Why the young shouldn't be misled by AAP's antics
AAP has often proved by its utterances and actions that those who are not with it are against it and must be fulminated upon --- my way or highway attitude.
by S. Murlidharan
Dave Keller, an American writer, said “He who isn’t a socialist at 19 has no heart and he who is still a socialist at 30 has no brain.” What we are now witnessing in India, the upsurge in support for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), is perhaps the vindication of the first part of one of the most quotable quotes of recent times.
For, AAP’s clarion call to join politics, cleanse the political system by providing an alternative dispensation that cuts across class, caste, religion and region, the one that junks the traditional method of garnering funds for fighting elections, is finding resonance among youth especially more than others. Infosys’ former CFO Balakrishnan who has joined the AAP recently may not be exactly 19 but then that age was not meant to be taken as a strict cut off date but as a metaphor representing youth.
AAP may be beckoning the youth more but one may wonder if all of them are socialists? Well, the rubbishing of accoutrements of power, the disdain for formality and protocol, and the almost irreverential attitude to institutions and norms perceived to be a stranglehold on socialistic passion all seem to have been the real pull, the gravitating force for the young and the restless. And all these are also trappings of a politburo run party that brooks no dissent much less resistance. AAP has often proved by its utterances and actions that those who are not with it are against it and must be fulminated upon --- my way or highway attitude.
That it chose to announce free water upto 20,000 liters without applying its mind as to whether its core constituency, the poor, would benefit by it is of a piece with its pigheadedness. It should have first addressed the issue of pipeline to shanties before announcing free water. AAP has no answer to this putting the cart before the horse initiative. Its representative Raghav Chadda looked sheepish on a television channel and blamed it on the previous government for not laying pipeline all these years. Of a piece with the same tendency to play to the gallery and ignore realities is the 50 percent subsidy for power for households consuming up to 400 units a month. It is one thing to smell a fish in discoms’ accounts but to burden the taxpayer on the basis of an obsessive suspicion is quite another.
The young and the restless seem to be taken in by the AAP’s antics. But brash decisions cannot be mistaken for decisiveness, a trait which AAP does not want Modi alone to possess. What Modi perhaps would have done in Delhi is to lay the pipelines first before announcing free water. He would have also found out that the main culprit on the power front is Delhi’s dependence on power purchased from other states. With as much as 70 percent of the power price in Delhi being the purchase price, there is hardly any headroom for granting a heavy subsidy much less 50%. Modi would have thought it prudent to put up more power plants so that Delhi was not constrained to pay more for purchased power. Modi would not say no to nuclear power which AAP seems to be saying if the hearty welcome given to the anti-nuclear power activist Udhay Kumar is any indication.
AAP’s recklessness on the power and water front is obviously finding resonance even among Congressmen with demands for similar initiative surfacing in the Congress-NCP ruled Maharashtra. The contagion is likely to spread sooner than later to other states as well with frightening consequences that most certainly would have a debilitating effect on country’s finances, throwing the combined fiscal deficit of the states and center to catastrophic levels.
The second part of Dave Keller’s observation that at 30 if you are still a socialist you have no brain unfortunately would not appeal to a vast segment of the populace, the beneficiaries of populism. Which is why proffering of prudent advice against impudent financial practices is looked with contempt by the vested interests. In fact many of them may know in their hearts that huge fiscal deficit is not sustainable even in the short run but might nevertheless condone it on selfish and self-serving grounds.
Inevitably both direct and indirect taxes would have to be increased to bridge the fiscal gap which too is not acceptable to parties with socialistic moorings or pretensions. India does not have the luxury of lowering taxes because unlike the Middle East Sultans, who confer their munificence on the ruled actually to lull them and stop them from rising in revolt against their plundering of the precious and valuable natural resources, our rulers simply do not have precious natural resource like oil to bankroll the economy including freebies besides earning money from them on the sly. If the Middle East sultans make money through exports, our political masters make through imports and its adjunct over invoicing and kickbacks.
In the event, there could be a large number of young enthusiastic new entrants to the fledgling party whose calling card is mindless populism besides ranting against corruption given the youth’s instant and natural empathy for socialism. The aged ones too would join the bandwagon on the self-serving notion that if you cannot beat them, join them. So what if they are in the process perceived as having no brains. In any case, the old and the thinking would be simply swamped by the upsurge of the youth support given the fact that as much as 65% of the voters are under 35. Modi and his Gujarat model in the event might well come under the AAP juggernaut.
The BJP perhaps would realize in retrospect that it opened the champagne bottle rather prematurely. Already it must be ruing its decision not to follow the government in Delhi. By being modest, it allowed an upstart to steal its thunder. It could have governed for a few days and then resigned a la Vajpayee in late nineties in a blaze of glory. The BJP could have ridden back to power wearing the hallow of victimhood on its sleeves. More importantly, it could have contained the threat to its ambitions of riding to power at the center.
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