Delhi is an iconic city. From Rajghat to the Gateway of India, Delhi has been the centre of patriotism since forever. Few cities in India, if not the world, have a past as glorious as the glorious Delhi. The Mughals, the British and even us,in present day India, have chosen this city-state to be our capital.
And yet, Delhi has lost some of its honour. First, it is considered the centre of corruption. Partly due to Delhi`s importance, India`s biggest scams have originated here, from the infamous Commonwealth to the Coalgate and many other UPA Scams. Second, the most horrific cases of crimes against women have come from Delhi. Today, few talk about Delhi as glorious and great. Many talk about Delhi as corrupt and unsafe.
It isn`t fair to Delhiites — 99.9% of them did not tarnish the city. A few bad elements ruined the metro`s reputation. Of course, statistics show many Indian cities are equally unsafe on a per-capita basis. Corruption is probably as rampant anywhere else in the country. However Delhi, being high profile, bears the taint more than others.
Will Delhi ever restore its glory? Can Delhi ever become the most aspirational city to live in India? Can it be a role model for other Indian cities? Can it be a place where merit scores over corruption, and citizens are safe, secure and satisfied? There are no easy answers. Reputation, after all, takes long to rebuild, but a small time to tarnish and breakdown.
However, next week Delhi has a chance to redeem itself. Delhi faces an unusual assembly election. It is an election the country will watch. The way Delhi votes will decide if it deserves the mantle of a great city.
It isn`t an easy election. It is a triangular contest between three plausible alternatives. The first choice is the Congress, with a dynamic CM seeking a fourth term. Despite misconduct allegations, the fact remains Sheila Dikshit has overseen a transformation of Delhi`s infrastructure, almost unmatched in any other Indian city. However, her misfortune remains her being from Congress, which faces a loss of confidence amongst the middle classes and she bears the brunt of the UPA’s ridiculous governance and the anti-incumbency of the Congress.
The second alternative is BJP, the opposition. They have tried to position a clean-image CM candidate in Harsh Vardhan, the man behind the Delhi Polio Campaign. He is not as high profile as candidates of the other two parties and has also been called the “Manmohan Singh of the BJP” by rival CM probable, Arvind Kejriwal. However, he benefits from association with BJP, traditional alternative to Congress and the party of Narendra Modi. The Modi wave, as smartly calculated, is helping every BJP candidate get that extra push and the much important middle class votes.
Of course, many Delhiites know the difference between the national Lok Sabha election and the local assembly election. Support for Modi may well be kept in reserve for Lok Sabha Polls, 2014. For the assembly election, Delhi has the option to vote for another, new party founded on completely different principles. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is the most exciting part of what might otherwise have been a fairly dull election with a clear prospect for the BJP. But this AAP, has really made these elections the “BAAP” of all elections and a tough fight between the three parties.
The AAP is unlike any other Indian political party. Its origins are fascinating. It did not rise from representing an identity, common to almost all new political parties in the last 20 years. They are not representing Marathis or Muslims or Dalits or Hindus or any other community/caste or religion. The non-divisive AAP represents the battered Indian who struggles through life without really making it. The Indian who is educated, yet sees no reason for it; has a job but still is not satisfied and counts himself among the poor who struggles hard to eat two square meals a day; does not like the system but cannot find an alternative. Their core values, at least on paper, revolve around integrity,honesty and service. In some ways, the AAP has trapped itself into extreme accountability.
Yet they are far from perfect. Controversial sting operations on them aside, they have a long way to go in terms of striking a balance between issues such as: idealism versus practicality, and reality on a much larger scale; appeasing the aam aadmi in the short term versus making good policies for the longer term; staying fiercely independent versus working with other parties. Post-election disappointment from AAP is likely, given the burden of expectations and the time frame for delivering them. This AAP has made the next year really crucial for Indian polity.
However, do realise the larger benefit of the AAP winning a significant number of seats in Delhi (possibly even winning a clear majority). Overnight, the main political parties will take notice. Till date, many senior and powerful leaders across parties believe corruption and governance are fictitious issues created by the media and not really relevant to the Indian voter, who votes on the basis of his religion and the free goodies he gets. However, if AAP can benefit politically from its platform of integrity, i can bet the major parties will undertake overnight reforms to make themselves cleaner and abolish their vote bank politics.
If AAP can make clean, qualified candidates win, it will start a race within parties to get good people into politics who are far more accountable than the current lot. AAP would gain from this of course. However, what would gain most is our democracy and nation. For even BJP and Congress will look for good candidates and clean themselves up. The call for clean politics has always been there. AAP`s success will provide the incentive to turn this call into action. But there are serious consequences on the other side of the coin. I will get to that in another post.
Politicians are and should be chameleons. They change with the environment around them, adapting to it. An AAP success signals a new environment. The AAP broom won`t just clean up Delhi, it can clean up the dirt on the hand and the lotus, and maybe even the other important things over the nation.
If all this happens, Delhi will redeem itself and restore its lost honour. The city has been ridiculed and shamed far too much. In deciding their 70 assembly seats, it has the chance to show the nation why it deserves to be India`s capital. Go Delhi. Go out and vote. Go get your honour back. Never before have 70 seats mattered so much for the 1.2 billion Indians!
Thank you for reading. This article covers only the AAP factors. More articles on the Delhi elections will be coming up in the next 3 days before the polling begins on 4th of December, 2013.
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