Events Report

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11 th Hashtag: ‘Aam Aadmi Party: End of New Politics?’

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The culmination of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was based on a wide-spread and popular anti-corruption movement headed by Mr. Anna Hazare. It was also the moment, when Hazare warned that the movement should not be politicized At the heart of this ‘revolution’ was a promise of change, a vision of a better and more responsive democracy in India. The voter, mostly middle-class, believed in AAP because it represented the ‘new politics’ of India, the kind of alternative politics in which the commoners could participate and bring about the change s/he desired. The vision of reformation resonated well with the desperate masses looking for a change in politics. It began with the ambitious demand for the Jan Lokpal Bill, for which the entire nation had supported AAP. The AAP, led by Mr. Arvind Kejriwal, swept to power in Delhi with an unprecedented majority of seats in the Assembly, after it was recognized as a political party on November 26, 2012, by the Election Commission of India in March 2013. The new government, thus, was built on dreams of city dwellers, who awaited to participate in active citizenship for major reforms in governance, policy orientation, organization building, a program of action, constructive works, protest activities, electoral competitions and good governance. The birth of a new political party AAP was a significant episode in the life of a democracy.

Two years hence, however, the experiment with alternative politics seems to have not fulfilled the dream of the people. The AAP government in Delhi is best rememberedby the voters for its constant and regular excuses for inaction, marked primarily by blaming either the centre-appointed bureaucracy and the police, or the motives of the media. The subaltern base of the party, which the Delhi’s middle class voter appreciated, seemed to be a vague memory. The overwhelming support for Mr Kejriwal from the rich to the poor across the city was not repeated across different elections in the country in which the AAP failed to make a mark. Mired in corruption charges, battling an unusually early anti-incumbency, and ignoring other voices in the party, the AAP today seems like
the end of a dream.

The 11 th HashtagAdda of the StudioAdda debated whether this is the end of the new politics which was ushered in by AAP. The talk examined whether the AAP has turned to be same as any other political party? Do the recent municipal election results in Delhi, won by the BJP, show people’s faith diminishing in AAP? Does Indian political sphere have no space for alternate politics? Has AAP turned into a one-man show? For the same, one prominent leader each from AAP, BJP, Congress and CPI (M) were invited to address the audience at the event. Also, youth leaders from AAP, NSUI and ABVP were called as discussants for the event.

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The event commenced with Congress leader Kiran Walia speaking about the birth and politics of AAP. Calling the party a continuity of struggle of Anna Hazare movement, Walia added that this was not the first time when a party was born out of a social movement. Congress too emerged out of a social movement and history repeats itself, she said . So, the fact that it came from a movement is nothing new, but the mode of campaigning is new. She added that it was the first time in the history of India that a party got 67 out of 70 seats but, the birth of AAP was like a hope in the situation of hopelessness that it has failed to deliver. She gave the example of Sheila Dikshit’s state government under BJP government at the Centre and said that the governments in past have managed to deliver in the midst of differences: “Instead of blaming the government, exercise those functions which are within your power”. Commenting on the ideology of
the party, she said that the party has none and it is merely a “rainbow coalition” where people from different fields have come together. She ended her talk by saying that this is not new politics but an old one.

After Dr Walia, CPI-M politician Mr. Atul Kumar Anjan started his speech with poetic expressions. He sai that the in current scenario both BJP and Congress are at same wavelength regarding the Delhi government. He said people thing that country is run by “netas’’ (politicians) but in reality it is run by “neeti’’ (policy). He said today people have forgotten lessons of leaders like Nehru and Gandhi. Laying an emphasis on sahitya (literature) and kala (art), he said that today politics’ connection with the literature has
been broken. About the composition of the party, he sarcastically remarked if Anna Hazare was some recruitment centre.

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BJP leader, Mr. Vijender Gupta, said that the faith of people has been shaken by AAP. He claimed that there has been no discussion on Lokpal bill in last two year in Delhi Assembly which apparently was one of the main agenda of AAP. He reminded that in 2015 people had voted for AAP overlooking caste, class, creed and religion but the promises are not fulfilled. Calling good governance a flop show, he asked if the party even has any ideology.

Ms. Atishi Marlena said the AAP is an example of evolution of new politics. Defending the party, she claimed that no democratically elected party has been targeted like AAP and there exists a nexus with vested interest that is a big challenge and they had not expected it. She also said that they didn‟t expect and were not ready for the many challenges they faced after coming to power. She ended by saying that their party will keep struggling and fighting for what is right.

The discussant at the event, Mr. Anmol Pawar from AAP, commented on the role of media in politics and expressed his discontent at the targeting of NDTV news channel. He said that every party faces some challenges. The citizens should keep faith and be patient for the results.

The event was then left open for discussions in which the audience actively participated.

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Thinking is central to all learning and there is no learning without thinking, but central to thinking is questioning. It is our questions that fuel and drive our thinking. A primary skill for any independent learner is the ability to ask clear, well defined and relevant questions and it is obvious though, that however simple or complex an issue is, a good clear relevant question will be of far greater use to the learner than a question that is vague, poorly defined or irrelevant. Keeping this as a primary motive, StudioAdda organizes a student competition “The Democracy Question”. As part of this competition, participants are requested to provide two questions they have to different sides of the political spectrum. The top 50 submissions receive certificates and the top 3 receive prizes. The winner of the Democracy Question at 11 th HashtagAdda was Shiwani Mamgain of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. Her question was “AAP started as a youth party and as a challenge to the two major parties, but the recent corruption charges levied show a different tangent it is seen to be taking. Is it necessary to have a strong political career to run a party in India and win seats? Or the interest and will are more important?” Winners were felicitated by the speakers and the others were awarded a certificate of participation.

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