New Delhi: Hello AAP, Good-bye AAP!

February 10, 2015

By Saroj Giri

Very rarely do we see such landslide and decisive mandate in electoral democracy as the AAP have got in these Delhi state elections. Very rarely does one see any election which mirrors real social contradictions this closely.

In particular, one saw a marked lower class mobilisation. Earlier the electorate was either an anonymous mass or comprised purely of caste and community-specific groupings, vote banks. That has not gone away, and things like Agarwala gotra or Punjabi khatri votes are still as important. Indeed, the figures show that a good section of BJP’s upper caste/class voters have switched to AAP.

And yet a new category of the poor and the working masses has emerged, or perhaps has risen up, depending on how things shape up. This is not about AAP but about lower class assertion. AAP must be seen only as a vehicle and medium, nothing more.

Big media is forced to reckon with this. The Times of India (TOI) in its analysis of the electorate had to use the term ‘underclass’. 60% of Delhi’s population live on less than 13,500 rupees month, says the TOI report trying to figure out who would most likely vote for AAP. This data is true since a long time. There is nothing new in it as such. But now it has acquired political efficacy.

Dalit, Muslim, Hindu votes, new generation voters, internet using voters, vote bank – there are many such categories that are often used. The use of the category underclass is however new and indicates a resurfacing of the real and the social in the otherwise foamy, wavy electoral politics. It cuts through all these other sectional or identitarian categories.

It is not just that the underclass got mobilised but they also imagined a struggle against the rich. Indeed, in these elections it had become all too common to hear the underclass characterise the BJP as the ‘party of the rich’, whom they do not want to vote for. A class divide opened up. That is, this divide is now not just a sociological fact or a statistic about socio-economic equality, but is structuring politics. This should be the point of interest for the left.

This class politics is not coming out of AAP, from its ‘character’, but in the specific context, AAP just happened to be the vehicle for its articulation. The undercurrent of class-based politics is more from the side of the voters rather than AAP’s own understanding or approach. How an authoritarian upper middle class movement (the Anna Hazare movement) against corruption came to win the support of the underclass is something the left needs to explore.

But right now, we can already see that in the coming days, the hidden class contradiction can unravel. Clearly, AAP by all indications can get bogged down in ‘good governance’, middle class conservatism and status quotism. And there are indications that the lower classes will egg for more. This is reflected in the fear that some of the elite anti-AAP voters expressed, ‘if AAP wins, Delhi will be overrun by rediwalas (hawkers) and autowalas (taxi drivers). It will be anarchic, making the city unlivable’.

The left must pray (!) and actively ensure that this fear comes true! It should try to foment and fan (read organise) this ‘anarchism’ (read protest) which will exceed all governance. It should stop looking up to AAP, expecting it to deliver radical outcomes. The problem is that even when the left is criticising AAP for being not so anti-communal or anti-neoliberal, it is as though there is an expectation that the AAP can and should deliver. The left must stop infantilising itself. It already got badly snubbed when Kejriwal told left parties to merge with AAP when they wanted to have an alliance.

The left must give up their dependence on AAP, mirroring their (earlier) equally disgusting dependence on the Congress who would supposedly be an ally in defending ‘secular democracy’. Arent the left leaders still debating about alliance with the Congress?

So instead of seeking an alliance with AAP the left should try to be in touch with and mobilise lower class power. A left which loses touch with the unfolding social contradictions is in danger of becoming an academic left or a moral outrage brigade. The left should be able to seize the moment and take the initiative. Many on the left are already part of and leading some of the sharpest struggles in the industrial belt in and around Delhi. The left in that sense is already ahead of AAP.

‘I do not believe in religion but I believe in those who believe in religion’. That is the stance we should take towards AAP. We believe in it only to the extent that the lower classes have reposed temporary faith in them. Instead of finding a new saviour in AAP, the left must push things beyond it and claim the class power of the working masses.

The Congress was sidelined, BJP came (in 2014). Nothing changed, neither socio-economic structures nor politics. Now, the BJP is being sidelined, the AAP came. Politics has changed a bit, mirroring social contradictions, but on the ground the socio-economic structures will be the same. It is always like this with Jai Prakash Narayan kind of sampurna kranti, a repeat of 1977. That time, the RSS which had backed JP could capitalise on the anti-Congress sentiment within the movement. This time both Congress and the hopefully the RSS-BJP combine too seem on the backfoot. If AAP expands beyond Delhi, then quite likely it is only the left which can be a real opposition to AAP.

The left cannot outsource its struggle to AAP and sit back. We welcome this victory but we must immediately contest AAP. We must be ready to bid it good bye!

Time to strike!

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