Elections in Delhi and France Will Decide the Fate of Two Ideas

AAP was seen as a symbol of change, and EU as an example of the global village. Both ideas will now be put to test.
  • AAP was seen as bringing about change in Indian polity, EU was an example of what a global village could look like.
  • Both ideas will be put to test on Sunday, 23 April.
  • AAP must stay in the hunt in Delhi’s MCD elections to remain relevant.
  • In France, if Marine Le Pen of the right-wing party Front National wins, it will pretty much destroy the idea of the EU.

Two ideas once held considerable promise and inspired millions of people. While one was seen as bringing about fundamental change in the way Indian polity worked, the other was a living example of what a potential global village could look like. Both these ideas will be put to vote on Sunday, 23 April.

Sunday’s MCD election is not just about who gets to rule Delhi’s urban local body. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has lorded over the Delhi municipal corporation for a decade and it is very likely that it might get another term.

In that sense, Delhi will have more of the same for another five years. But if the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) falters and does not do well in the latest round of elections in its bastion, it will signal the end of an idea even before it could make a mark.

AAP’s USPs

Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP did not start as just another party. It was not only about the promise of good governance. The party promised and somewhat delivered many things that were new to what we were used to till then.

The way AAP managed its campaign finance, selected its candidates (more so during the 2013 assembly elections that resulted in the 49-day government) and raised hopes of participative governance marked a clear departure from the past.

AAP was perhaps the only party that relied completely on contributions from people to fund its election campaign and participation.

It set out a target of collecting Rs 20 crore to contest 70 assembly seats in Delhi in 2013 and stopped the collection drive once the target was achieved. Much of the contribution came from within the country, but nearly 20 percent came in as donations from countries such as the US, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.

The party’s door-to-door campaign was mostly driven by an army of nearly 7,000 dedicated volunteers. It is estimated that nearly 80 percent of all volunteers were working professionals who either quit their jobs or took leave to take part in campaigning.

All that the candidates received from the party headquarters by way of help was a team of dedicated volunteers. No campaign material, no fund, and certainly no fleet of vehicles.

AAP Idea at the Crossroads

AAP used more of the same modus operandi in the 2015 assembly elections and created an electoral record of sorts by winning 67 of the 70 seats on offer. The robust process of selection of candidates, however, was somewhat compromised.

AAP as a phenomenon stands at the crossroads today. Having taken a severe drubbing in the recently concluded by-election for the Rajouri Garden Assembly seat, it must stay in the hunt in the MCD elections to remain relevant.

Another drubbing this time will push the party to the brink of collapse. Will it signal an end of the ideas the party stood for?

Also Read: Delhi MCD Elections: Do-or-Die Battle for Kejriwal Before 2019

Survival of the EU at Stake

Yet another powerful idea whose survival will be tested on Sunday is of the European Union. The first phase of the French presidential election is going to be held on Sunday. If Marine Le Pen of the right-wing party Front National wins the election, it will pretty much destroy the idea of the EU.

Le Pen wants France out of the Euro and she is opposed to the idea of a single currency for the entire eurozone. She stands for isolation and has been advocating doing away with idea of free travel across borders.

In essence, she wants the assertion of the French identity as opposed to the pan-European identity. Her views on religious minorities should also raise alarm bells across the world.

With Britain already out of the EU, can this powerful economic bloc afford another exit of a key member? France and Germany form the axis of the EU. With the potential exit of France, the EU is bound to lose whatever influence it currently wields.

The EU arose – as did a revitalised League of Nations (later rechristened the United Nations), the World Bank, and the GATT (subsequently renamed the World Trade Organisation) – in the wake of the Second World War, which refashioned the global order.

Also Read: And They’re Off: BBC World News Presenter Ros Atkins on Brexit

While America’s Marshall Plan sought to rebuild Europe, the victorious European nations worked to build an international institution which would work in the future on the principle of cooperation and not confrontation.

The creation of the EU in war-ravaged Europe was a powerful signal to the outside world that peaceful co-existence was possible with the deepening of trading ties, even if that meant diluting national identities.

It was a serious attempt, and a very powerful one at that, to show to the world that the era of vasudhaiv kutumbkam was coming. Can we afford not to have that goal even as a work in progress?