Suresh Mane, General Secretary of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), spoke recently to Ria De, of Dalit Camera: Through Un-Touchable Eyes, on the Aam Aadmi Party and the emerging contours of politics in India. This video interview was transcribed by Ajith Francis.
Recently, Indian politics is undergoing radical changes- drastic changes especially in the context of the coming Lok Sabha elections which is scheduled in April and May 2014. Now in this election, first and foremost- the media is going to play a pivotal role. Because nowadays, media has assumed the central place in the whole process of making public opinion, or building public opinion, either in favours a particular party, or against a particular party. Again in the media, the social media- the use of the internet, the use of Facebook, the use of Twitter - modern technology through which the middle class, the middle-educated class is more accessible to the political parties. And this we are witnessing for the past one year (or two years) – since the anti-corruption movement (or agitation) by Anna Hazare and others. And this was reflected in the just concluded assembly elections in the northern Indian states.
We must admit it, accept it that in the Delhi assembly elections, the experiment of the AAP party or the AAP team - they have achieved phenomenal success and the political reality is that no one can undermine their success story. They have taken up the issues of the common man, such as sadak, bijlee, pani (it is also called BSP- bijlee sadak and pani). All three issues- they have taken them up and, in fact, they were successful in checking the pulse, the political pulse of the common man, as a result of which they were successful in the process of demolishing the big status quoist political parties such as the BJP and the Congress.
Now, corruption is a very wide issue. In fact, in this phase of neoliberalism in the third world countries or even in the western countries (where capitalism has reached its highest point), a lot of discontent has been seen in the people belonging to the lower order, lower strata. Therefore, whether it is the Occupy Wall Street (movement) in the United States of America, or the Anti-corruption Movement in India, or even in Egypt and Poland - such kind of movements are coming up especially in the context of economic issues. In this background, if we try to understand the whole emergent process of AAP, of Arvind Kejriwal and his whole team – we can see that (in India too) they have successfully taken up the issue of the corruption (which, nobody can reject). Right from school admissions to minister-level corruption - everybody is concerned about it, and they have rightly taken (up) the issue, along with some other issues of the middle-classes.
But when we talk about corruption - corruption in the western countries or some other countries and corruption in India- there is a vast difference. But AAP has taken up corruption as only an economic phenomenon - they have taken up only the economic aspect of corruption. They are not going to deal with the social kind of corruption, the religious kind of corruption, the intellectual kind of corruption, and even the corruption in the sphere of spirituality also.
Now, these are not the issues in the western countries, or other countries. And therefore if someone makes the kind of assessment that AAP has taken up the overall issue of corruption - it is an incomplete (assessment), or rather it is wrong. They have taken up only the economic dimensions of corruption (or the economic aspects of corruption). And therefore the AAP team (or the AAP party) - they are not as vocal as they are supposed to be, or expected to be against other kinds of corruption. For example, you have the social institutions like the 'khap panchayats' working in Haryana, Arvind Kejriwal's own state. They are not taking up these kinds of corruptions. Women's issues- we know very well that patriarchy is the system (that oppresses women), one of the age-old social institutions of this country. They are not worried about these kinds of social institutions.
Caste and Untouchability - like the communists, they (AAP) have also successfully diluted the issue of caste and untouchability and discrimination. The communists also believed, for a long period of time, right from 1925 in India, that with the advancement of the economy and developmental politics all these social institutions will be wiped out. What happened?
CPI and CPI (M) took many years to realize the ground reality of caste, untouchability and other social diseases. And when we refer to other social diseases, like you have the system of joginis in the country (in Andhra Pradesh) or devadasis in Karnataka or the border areas of Maharashtra and Karnataka or even the 'dedication' of young girls to the gods and goddesses - these are also corrupt social institutions which they (AAP) are not bothered about. And therefore, one of the late fallouts, or effects, of the AAP project is that in the current age - when politics is dominated by economics, when politics is influenced by economics, when politics has also taken the form of the corporatization, a form that says that a Chief Minister, or a Prime Minister should like a CEO - when these kinds of new changes have emerged in Indian politics, AAP is bound to get success in politics, and therefore they are (seen as) worthy of success.
But in India, against the social institutions of caste, untouchability, discrimination, and several other social diseases, there have been long standing movements for years together. There have been long standing social revolts, cultural revolts, protests, dissent movements, conversion movements (whether it is Sikhism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam) and people have revolted against it (caste). But in this new economic scenario, such kinds of movements will be diluted and sidelined by the effect of AAP. That is one of the biggest dangers.
That danger needs to be understood by the scholars, researchers, workers, leaders, activists, missionaries- those who are working, especially, with the marginalized sections. If they don't understand this, probably, they will be making a mistake in taking on such kinds of issues. Especially, again coming to AAP, we can't understand the combination of Kejriwal and Yogendra Yadav and others. Kejriwal is a product of anti-Mandalite movement and Yogendra Yadav is, we can say, a product of the Mandalite movement. How can this be a combination?
Along with them, you have the other players who can be (called) exponents of the corporates, exponents of the NGO culture. Now, who is putting together this kind of combination? Who is directing and who is funding this kind of a combination? These are also serious questions.
They are again talking in the name of the Aam Aadmi, Aam Aadmi, Aam Aadmi. So far, till today, Aam Aadmi's patent lies with the Congress party. They were the sole monopolist patent-right holders of the Aam Aadmi. Now there is a paradigm shift, and the patent lies with the AAP project. Now, can we say that Arvind Kejriwal is an Aam Aadmi? An Income Tax commissioner, his wife is also a commissioner - Aam Aadmi? Sisodia - (who runs) a huge NGO with foreign funding - Aam Aadmi?
On 3rd January, while securing the vote of confidence in the Delhi Assembly, Arvind Kejriwal himself made a statement saying that 'who is Aam Aadmi? Aam Aadmi is that person who is a victim of the corrupt machinery, corrupt governance, or who wants to have corruption-free governance.' If that is the only convenient definition or perspective of Aam Aadmi, then we can certainly ask 'How can Arvind Kejriwal and Sisodia be Aam Aadmi?' People who receive more than 3 lakh US Dollars from the Ford Foundation (an American organization)?
Those who get foreign funding through NGOs or through this Ford Foundation – now an Aam Aadmi is not supposed to get (more than) 3 lakh US Dollars. If he does, then he cannot be an Aam Aadmi. And therefore, what Congress has tried to do in the name of Aam Aadmi, in the near future AAP will do the same thing in the name of Aam Aadmi. The only thing is that, (for the people) Congress' experience is a proven experience and their (AAP) experience is going to be proved very soon.
Fine, the issues are very good- electricity charges, water supply. What about those who are not getting water, drinking water in the villages? What about those who have been living in darkness for years together without any electricity? For such marginalized people- the most oppressed people, what is the solution with AAP? Therefore, a few urbanites and socialites in urban India, satisfied with their minimum needs and everything, they are now at the forefront with the help of the media, with the help of corporate funding, with the help of NGO funding, with the help of a lot of sponsors from among the NRIs and others, they are doing these kinds of projects. How long they will survive? Time will tell us. How long will they sustain themselves in Indian politics? We need not make any forecasts about them, time will tell us. And time is the best judge of each and every political experiment.
But one thing is again certain. They are also copying the earlier models of the BSP from Kanshi Ramji's experience. For example, the slogans of One Man One Vote and One Vote One Note. That is originally Kanshi Ramji's model. Even Narendra Modi is practising it now. Kejriwal's team is also practising it. Yogendra Yadav knows very well about Kanshi Ramji, and when he (Yadav) formed the party (AAP), he has (at certain platforms of the party) openly stated, or admitted that 'we are also following the footsteps of Kanshi Ramji'.
So, it is not that the AAP has started some innovative techniques, given a new kind of dimension to Indian politics. Some dimensions, some techniques, some innovative methods- they have been already proven, and already experienced (in Indian politics). And the BSP has conducted all these kinds of experiments and is sustaining itself in Indian politics right from 1984 till now, 2013. Now, this is not a small period. That is a more than a 25 year period.
Now, let us see how long the AAP people, or AAP party can travel. We know some of the colleagues of Arvind and Sisodia, who were shouting the slogans of 'Bharat Mata ki jai' under the umbrella of Anna Hazare. They are now joining the BJP also. So what have they learned actually? Or, are there some forces in India which are working together, putting some people together, which will be serving the interests of the corporate class and there will be corporatization of several things in the name of corruption-free governance in India? That is the biggest danger in front of Indian democracy. Only time will tell us. We need not be cynical about all these things. We need not be critical about all this, but we cannot also neglect these aspects- that is the ground reality.
I hope that this minimum information is enough for our activists in understanding the new processes of AAP.