I am not a member of the Aam Aadmi party and I don’t plan to become a member either. But I support them.
So when I read what Chetan Bhagat has written in his blog in Times of India, I felt like offering some gratuitous advice in much the way he does to AAP. So I say to you, Mr Bhagat, please stick to writing novels. There is no logical thread in this political blog of yours, your analysis is pedestrian at best and hollow and biased at worst. While you may be used to making up your own reality when writing fiction, you cannot take such liberties when it comes to political analysis. You are a famous man, Mr Bhagat and you have a responsibility to write with integrity. I also do not see that you have any respect for facts.
You have said
It is not easy to write a column with views that run against the wave, particularly against well-intentioned people you have yourself encouraged. I face this dilemma when I write about AAP and its need for a reality check. AAP is the flavour of the month. The media is going gaga over it, the poor see it as their messiah, and rich but bored executives are quitting their jobs to join the ‘movement’.
It deserves some of the hype. It is honest, humble and responsive. The party quickly adapts to public opinion, even if it means changing a previous stance. This responsiveness alone makes it stand out from existing political parties, led by dinosaurs that couldn’t move even if their tail was on fire.
And I say to you, Mr Bhagat
Your piece is titled “India first, AAP second.” If AAP quickly adapts to public opinion and is willing to change its stance, is this not a case of AAP putting the country ahead of the party ? How then do you go onto say that they are putting the party first ? You trip on your own logic Mr Bhagat.
You have said
If AAP plays its cards right, it can be a leading national party over the next decade. However, AAP needs to realize that the bigger concern is not AAP, but India. Sadly, some recent policies and decisions have been highly questionable in terms of national interest.
In a bid to come across as a hero to voters, AAP announced free water, and a bizarre subsidy-based cut in electricity tariffs in Delhi. Some estimates say this could cost thousands of crores a year. This money could have been used for hospitals, schools, flyovers, employment generation and a dozen other purposes. The poll promise was to reduce the alleged corruption in the electricity sector, and pass on the efficiency gains to the people. The cheeky accounting and subsidy-based reduction was irresponsible. If the AAP tariff decision is extended pan-India , the cost could be lakhs of crores a year. Such moves can not only wreck the country’s finances, they will send the wrong signal to private players who will shun investing in India’s electricity sector. It helped AAP win some instant applause, but did it help India?
1. You have not bothered to even get the facts right on the water initiative. Go on, read the manifesto or if you want the distilled essence, feel free to visit my blog . AAP is not doing this to come across as a hero, but to make good on a promise they made in their manifesto.
2. Pray do tell me what is bizarre about the promised cut in power tariff. In most law abiding societies, tariff is fixed on the basis of an audit of costs. How is this bizarre, Mr Bhagat ? BTW, the BJP too had promised a 30 % cut in tariff do you not know that. May I also point you to the statement of a former Chairman of DERC Brijendra Singh who ordered that tariff be slashed by 23 %, an order that the Delhi government shot down. Singh’s was the voice of experience that, as you argue later in your post, AAP does not have but the Congress and BJP do. You have a lot of explaining to do for your irresponsible choice of words. Cheeky accounting is what the electricity firms have been doing, not AAP. Cheeky would be a good word to describe your snide remarks directed at AAP.
Says Mr Bhagat
Another example is AAP’s bid to have 90% reservation for Delhiites in Delhi colleges, many of which are national brands. Note the damage this creates at many levels. It prevents students across the country from joining the best colleges. It denies the colleges the best talent, and damages their brand. It creates pressure to move to Delhi, adding stress to urban infrastructure. It encourages parents to send kids abroad to study, costing us foreign exchange. Shouldn’t we discuss all this? Why don’t we have top Delhi colleges opening branches across the country, for instance?
Again, this move may have helped AAP, but did it help India?
You may be honest, but if you are ok with raiding the national treasury and hurting national brands to aid your party, are you completely pure?
Again your disdain for detail shows, Mr Bhagat. I must tell you that hyperbole cannot ever be a substitute for facts. Manish Sisodia has proposed a 90% reservation in the 12 colleges funded fully by the Delhi government. Here’s the link to two news reports on the subject. One appeared in the ToI the other in HT. If the Delhi government is funding these colleges in full with Delhi tax payers money, why should they not reserve all of the seats for residents of Delhi, I ask you. How do you say that this creates pressure on people to move to Delhi. The intention is to offer reservations to Delhi residents and not to people moving to Delhi to reside to be able to get college admission. Then you talk about kids having to go abroad. But wait, Sisodia is only talking about denying admission to kids from elsewhere in favour of Delhi kids. How does this lead to more kids being forced to go overseas, I don’t get it, Mr Bhagat.
I know whats bothering you, so let me also put your mind at ease, Mr Bhagat. Under the scheme proposed by Sisodia, none of the colleges where your audience studies is affected. Not Stephens, not Hindu, not LSR. You may not even have heard of the 12 colleges. Here’s the list: Indira Gandhi Institute of Phy. Education & Sports Science, Shaheed Raj Guru College, Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar College, Bhagini Nivedita College, Maharaja Agrasen College, Mahirshi Balmiki College of Education, Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, Dean Dayal Upadhyaya College, Acharya Narendra Dev College, Keshav Maha Vidyalaya, Aditi Mahavidyalaya and BhaskaraCharya College of Applied Science. It will be stretching one’s incredulity to refer to these as national brands given the state they are in.
When I read your argument, it reminds me of the story told of the wolf who accused the sheep drinking water downstream of muddying it.
You have said
There also seems to be a self-righteous attitude towards an ‘aam-aadmi’ lifestyle, and a disdain for affluence. While conspicuous consumption is wrong, I fail to see how aspiring to a good lifestyle, or living it with one’s hard-earned post-tax money is less virtuous? Millions of Indians have worked hard in the past decade and upgraded their lifestyle. That has increased our per-capita GDP. Should we discourage that? Do we want an honest, but poor India? Is AAP pro-poor, or pro-poverty?
Why is AAP getting it wrong already? One, an explicable hurry to compete in the LS elections. Two, a mindset that lacks vision on what India needs to be, apart from being corruption-free. I wouldn’t blame AAP for the latter. They were meant to be an anti-corruption movement. Now they aspire to be a national party. There is a substantial re-think and reinvention required before it goes ahead with its new goals. It needs to learn governance, and have clarity on how it can deliver not only a corruption-free India, but also a thriving economy with millions of opportunities for youngsters . All this needs time. However, the upcoming election and the overrated ‘momentum’ it seeks to capitalize on, is hampering this crucial process. In this hurry, AAP also risks attracting the wrong people who seek power over a better India. If AAP opted out of the LS 2014 race, only the truly dedicated would join. AAP’s entry in the LS race will increase the chances of a hung parliament and a khichdi government. For what it’s worth, a lot of foreign governments, investors and local entrepreneurs feel Modi can put India back on the path of growth. I am not sure they feel the same way with AAP. What is best for India then? Similarly, the Congress, with all its ills, has the most experience in governing India, while AAP has none. Does that experience amount to nothing? Should these factors not be considered in 2014 when we think of India? Or is it not about India anymore, but only about AAP?
Let us citizens also place India’s progress over any political party’s progress. The keys of the nation should be given to people who are not only honest, but can also take India to the next level.
I follow AAP reasonably closely and I have never heard them express a disdain for affluence, or speak disapprovingly of anyone seeking to upgrade their own life style. I don’t know where you got this from especially when I remember the Delhi CM making a reference to transforming this country into a “sone ki chidiya” in his post swearing in speech.
The only one getting anything is wrong is you and I have not spotted one fact that you have got right through this rant of yours. Why should they opt out of the LS 2014 race Mr Bhagat? Yes, their participation increases the possibility of a khichdi sarkar but what is wrong with a Khichdi sarkar ? Congress may have the most experience governing India but have they done anything to improve the lot of the common man ? You extol Modi who, now that he has been cleared by the courts of any wrong doing, can still be charged with inept governance when his state burned. Let me also tell you that neither the BJP nor the Congress fight elections on a shoe string budget and flout every rule in the book. AAP has kindled faith of common people in the system, I urge you to not prick this with your sanctimonious spiel.
I don’t get it Mr Bhagat when you say that those that rule the country should listen more to foreign governments, investors and local entrepreneurs and less to the voters who elected them in the first place. How ridiculous, Mr Bhagat. We live in a democracy where the majority will should prevail, not that of a small privileged elite and certainly not that of foreigners.
I submit to you, Mr Bhagat, that if corruption is tackled effectively, much of India’s problems will disappear. Public services provision will dramatically improve, the poor will find succour. The face of this country will change. Pity, you don’t even see the possibility. Let me suggest to you that you may want to take your own advice.