The Huffington Post

A Clean Sweep

Nikita Malik examines Delhi’s AAP in the run up to the highly political 2014 that awaits India for the Huffington Post. 

These are tough times in India. The nation faces its lowest GDP growth rate in the last decadeUnemployment rates have jumped to 4.7%, from 3.8% in 2012. Voters are disheartened by failed reforms and record corruption. Now, India’s political future depends on how power negotiations in the nation are distributed and negotiated. If the Aam Admi Party (AAP) is able to fulfill citizens’ expectations regarding participation, social justice, and due process, a shift in India’s democratic paradigm is to be expected.

Caste and religion based politics have long been an active playing card of regional parties in India. Championing the cause of their respective regions, regional parties tend to be ideologically fickle. Initial party dialect and promises can readily swing back, depending on the political opportunities that become available, the ambition and convenience of their leaders, and by a need to further bolster electoral prospects. The incorporation of backward caste elites and members of the scheduled caste into Indian political passion has done little to reduce the enormous economic disparities that persist in India’s social order. A 2013 report published by Credit Suisse reveals that 50% of India’s GDP, and 90% of India’s employment, is informal. Previous social welfare programs to reduce tax burdens and labour-market restrictions, such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), have been marred by corruption. An increase in the size of the informal sector negatively affects growth: first, by reducing the availability of public services for everyone in the economy, and, second, by increasing the number of activities that use the existing public service less efficiently, or not at all.

The key to the AAP’s inclusion strategy lies in its social activism, and its citizen-centric governance approach. Kejriwal’s quest to improve the quality of government institutions by enacting development policy dialogue is not a new approach in Indian politics. The AAP represents a deepening of democracy, however, because it measures and monitors governance by listening to the people, and not the interest groups. A growing demand for citizenship rights by common Indians has given rise to numerous needs for power and resources. The AAP meets both demands by actively involving voters as stakeholders in funding and party management. The utilization of social movements has been another key strategy in including voters, regardless of identity, as active participants in change. These movements have been formalized with the AAP’s rise to power and the creation of a complaints commission launched post-December 28th. Class-like divisions within castes and religions, and the failure of the Indian state to provide public goods such as primary education and health, have eroded the power of identity-based politics, releasing new actors ready for political and social mobilization on grounds of national inclusion.

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