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Archive for December, 2013

Modi and Kejriwal: A New Year’s tale of two faces


Modi is the face of efficient, impersonal, big government on the pattern of China. Infrastructure development, economic growth and jobs are what this State assures. In exchange, citizens are to accept greatly constrained rights with respect to personal freedom or the public voicing of alternative sentiments. Discipline and allegiance to the party line is the leitmotif of this model.


A massive, meritocratic bureaucracy led by a charismatic and decisive leader, delivers public services to the people. It is not however a “mai-baap” colonial style government but one chosen through periodic elections. In between elections, citizens are expected to get on with their core business of living and let the constitutional apparatus (government, parliament and the judiciary) manage governance. This is quintessential top down, Weberian, technocratic governance.


The Indian model of this version of governance comes with routine misuse of government facilities for personal purposes; party expenditure on elections clearly far in excess of the limit imposed by the Election Commission; slick and opulent pandals for mammoth public meetings; the self-assured aura of a “leader” surrounded by self- important security men with guns. The fly-in fly-out schedules. The BJP is as complicit, as any other traditional party, in maintaining and growing this imperial image of big government.


At the other end of the spectrum are Kejriwal and the fledgling Aam Admi Party (AAP). He is the face of social activism and citizen centric governance. His vision of the State is as a facilitator for implementing the will of the people, ascertained not solely through elections but, to the extent possible, directly from the people between elections. Necessarily, his is a decentralized form of governance with local committees empowered to decide their affairs. The government is dis-empowered and compelled to ask the people, before taking any major decision.


The key ingredient of the Kejriwal magic is his frontal assault on corruption and the rejection of “perks” which are available to leaders today; official cars, liberal maintenance grants, opulent official homes, junkets abroad, free electricity and water etc. His personal rejection of such privileges; the symbolic travel by Metro to his swearing in; his deliberate choice of clothes, closely resembling the neighborhood vegetable vendor, all send reassuring signals to his electorate, that he is one of them.


Modi is in fact of commoner stock than Kejriwal. But long formative years spent in the network of the quasi-militarist RSS, have made him into a remote, albeit responsive figure, renowned for big public projects (Sabarmati revival, Sardar Patel Statue, 100% electrification) but in dress, speech pattern and appearance (witness his grand new office in Gandhi Nagar), very much a man who has fought his way through on merit and conquered his circumstances. A man to admire, but difficult to like.


In comparison Kejriwal exudes commonness. His speech is consciously simple and direct. His manner is warm and open, even appealing. His winning smile and shy, shrugging-off of praise and accolades, his contempt for the “Khas” (special) people dressed in a suit and tie and driving a Mercedes, instantly resonates with any one struggling to buy onions. His party consciously projects its humble beginnings, from within the people, as an organic force, a natural phenomenon, which he now ascribes to Godly assistance.  


As in the recent Delhi State elections, the BJP could be the largest single party in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Their recent sweep in State elections in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and retention of a tribal State-Chhattisgarh, augurs well. But getting past the half way mark, even with allies, is a target as stiff as a Patiala peg.


Modi will be nearing 70 years of age by the time the next national election comes around in 2019. A rank outsider to the National Leadership of the BJP, he cannot survive till 2019 as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate. 2014 is a make or break year for Modi. What are most likely to break him are the antipathy of the Muslims and the Kejriwal inspired impatience of the urban common man with traditional elitist, more-of-the-same politics.


Modi may find to his dismay, Kejriwal/AAP clones cutting into his traditional, urban, vote bank of business men, professionals and the middle class, at least in the 50 large metros which have a vote share of 15% of the national electorate. Coupled with the near certain loss of the Muslim vote comprising another 15% of the national vote share, Modi will be left battling to get a 40% vote share. He will have to jostle hard with caste based and regional parties and the Congress in UP, Bihar, Haryana and Karnataka. A very tough call indeed.


My New Year’s wish is a BJP plus allies national government, with a wafer thin majority to keep them on their toes and at least 20 Kejriwal/AAP clones as Members of Parliament out of the 542 seats in the Lok Sabha. This would put the AAP plus clones in the same league as the existing strength of Mulayam’s Samajwadi Party (22); Bhenji’s Bhujan Samaj Party (21), Didi’s Trinamool Congress (19), Nitish Kumar’s Janta Dal (United) (19), Karunanidhi’s DMK (19), the CPM (16), Naveen Patnaik’s BJD (14) and way ahead of the Shiv Sena (11), Amma’s AIDMK (9) and Sharad Pawar’s NCP (9).


India needs a makeover. What better than BJP, a traditional, effective, centralized, growth and jobs oriented party, for near term governance till 2019? Thereafter, scaling up of the Delhi State Government model of decentralized, citizen centric, corruption free government, being rolled out by the AAP from January 4, 2014. I earnestly hope God reads blogs.






Delhi School Admissions; too much single malt


Good intentions are never enough to frame good policies. Each new policy generates a host of incentives and therein lies the devil of unintended consequences. The new Lt. Governor in Delhi announced a new admissions policy for private schools in Delhi.

The policy intervenes in the school admissions market in two ways. First it reserves 35% of the available seats (5% for girls, 25% for the poor (ponderously termed in sarkari-hinglish as Economically Weaker Section (EWS) and 5% for the kids of employees).

Second, it prescribes the weights to be used for assessing a kid for admission; 70% is for those living within 6 km of a school; 20% is for a sibling in the same school; 5% is for an alumni parent; 5% for interstate transfer.

Any intervention by the State comes at the cost of distorted markets and efficiency losses. However, the modern State does intervene on grounds of promoting equity. In the case of admissions to private schools, state intervention to determine the rules is a border line case. Ideally, private unaided schools should face no restraints on their ability to manage. However, the State is so overwhelmingly present in India, by providing land to schools at cheap prices and other such goodies and our society so iniquitous, that only a Libertarian fundamentalist will question the need for state intervention.

The dramatic and very welcome change in the new policy is that school management no longer has a quota (earlier 20%) for itself. In effect, this means that the non-meritorious and well-connected or rich kids, who earlier paid-off the management through quid-pro-cos or cash and got admission under the management quota, will now have to look to Gurgaon, NOIDA or even further to get educated.  This courageous blow for merit and transparency, which has got all school managements in a twist, can only be welcomed.

The same cannot however be said for the new “local” kid advantage rule. Good schools, which make parents drool at the mouth, like Modern School, DPS and Sardar Patel Vidyalaya , to name only a few, are all located in rich and babu areas like Barakhamba Road, Humayun Road, Vasant Vihar, RK Puram and Lodhi Estate. The “local” kid advantage at a hefty 70% ensures a total wipe out for other applicants. Ergo the rich and the babus benefit. Nothing new here since privilege is enshrined in our culture.

What about the 25% reservation for EWS? Will not that ensure that rich and poor kids mingle and learn from each other? Certainly this is progressive but when combined with the “local kid advantage” it generates unintended consequences. Here is why.

In the rich and babu localities, for every one person in the house there are two persons in the “servant’s quarters” who generally work for peanuts in exchange for the significant privilege of a decent room in a prime locality. The ESW quota in the “good” schools will directly benefit this segment. One can even envisage people temporarily taking up such residence, at least on paper (as in the case of getting into the Rajya Sabha), just to get their kids admitted. The net result will be to enhance the already existing high premium on houses in these localities and crowd out other poor but meritorious kids in the rest of Delhi.

The LG would be well advised to revisit the “local kid advantage”, at the very least for ESW applicants, to allow the free flow of poor but meritorious kids to “good” schools within Delhi. Since schools in Delhi have no legal obligation to bus students to school, unlike the US, from where this rule seems to have been inspired, ESW applicants should be able to self-select what suits them best.

Similarly mindboggling is why kids, already having a sibling in a school or with alumni parents, should have a combined hefty 30% preference. What does this rule achieve except to encourage kids to free ride on their siblings and make kids complacent because their parents went to good schools? Such preferential treatment only induces rich parents to donate generously to schools, in the hope of a quid- pro-co. This is a blow against merit, against social change and in favour of privilege and must be dropped.

The third mind boggler is a 5% reservation for girls. This is a classic case of mindless gender equity overreach. Surely a better rule would have been to simply require that the admission list in a co-educational school should give preference to achieve a 40% representation of either gender. This would ensure that the co-educational character of the school is preserved (including by getting girls into schools) whilst minimizing the sacrifice of merit for equity. What if a school admission list already has 60% girls on merit? Should there be a further 5% reservation for girls on top of that, even though boys also seeking admission may be more meritorious than the girls seeking admission under the reserved quota? Why is that a social good?

Public policy is all about blending equity with efficiency as the LG knows well. The preference for paying lip service, to the single malt of equity, is not surprising in an election year, but well below par for Najeeb Jung.



Rahul and Kejriwal; common aspirations


In India, fractured as it is by multiple social divisions, on top of the usual economic distinctions of class, the notion that any one party can appeal to the majority seems far-fetched, especially in the context of an increasingly aware and literate electorate. Intelligent voters seek to maximize their self-interest, which is increasingly defined in a narrow manner.

Despite its divisiveness, India’s electorate can be grouped into three broad segments.

First, the Muslims, the Dalits and the Tribals remain marginalized local groups, comprising around 33% of the vote. This vote remains pretty much transferable in bulk to whichever party they trust. The rise of regional parties is based on this vote. For the marginalized, the primary concern is the security of life, property and social dignity. These immediate concerns are best met practically, by the party which rules the State government, where they live. They also believe that caste/religion cohorts will be less rapacious than others.

The Congress used to be the party of choice for them, but the loss of power at the State level, particularly in North and East India, has severely undercut its usefulness to these marginalized segments.

For none of these, though the BJP has broken through to the Tribal vote, is the BJP a welcome prospect. Its strident Hinduism disadvantages lower castes, whilst its vision of business led growth, paints it as vile, exploitative and people unfriendly. This effectively knocks around one third of the electorate into the arms of regional parties, the Left and the Congress (where it rules a State government).

Second, the urban non-poor, comprising around 20% of voters, remain catchment areas for the BJP and its clones. The urban poor, comprising around 10% of the vote, were solidly with the Congress till 2013 but now may gravitate to AAP clones, if these are scaled up, although this seems unlikely given the past history of such “honesty based” social movements.

The third group is the rural, rich and business community, who are increasingly becoming indistinguishable from the urban rich, since untaxed agricultural income remains an attractive instrument for accounting for unaccounted income. Also agricultural land is a prime speculative asset in a fast urbanizing economy. This group, which hangs its hat on the movements of the Sensex, is firmly with the BJP. But their numbers are woefully insignificant (less than 1% of the vote).

The rural poor (other than scheduled caste and tribes), comprising the residual 36%, are the votes which remain up for grabs by the National and Regional parties. Caste, Clan and Community all play major and enduring roles.

If the Left had a more credible jobs and public services program, this segment would be fertile ground for it. The Congress and the Left have now become virtually indistinguishable. They have similar approaches to gay rights versus traditional values; social protection versus growth; subsidies versus jobs or domestic agendas versus open economy linkages. The only difference is that the Congress is not averse to playing the caste and religion card, as convenient, whilst the Left is still squeamish about departing from its class struggle agenda.

These two parties are likely to cannibalize each other. They could usefully coalesce into a single “Progressive Union” of the rural poor, Muslims, Dalits and Tribals. In doing so they could aggressively combat the Regional parties which are essentially caste and social identify based. They could give a modern, welfare State option to this segment. The AAP is also closely aligned to the philosophy of the Left and the Congress. Strident secularism; worker welfare; self-sufficiency; decentralized rule by mohallah committees/Bhagidari/communes are examples of common thinking.

The BJP is consequently forced to distinguish itself as the Party offering pan-India economic growth, industrialization, rapid urbanization and jobs, whilst minimizing its Welfare State character. It has quite some way to go towards this objective. Its 2013 victories in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh were based on a social welfare program, closely resembling that of the Congress and were aided by poor leadership and in-fighting in the Congress. This cannot be a consistent ground for victory. A combative Congress could swiftly reduce the BJPs advantage at the “efficient government” game.

The BJP has to look to the rural rich and upwardly mobile middle class and the urban voter for long term support. This segment will grow from being 30% today to over 60% of the vote by 2030. This is its natural constituency. In doing so it must distance itself from Hindu fundamentalism; obscurantism and adopt a modern growth and development based agenda. The Nagpur connection has to be severely diluted. Otherwise it will lose ground, which it can ill afford.

There is little scope for Fascism in India, principally due to deep social and regional heterogeneity. The Parties of the next decade will be smaller in size and scope. They will live or die depending on how nimble they can be in reaching out to their voters. Close and consistent interaction with voters, rather than mammoth public rallies, will determine success. Merit based on performance, rather than birth, shall increasingly be the measure of politicians. Governments will be formed by coalitions rather than through block buster electoral support.

Kejriwal has belled the cat. The Congress, which is in search of a leader, could usefully anoint him as its 2014 candidate for Prime Minister.  Rahul and Kejriwal share a lot of common ground; age, social conscience, a thirst for asceticism and a focus on doing the right thing. They should join hands. What could be better than contracting-in the model, Rahul hopes to emulate?  Another, more revolutionary option, would be for Rahul and the progressive section of the Congress to merge with the AAP. Either model can work, in stemming BJPs juggernaut.

Kejriwal’s Governance Debut


Kejriwal combines Gandhian social skills with canny street fighting ability, backed by a solid record of social activism. In today’s Delhi, this is an unbeatable combination. If we followed a Presidential system, Kejriwal could well have been the Chief Minister of Delhi, instead of having to get into the muck of party politics.

However, India follows the parliamentary democracy model, in which the party vote share matters. Delhi is near equally split between BJP, AAP and Congress in terms of party vote share. This illustrates that Kejriwal is taller than his party, as is the case with Modi. Both candidates would do better than their parties, as Presidential candidates.

What this calls for is some clear thinking from Kejriwal. His supporters have rallied around his plank of a corruption-free government. No one takes his electoral promises of free water and cheap electricity seriously. What everyone is enamored by, is his Gandhian rectitude and sense of propriety. His supporters want to believe that it is still possible, six decades on since 1947, for an honest man to set government right. Modi’s supporters have a similar belief, despite his rough edges, based on his performance in Gujarat. Kejriwal has a huge advantage over Modi. He evokes no antipathy, unlike Modi and has demonstrated this by drawing support across caste, class and religion. He embodies the urban aspirations of modern India.

Kejriwal should not buy into the bogey propounded by his supporters that they cannot “morally” accept support from a “tainted” BJP or Congress. The AAP is not a revolutionary movement. It has sworn to work within the constitution. Our constitution provides for multi-party rule. Parties with a national presence and recognized by the Election Commission, can hardly be termed “tainted”. Leaders may be tainted but a political party cannot. The BJP and the Congress, combined, have more than two thirds of the vote share in Delhi. More than 6 out of 10 voters in Delhi support the “traditional parties”; BJP and Congress. Kejriwal needs to recognize this and work to win over these votes through his performance in government.

Kejriwal must not fall into the social revolutionary’s trap of the zero-sum game. All or nothing is not envisaged in the Indian Constitution and in fact is never a desirable social outcome. This desire for an over whelming mandate is similar to what Presidents of Banana Republics seek. Such mandates often become the root of the social evils of fascism and perpetuate the politics of exclusion of minorities. Neither of these are objectives of the AAP.

Finally a government is known more by its deeds than its composition. UPA 1 was a broader and more unstable coalition, but achieved much more than UPA 2. An AAP government formed with outside Congress support completely insulates the AAP from “external” influence in the day-to day management of the government. A majority is necessary in the Assembly only for new legislation and getting the budget approved.

What is far more important, than new legislation is the efficient day-to-day functioning of the government. The Delhi government is in fact only a glorified Municipal Government. Getting road projects completed, drains built and cleaned, preserving the green areas, improving water and sanitation, education, health and transport facilities is its remit. The AAPs manifesto sought to democratize governance though the wide participation of stakeholders. None of these need a majority in the assembly. Just giving the face of government a new “inclusive” feel and implementing the available instruments of direct democracy, can be a long term, game changing achievement. Delhi Government has never been known for simple living and high thinking. Time to start now.

Political parties need supporters, even in babudom, to be effective. Our babudom is not and has never been an apolitical Weberian artifice. The “golden age” of apolitical babudom, oft cited during the Nehruvian period, dominated by the Congress, never gave babus an option to align with someone else. Both the Congress and the BJP have years of administrative experience. More importantly, they have sympathetic babus. Unless AAP chooses to rule, Kejriwal’s colleagues will never get the experience of hands-on governance nor will they develop a sympathetic cadre of babus to support them. Time to get real.

Kejriwal cannot be daunted by the potential failure of a minority government after having stared “reality” in the face time and again and created his own reality. He is the “Lawrence” of India, for whom nothing is written and who determines his own destiny.

Kejriwal must not be lulled into the reassuring drone of political logisticians, who peddle their own tired theories of how to succeed in politics. Otherwise, the topi he wears, will start to resemble the one worn by the Congress and the BJP.


AAP can’t buck the muck

Delhi voters are in search of a government. The BJP only has 32 and can at best reach 34 with the two “others” elected. To go further and get 36 it needs to break off two-thirds of the Congress or the Aam Admi Party (AAP) MLAs. Neither option seems viable.

The AAP has been offered support from the Congress. With its 28 MLAs and 8 from the Congress, it can form a government. In fact it is duty bound to do so and has no choice in the matter.

Kejriwal’s dictat that the AAP will form a government only if it is in majority and shall not seek support from any other party, runs completely against the grain of parliamentary democracy.

Forming a government is a duty of political parties which either have the numbers or can coalesce to get them. It is not an option.

To extend this absurdity further, imagine if even a majority party should choose to sit in the opposition on the grounds that it is not “ready” to run a government or too busy fighting elections elsewhere to dirty its hands with governance in Delhi. Where does it leave citizens and their supporters? Did they press the AAP button by mistake instead of the NOTA button?

It now becomes incumbent on the Lt. Governor of Delhi (LG) to ask the AAP to form the government since BJP, neither has the numbers, nor can it get additional support. The interesting issue is what the LG should do in case AAP refuses or pleads lack of numbers. How should the LG treat the offer of support to the AAP from the Congress?

The LG can break new grounds by “requiring” the AAP to form the government on the back of the Congress promise of support. This will bring a degree of responsibility into electoral practices. A party must not be allowed to escape the consequences of its public actions or destroy the very fabric of representative democracy, by casually spurning the mandate to govern.

Are there sanctions which could apply in case AAP refuses to govern? Should the Election Commission withhold recognition on grounds of the frivolous approach of the AAP to governance?

The Delhi conundrum is exactly what is sought to be avoided in other systems, where a runoff between the two candidates getting the largest vote share is prescribed, till one of them gets a clear majority. We don’t have that useful system in India, precisely with the intention of not disadvantaging new parties or those with less than majority support, since their electability is low. This positive feature of our electoral system should not translate into a potential political vacuum.  

Even purely strategically, it boggles the mind as to why AAP should refuse an offer of support, from the Congress, to form the government. Accepting unconditional support from any party cannot reduce the “clean image” of the AAP. What is far more important than merely forming a government is running it cleanly and here the AAP would have a free hand.

The AAP can go ahead and form its Council of Ministers and Kejriwal can realize Anna’s recent prediction of becoming CM. Thereafter, they will face the challenge of passing the Annual Budget. They could formulate the kind of budget which they have promised, using the best brains in the business and they are not likely to be short of support on this ground.

If the budget is sensibly formulated, the Congress will find it very difficult to withdraw support. Wilful withdrawal of support will injure the credibility of the Congress and build the credibility of the AAP. Even just going through the exercise of formulating the budget is likely to be highly productive for the AAP and will build its capacity, as a party.

Kejriwal’s knee jerk rejection of Congress support needs to be reviewed. The LG, is known for his congeniality and diplomatic skills, and hopefully shall be able to convince Kejriwal that the interest of Delhi and the AAP, as a political party, lies in getting into the muck of governance.


Kejriwal: Reluctant Chief Minister

Kejriwal must have thanked his stars that his fledgling Aam Admi Party (AAP) polled only 28 of the 70 available seats in the Delhi State assembly. Just 8 more seats would have forced him to form a government and rule!

The embarrassment of electoral riches Kejriwal now faces, with his massive mandate to “rule for change”, is instructive of two trends. First, Delhi is sick and tired of “more of the same” traditional party politics. Second, it is a long leap from attractive social activism to actually providing good governance. Gandhiji would have felt similarly uncomfortable as Prime Minister in 1947.


The party with the most seats (32), BJP, has opted out of forming a “minority” government since it does not want to risk a “lame duck” unstable, government, which could jeopardize its “development and governance” stance for the 2014 national elections. Kejriwal has been offered support by the Congress which gives him the numbers to form a government, but he has refused to play ball.

What Kejriwal now plans to do in unconscionable and exactly what any other political party would do; force a re-election so that he can ride the “AAP wave” to a presumed outright win in Delhi and gain Lok Sabha seats as well in 2014. This is no different from the BJPs strategy.

How then is Kejriwal different? He says that he is not in politics for power but he is already plotting for an expansive presence in the 2014 elections. Nothing wrong in that strategy except that it hits at the very roots of parliamentary democracy if it comes at the expense of forming a government when asked to.

People do not vote to elect an opposition party. They vote to elect a party to govern. By fore- going that possibility, Kejriwal is creating  four negative outcomes:

(1) He acts against the interests of participative democracy since the outcome will be babu rule by the Lt. Governor till the next election can be held. Not a welcome outcome.

(2) He imposes unnecessary fiscal cost. Every election imposes huge direct costs on public finance and party finances (borne by business and supporters) and massive indirect cost on the economy through the extension of a period of uncertainty and babu indecision. Neither are desirable outcomes.

(3) By ducking the invitation to rule he comes across very much as Rahul Gandhi; long on concepts but woefully short on governance experience and effectiveness. This in sharp contrast to Modi and Shiela Dikshit.

(4) He also erodes the credibility of the AAP in the eyes of those who want corruption ended now! and a citizen centric shift in governance.

Kejriwal’s enthusiastic colleagues forget that the business of most ordinary citizens is not politics. Citizens enjoy and endure the electoral process because it gives them at least a marginal voice in decision making. The last thing they want to do is to make politics their primary concern. This will cost the AAP dearly in 2014 national elections, which will see both the Congress and the BJP pulling out all the stops and revamping their organisations.

Either way, Kejriwal will have earned his place in politics as the “disruptive innovator” of the decade. I suspect this result is what he truly values, unknown to his colleagues, who are merely riding the electoral wave. More power to his elbow. 

The New Politicians


The citizens of Delhi are a spoilt lot. They pay the least in taxes relative to income (the highest in India and three times the average national income) and get the maximum subsidies and facilities from the government. The expenditure for the current financial year 2013-14 is INR 24,000 per person, the bulk of which is grants received from the kind central government. It seems that even this is not enough to get re-elected. In this respect Delhi illustrates the demands that modern democracy imposes on politicians who are forced to desperately try riding the never ending escalator of expectations. Five lessons emerge.

First, there are limits to pork barrel politics, the staple of the “traditional” parties. This limit is quickly reached as population growth outstrips the increase in resources. Population grew at around 3.5% per annum since 1990 (with growth slowing in the decade since 2001), primarily through in-migration of the poor and marginalized from the hinterland. In comparison, the additional public resources required to raise the quality of life of the immigrants (infrastructure, basic services and jobs) are far more than the taxes in-migrants contribute. Under conditions of fiscal stress, the level of pork available stagnates or declines and people have to pay for improved public services.

Second, expectations always outstrip the reality unless people are made to recognize that there is a cost to better services. Someone has to pay for 24X7 good quality water and power supply, efficient public transport, roads and drains. In this context, the new electoral promises of sharply reducing the cost of power supply or a supply of free water, in limited volume, are highly misleading and irresponsible. A subsidy driven world is just not sustainable.

Third, whilst the leitmotif of the day is corruption-free politics, the real underlying sentiment is for better service delivery. International experience suggests that diluting corruption is a complex task which has much to do with social norms and capital. Better and transparent public management systems also help by reducing babu discretion and limiting the “corruption envelope”. But the world is littered with state-of-the-art public management systems (usually funded by obliging international donors) with no perceptible dent on corruption. It is only if a corrupt person becomes socially tainted that disincentives for corruption, kick in. Social sanctions for the corrupt are noticeably lacking in the National Capital Region, which has prospered, over the last two decades, on the back of cheap loan finance, speculation in real estate and massive public spending, all of which are riddled with corruption.

Delhi voted for the unknown Aam Admi Party (AAP) candidates, purely because they were not party to the small club of “regular” politicians who have bonded, across party lines, in the heady miasma of the power elite (politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, businessmen, publicists and sadhwis) over the last six decades.  

Fourth, Delhi rejected the role of political parties in democracy, by voting significantly for the unknown AAP candidates. This calls in question the relevance of this model of democracy, based on political parties, as an instrument of reform. Political parties serve the purpose of aggregating common interests and political power. The problem is that the process of aggregation itself breeds the rot of gradually losing touch with who is the boss. Anna was right in warning against the debilitating dangers of joining the political game.

Today, the AAP aims to play the role of a constructive opposition keeping the BJP on the straight and narrow path. This is a worthwhile, but narrow, parliamentary agenda but it fails to disrupt the political process, which created the “traditional” political party system, with all their ills.

A more fundamentally productive agenda would be to change the structure of politics in Delhi by pursuing the three principles of good governance: Transparency, Access to information and Participation. These principles need to be applied to (A) devolve powers to the level best suited to exercise them and to bring the decision making process closer to the people; (B) introduce third party monitoring of public expenditure and (C) implement a transparent compensation policy for Delhi State politicians and babus; provide a generous house rent allowance instead of government houses, which should be auctioned; provide a car and driver allowance instead of government cars; bind Ministers and Secretary level babus to publicly available annual and three year work agreements with specific targets.

AAP would waste this unique opportunity if it was to focus purely on a parliamentary agenda and abandon its tentative efforts at social transformation. Equity considerations indicate that per capita spending, across wards, should be mapped and disclosed. This is likely to reveal the massive skew in favour of the rich. Other developmental goals should be to (A) privatize water supply and sanitation with the intention of improving access and the quality of supply, including by levying user charges; (B) publish all public contracts; (C) rapidly expand public transport including by contracting-out road transport to private companies-the killer blue line services were a product of the structure of the contract rather than any lack of interest from the corporate private sector; (D) work with Haryana and UP to evolve a common, suitably heavy tax on the use of private vehicles, especially luxury cars.

Lastly, Delhi has voted unequivocally for more jobs. Whilst support from the AAP has come from a cross section of citizens, fed up with status quoist political parties, much of their appeal is to the poor and the unemployed. Poverty reduction is clearly less about providing subsidised food, fuel and water and more about providing productive jobs. In this the Delhi government is likely to be hamstrung by its fractured mandate but the first step must be to adopt a job creation strategy through a consultative process. 

Kejriwal and his colleagues have lived up to their promise to be “disruptive innovators” with the intention of shifting the existing political equilibrium to a higher level. They have done so by following the twin paths of Gandhi’s strategy of voluntarism led social mobilization and the change opportunities offered by parliamentary democracy. They must now work hard to avoid becoming “destructive” change agents.

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