Pratyaya | The appeal of AAP’s anarchy

Although leading us to anarchy, why is Kejriwal still getting so much public support for his actions?

Arvind Kejriwal has outsmarted many of the political analysts, not just once but on many occasions. From winning significant number of seats in Delhi assembly elections to the manner in which he held referendums to take the support of Congress to form government, he has found ways which are resonating with the people.  Critics (including myself) thought that Arvind Kejriwal will quickly realise that governance is a complex process and that the formation of government will be the beginning of disillusionment for the public. But so far, he is not only maintaining the same level of association and trust with the public at large, he is actually strengthening it by day.

However, what is good for the political prospects of Aam Admi Party (AAP) may not necessarily be good for the future of our country. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Aam Admi Party (AAP) members are experts in activism and they have already shown us their capacity to destabilise the status quo. AAP is however living in disillusionment that disorder can be the new public order.  The party should realise that hatred for other political parties, coupled with your own good intentions, is not enough to fix all the issues; unless these good intentions are backed by institution building. While I agree that AAP should be given sometime to settle in their new avatar, their decisions so far portray as if governance is all about unrestrained populism and collecting problems through many call centers.  Now they can add vigilantism to the list.

The methods employed by Kejriwal are fraught with great risks. Today he may succeed in his dharna and get some police personnel suspended but what if he comes with another demand tomorrow? Should the union government given in to all his blackmail? Instead of following constitutional means, he is actually incentivising dissent. It may be a good show of public strength as long as dissent and disruption works in his favour but what if teacher unions, doctors, police go on a strike against Delhi government until their demands are met? With what moral authority can the AAP government handle these future problems which every government is likely to face at some point of time.

There are many people who quote Ambedkar’s Grammar of Anarchy speech to explain why Kejriwal’s methods might lead to anarchy:

If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? The first thing in my judgement we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.

But why is Kejriwal still getting so much support for his actions? I think many people who quote from Ambedkar’s speech on constitutional methods conveniently ignore the rest of his warnings and reflections, which I think are equally important. For instance, in the same speech he says:

These are my reflections about the tasks that lie ahead of us. They may not be very pleasant to some. But there can be no gainsaying that political power in this country has too long been the monopoly of a few and the many are only beasts of burden, but also beasts of prey. This monopoly has not merely deprived them of their chance of betterment, it has sapped them of what may be called the significance of life. These down-trodden classes are tired of being governed. They are impatient to govern themselves. This urge for self-realisation in the down-trodden classes must not be allowed to devolve into a class struggle or class war. It would lead to a division of the House. That would indeed be a day of disaster. For, as has been well said by Abraham Lincoln, a House divided against itself cannot stand very long. Therefore the sooner room is made for the realisation of their aspiration, the better for the few, the better for the country, the better for the maintenance for its independence and the better for the continuance of its democratic structure. This can only be done by the establishment of equality and fraternity in all spheres of life. That is why I have laid so much stresses on them.[emphasis mine]

I think we have failed to reflect on the reflections of Ambedkar for too long. Instead of cursing the people for being impatient, perhaps we should be thankful that they have tolerated the burden of “being governed” for 60 years. In India, we have some of the most non-responsive public systems, whether it be public education, public health, public-transport, police or other government offices. For too long democracy has indeed been about once-in-a-five-year voting contest with power shifting from one non-responsive government to the other.

While I completely disagree and protest against the methods employed by Kejriwal to bring change, I think it is equally important to realise that people are impatient for new kind of institutional arrangement: an arrangement which is responsive and ensures that the presence of a government can make a difference to their daily lives. We must recognise these demands for new order and as Ambedkar had said in the same speech:

let us resolve not to be tardy in the recognition of the evils that lie across our path and which induce people to prefer Government for the people to Government by the people, nor to be weak in our initiative to remove them. That is the only way to serve the country. I know of no better.

To incentivse the use of constitutional means, we should remove the evils Ambedkar warned us about. Otherwise, this disorder is likely to continue. And we will continue to inch towards anarchy. The AAP way.

DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.