The Water Cooler

Ab Dilli door nahin?

A Delhite ruminates on AAP’s victory from far away and reflects on the possibilities it holds for the future.

Aam Aadmi Party workers celebrate after good result of AAP party in the 2013 Delhi Assembly election at party office …One of the stories of the Tughlaqabad fort is known to many a Delhite. As election results kept coming in on Sunday, this story came back to me - a Delhite now in Bangalore. The story goes - Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq was so furious with the Sufi saint, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya that he wanted to have him beheaded. When Auliya heard this, his followers wanted him to hide, save himself, but he is said to have uttered, “Hunooz Dilli door ast,” which roughly translates as It’s a long way to Delhi.

Before Tughlaq could kill him, he himself was dead. The saint lived, the monarch perished. Centuries later, Subhash Chandra Bose rephrased this while taking on the British as ‘Ab Dilli door nahin’

It came to be used across time, as a positive call, a rallying cry to march on power. To crush any oppressive force  etc. For in the physicality of living in Delhi, you can get different dynasties on successive traffic lights. The monuments charm and remind you of pitched battles, speak of power and its sudden shifts. A city continuously living for a over a 1000 years has had many trysts with power and nothing in the city lets you ever  forget it.

Maybe with a hatrick old guard CM losing on home turf to a first timer activist, the monarch metaphor brought the story back to me. Or was it that this was Congress’ lowest ever vote share post Independence? Or was it that this city showed not its Tughlaqian power lust, but a different seemingly sudden face. A groundswell of ordinary folk called AAP, led by activist-politician Arvind Kejriwal.

A very early penny-paisa has dropped in three ways like never before. Inklings that must impact old cynicisms and new alliances.

1. Your vote has begun to matter, urban India!
A combo of Election Commission campaigns and volunteer driven efforts exhorting citizens to vote has led to unprecedented numbers voting across these assembly elections. Every state has reported its highest ever in recent times. Call it disgust with current politics or a maturing citizenry, a country that received universal adult franchise in one shot with Independence is reaching out. Urbanites, given to long rants previously are now beginning to walk to the voting booth. Will this make numbers swell in General elections 2014 and your vote count even more, with issues that unite this nation?

2. Volunteering can be an active force in politics and elections specifically
From the early days of Association of Democratic Reforms teams training young volunteers in collecting affidavits of contesting candidates and putting up that data in the public realm to the formation of AAP. Scroll through the AAP FB page and most of its videos show you their volunteers. Their backgrounds have been fore grounded. And while every party has a history of volunteering, the speed with which AAP has worked its strategies has left political pundits and brand managers confounded

Brand strategists are calling them the classic disruptor.
"Startups, especially those gunning to be a disruptor in their sector, have much to learn from the AAP. Right from the start, AAP banked on being a differentiator. They discarded time-tested theories, and stuck to their guns. They gave the people a much-needed alternative. They did it their way and won.’‘

3. Criminal candidates don’t have to win. Honest candidates don’t have to lose
In a political climate, charged with the entire a la carte of dishonesty, the odd honest independent who won, was seen as a local exception. But Aam Aadmi Party with its wide win now has the Election Commission changing their party status to a STATE party. Transparency stands a chance of winning?

As the same piece says,

‘The 70 candidates of AAP were handpicked by Kejriwal keeping in mind their clean image. In fact, they announced that not a single tainted candidate would be allowed to contest with an AAP ticket, and made details about them available online for public scrutiny. They invited people to give feedback on a helpline and promised to remove candidates if any credible evidence of wrongdoing came up. True to his word, when allegations surfaced about some of their main candidates, Arvind Kejriwal removed them. The candidates were restored only after the evidence submitted against them was proved to be false. This stood out in contrast to both Congress and BJP, who fielded several tainted candidates. According to the AAP website, in the last Delhi Assembly elections, Congress and BJP gave tickets to 19 tainted candidates each.’

Arvind Kejriwal’s statement after the victory highlighted this clearly,

There is no doubt that AAP is a Delhi story. But with voters across the Assembly seats speaking up against a lack of leadership in a variety of local and statewide ways, the ripples will be interesting to watch. And the scrutiny intense.

When change is afoot, then one can possibly hear both the Auliya and Bose. But maybe with 1 millisecond of less cynicism.

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