will not be sold like horses & donkeys for forming a govt or confidence motion, and citizens turn tto be MASTERS than the slaves.

nautiyalrc
nautiyalrc

Indian politicians, over the period of time, want to live life of Briishers and Kings of India. By money and muscle power, they have managed the poor voters. First time, an ordinary man, has challenged this system of governance and luckily there has been mass support from public. Hope, goods days will certainly be seen by the poverty ridden Indians. 

StabakKumarGanguly
StabakKumarGanguly

India 'lives in the colonial administrative powers of the British" who had left India 60+ years before. Corruption has build on such regulation which the polity of India does not want to let go off !!!  Lets hope AAP can get those administrative powers change & give it broadly to the people. But most important is that  Mr. Kejriwal should take proper security as the stake of the corrupted lot is quite high. 

SanjivKeshri
SanjivKeshri

People has woken up to the Hopes in Democracy.While the seasoned Politicians are making Mockery of our Aspirations for Clean & Effective Governance. AAP candidates are well educated & Passionately organised for Nation Buildup but are Vulnerable to such cheap allegations & framed charges that would look genuine but all Fabricated by Unholy alliance of CON+BJP to Fool the Voter Once again. 

SetupChellapa
SetupChellapa

Media sarkar, AAJTAK, India today, Zee news, Niticentral, DNA all these news channels are paid media channels....................this people will not even bother to sell their mother and sister for money............shameless paid media.......... Liters of spit on the face of paid medias..............thuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

AravIndia
AravIndia

Corrupt parties can't suppress the echo of stridulation of broom against corruption!........GO FEARLESS  AAP !!

usha
usha

Great going AAP.

sudeep333
sudeep333

क्या हम सारा शक आम आदमी पार्टी पर ही करेंगे ? उनका क्या, जो आज तक हम पर राज करते, हमे लूटते आये हैं | क्या हमें थोडा शक उनपर भी नहीं करना चाहिए ?

राजनीती में नयी पार्टियाँ आती है पर शायद ही कोई ऐसे पार्टी हो जिसका केंद्र इतना साफ़ लगता है | खैर जब तक इन्हें मौका नहीं मिलेगा इनके बारे में शक करना गलत होगा | मैं इन्हें एक मौका दूंगा और फिर सोचूंगा की क्या मैंने गलत किया था या सही ? हां बाकी पार्टीज के बारे में मेरा एक ही मत है, इन दोनों में से किसी को भी वोट दूँ तो कोई फर्क नहीं है |

परिवर्तन ही प्रकृति का नियम है और राजनीती में भी परिवर्तन ज़रूरी हैं | दिल्ली में आज भी लोग मूलभूत सुविधाओं को मोहताज हैं, क्या आपको शक नहीं होता की हमारे मौजूदा नेताओं की नियत साफ़ है ? सबको पता है और कहते भी हैं की राजनीती पैसे कमाने का जरिया है | पर फिर भी हम ऐसे ही भ्रष्ट लोगों की बातों में हर बार आ जाते हैं, क्यूँ? शायद कोई विकल्प नहीं था, पर अब तो है | अब भी भ्रष्ट को ही चुनेंगे तो आने वाली पीढ़ी को क्या मिलेगा ?

नए चेहरों को मौका दो, शायद वो ठीक निकल जाएँ वर्ना ये बाकी कौनसा मरे जा रहे हैं, अगली बार फिरसे उन्हें ही दे देना | परिवर्तन को सलाम करो क्यूंकि वाही सफलता और तरक्की की सीढ़ी है | अगर मैंने कुछ गलत कहा हो तो माफ़ी मांगता हूँ | ये मेरे व्यक्तिगत विचार हैं |

rajeshk.singh15
rajeshk.singh15

Awesome Article.. Excellent work.. now time to clean all dirty things... Bad time with bad peoples will over soon. 

Thanks

vaishnavjagdip
vaishnavjagdip

People of India are tired because of rampant corruption, increasing crime rate & inflation.Govt is failed to control corruption, inflation. Price of essential items like petrol,diesel, lpg , public state /central  transport ,electricity have substantially increased,

Purchasing power of public is reduced ,so domestic savings. One side govt to reduce subsidy burden, control fiscal deficit ,allows increase in price of essential items ,other side go on spending tax payer /public money in to decades long loss making entities ,PSUs, Air India & now Public sector Bank. Govt should come out from such loss making entities ,that is in the public interest

Democracy is for the /by the  /of the people, here what has been noticed politicians possesses amass wealth, best perquisites , vip security etc & common man remains insecured, struggling hard to survive.

India needs able administrator, corruption free administration, expeditious judiciary ,crime free atmosphere

It is difficult to predict which political party shall capture Delhi , since till date coalition govt has not given deliveries which are in the interest of public

jt1903
jt1903

After a very long time there is a ray of Hope in the form of AAP for the Indians suffering from the Jungle Rule of the corrupt politicians. The Indian voters must avail wisely this opportunity to get rid of the corrupt and rotten system and transform their destiny.

gsuku
gsuku

Reducing electricity tariff is not populist. Few years back, govt privatized its electricity distribution infrastructure and its consumer market base to two biggest corporations from India - Reliance and Tata. To make sure that there is no collusion in such a cornered-market + oligopoly, the govt also set up a neutral regulator (DERC) who would serve as an arbitrator between distribution companies (discoms) and consumers. Few years back, DERC passed an order to reduce tariffs taking into account the costs and profits of private discoms. This order was blocked by the ruling congress government which had the silent support of the main opposition party BJP.

In its manifesto, the new Aam Aadmi Party has clearly spelt out that it would reduce traiffs by ordering an independent probe into collusion and price fixing by the two discoms.

source: Look up the AAP's website for a scan of the DERC orders and other documents cited here.

GovindSharma
GovindSharma

वक्त अब हम सबों से ये सवाल करने लगा है कि आखिर कब तक हम अपने समाज, अपने देश, अपनी जमीन से गद्दारी करते रहेंगे? भ्रष्टाचार नामक इस दीमक से हमें कब छुटकारा मिलेगा? एक आम भारतवासी कब अपने निजी स्वार्थ से ऊपर उठकर, देशहित की बात सोचेगा? हर बार ये कहा जाता है कि भ्रष्टाचार वो कीड़ा है, जिसपर रोक-थाम लगाने की जिम्मेदारी ऊपर से शुरु होता है ! लेकिन अब इस परिभाषा को बदलने की जरुरत है ! इस कीड़े को हर भारतवासी को अपने स्तर पर ही मारना होगा ! ये लड़ाई हम सबों की है, ना कि सिर्फ कुछ लोगों की ! अगर मुन्नाभाई फिल्म में संजय दत्त भ्रष्टाचार का मुकाबला गुलाब के साथ कर सकते हैं, तो क्या हमारे बगीचों में गुलाब की कमी हो गयी है?

Indien
Indien

Aam Aadmi Party consists of brilliant young people and some very honest people well versed in public policies and administration. I have no doubt they will provide far better governance than the corrupt dispensation of Sheila Dixit.  Both Delhi govt and The Indian government resemble a bunch of carnivores gorging on carcass. Their raison detre is corruption.

vaishnavjagdip
vaishnavjagdip

People of India are much tired about rampant corruption, increasing crime rate , There has to be limit .but Govt remains ineffective

All big scams have taken place under the nose of the govt, but highlighted by CAG, CVC,& Electronic media ,surprisingly billions of public money siphoned off & as yet govt could not recover any amount from scamsters, so could not bring back black money lying in foreign Banks

Govt to reduce subsidy burden has allowed price rise in petrol,diesel, lpg which have troubled common man, domestic savings is dried up so purchasing power. 

 High price of food, vegetables have   crippled life of common man , Govt claims that ' Govt claims , Govt is for AAM ADMI'

but in reality ignores interest of AAM ADMI


Lion
Lion

@vaishnavjagdip 

I wish all these old most corrupted full of cancer ministers, fake sadhus somehow disappear from india.. spreading everything from rape,  murder to corruption bribery, and everything else...same applies to Punjab government in control at present... Badal family taken control of everything to anything in Punjab either by enforcing shares in most businesses.. ie from,, bread sellers to everything ..land grabbers// hotels to mirch  masala  I wonder who will be inharting all ths after they r gone...all polititions are blood suckers of poor/  I wish they disappear