Dear Yogendra Yadav,
Nice to hear that you have launched a political party. Enthused as I am about your decision, I won’t commit myself to supporting you or opposing you at this point. Maybe I will take the call two years later. I backed your other political venture, a joint one, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in a hurry and I cannot say the experience has been a happy one. Like a lot of foolish people, I was carried away by the idea of idealism and trusted the people who spoke of alternative politics too much. I won’t make the mistake again. As someone one who was thrown out of the party rather unceremoniously for demanding transparency and probity in its functioning, I hope you appreciate my concern.
Everyone would wish you ‘all success’ in your new effort; I would wish you ‘all failure’. Don’t get me wrong. I am a well-wisher. I respect your intellect and intent. Traditional political parties operate within a template, a self-limiting one which they have developed over the years. As a party you need to win seats, justify your existence in the form of numbers and finally, the numbers become all to your politics. The questions of finding money and candidates with winning chances to achieve numbers come in soon. That is when parties begin drifting away from their core ideal. We have seen it in the case of AAP.
The AAP’s original appeal remained in the fact that it made ordinary people relevant in politics. It raised issues that mattered to the masses, their everyday concerns and worries. It touched a chord because traditional politics had distanced itself from them to the degree of being cynical. Here was some entity that promised not to be indifferent. That things changed quickly for the AAP and it remains as good or as bad any regular party now requires no elaboration. The success for your Swaraj India would be in reviving the people’s force in politics and in rejuvenating democracy from below. That is the reason I wish you failure in traditional politics.
I sound impractical alright, but why would I be your well-wisher if I weren’t impractical?
I would urge you to tone down your obsession with matters like intra-party democracy, the opposition to cult culture and freedom to dissent. Put all this into practice by all means – after all these practices are democratic as well as democratising, thus noble - but remember a party does not exist for itself. People don’t remember a party for conducting itself with utmost purity; they measure it by how it touches and changes their lives. It does not matter to them whether your party revolves around one person as it does in the case of Narendra Modi in the BJP or Arvind Kejriwal in the AAP – this is for the consumption of those fixated with theoretical concepts of leadership, they require you to deliver in measurables.
Nobody can find faults with fighting corruption. Do it to the best of your or your colleague Prashant Bhushan’s ability, but get the perspective in place. Parties cannot live and survive on a singular issue. There are many dimensions to their existence. Don’t focus on it so much that the target group – the people – become irrelevant.
The place where I stay, Patparganj in East Delhi, has massive garbage dumps close to slum colonies and posh apartments. The sight and stench are unbearable. For quite some time toilet water flowed freely on to streets and remained deposited there. In the season of dengue, chikungunya and malaria all these left residents in a state of panic. It was obvious neither the Delhi government nor the MCD concerned was doing its job. As a political fight involving the BJP and the AAP raged, with the intellectuals of the city taking political sides, people were left fending for themselves. It was a hopeless, desperate fight against vectors. These are the situations when they need to be heard and someone to be their voice and wage their fight. Mr Yadav, your party would be appreciated if it took up that responsibility. I give the example of one situation in the city but there are many such in our everyday lives that call for the presence of a responsive political party.
You and your colleagues are intellectuals of high order. Let that not be a handicap. Intellect is a desirable property but in India it creates distances, psychological an otherwise, among people. I hope you manage to bridge the gap, be identified with the grassroots.
For now, best of luck. We shall meet two years later.