The vision document of Arvind Kejriwal’s party could well be a straight lift from a schoolboy’s fantasy of an ideal democracy. But let’s indulge him for now. The most likeable quality in school children is innocence. Indian politics needs that innocence, that redeeming touch. If Kejriwal and his colleagues manage even a minor change, it’s welcome.
The document is full of idealism. That’s a good starting point. It’s impractical and unpragmatic, and the criticism has started trickling in. Point accepted. You can never have people deciding prices of essential commodities. You cannot have big decisions made at street corner meetings. You cannot simply ignore the economics of a hike in diesel and electricity prices. When you rule a state or a country you cannot have a narrow, community-centric focus.
But idealism has always been beyond considerations of practicality and pragmatism. It’s a benchmark people looking for change set for themselves. On a broader canvass, it’s the definition of a civilisational goal. The Constitution of India is a vision document for the country for all practical purposes. That the politicians have failed the ideals intrinsic to it is another matter. Idealism serves as the moral compass for the collectivity whether it’s the community or the nation.
Kejriwal is cutting no corners here. He leaves nothing open-ended. He gives no hint that he will be open to self-serving compromises in future if the situation demands. Yes, the method he proposes to adopt to bring down electricity prices and tackle other issues looks anarchic, thus dangerous. But let’s give him time. He is out to launch a political party. He will eventually mellow down – responsibility does that to everybody. If he is programmed to self-destruct, then nobody can help him.
The vision document seeks to demolish all the symbols of a flawed democracy. It says there will be no red beacons atop the cars of his members if they are elected to an assembly. He says they will accept no security for themselves or official bungalows. There are practical reasons why security is provided to some elected representative and why bungalows are allotted to them. But over the decades these have come to symbolise the power of the political class and the status differentiator between the politically powerful and the common man, who the former is supposed to be representing.
While addressing the rally in New Delhi, Kejriwal announced that his party, if elected to power, would pass a Lokpal Bill within 10 days. It’s part of the vision document too. The document also has the demand of Right to Reject and Recall on top of its agenda. It would help if the team backing him stops being obstinate about these demands and starts a genuine debate over them. The Lokpal agitation last year was a failure as Team Anna refused to listen to arguments unpalatable to it. Kejriwal must make his party more inclusive and open to ideas.
However, the vision document does not provide us the complete worldview of the new party. It appears too eager to create an immediate vote bank of common people at the cost of other significant sections. It does not tell us how the party will manage to strike a balance between several conflicting interests within society. That’s where the skills of true politicians come in. It wants a rollback of electricity tariffs but offers no solution on how power utilities will manage business without periodic hikes. It wants the diesel price hike rolled back but offers no solution as to how the country is going to manage the growing subsidy burden. It does not offer any new ideas for the economy.
But let’s ignore the lapses. It’s just the beginning. Political parties take long to develop and find coherent points of view. Right now we will accept the school boyish fantasy. Best of luck to Kejriwal.