Kejriwal names his party, now it’s agenda time
Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi party (AAP) – the name means “common man,” with “aam” meaning “ordinary” (and also “mango”) in Hindi – hasn’t said much so far about the bread-and-butter political topics of the day. While Kejriwal’s India Against Corruption has spoken on a few topics such as the hanging of Mumbai attacks convict Ajmal Kasab, how would he deal with a hostile nation with nuclear weapons? In fact, what is his foreign policy platform?
I have other questions:
Poverty and unequal distribution of income. India is not only the poorest nation in the G-20, eight of its states account for more poor people than 26 poorest African countries. The unequal distribution of income is highlighted by shanties cowering in the shadows of shiny shopping malls. How can the Aam Aadmi party fix this?
Education and health. Twenty-six percent of Indians are illiterate. 287 million people are not educated, the highest number of illiterate adults in any country. How will Kejriwal, an IIT graduate, fix this? And how will he make Indian higher learning institutions worthy of being included in the lists of top schools, such as the Times Higher Education World University Rankings?
Health infrastructure is either non-existent or in a pathetic state in most of the country. The government spent only 1.2 percent of the gross domestic product on healthcare last year. How will Kejriwal fulfill his promise of free healthcare in such a scenario? How much will that cost?
Regional parties. Can the fledgling AAP survive without being forced into a coalition with local parties in states like Tamil Nadu where national parties have almost no footing? Coalitions mean compromise, which hasn’t exactly been Kejriwal’s ballgame so far.
Insurgents, particularly Naxalites. Many people have been killed in fighting between government forces and various insurgencies, notably Naxalites and Maoists from West Bengal down to Andhra Pradesh. Those insurgents say they fight for tribal citizens and poor, neglected groups. How will team Kejriwal reach the remotest corners of India where even the government has little control, especially when Facebook and Twitter won’t cut it? How will the AAP stop the violence?
Inflation. Kejriwal thinks inflation is a result of a nexus between politicians and industrialists. His promise that people will be allowed to decide the price of critical commodities is baffling, and requires explanation. Having said that, I have suggestions for what milk, eggs and tea should cost.
Economic reforms. What is Kejriwal’s view on allowing direct foreign investment in retail? Good economics could help millions of poor people in India, and help make the country a proper superpower. Will his philosophy of “swaraj“, or self-dependence, close India’s doors to the global economy?
Liberty. Has Kejriwal missed how free opinion is increasingly becoming a risky practice in India? What does he think about the two 20-something girls who were arrested after one of them sent a Facebook post about how Mumbai was a real drag after being shut down to honour one dead politician. What is Kejriwal’s opinion on how to preserve a free press and free speech as people discover more ways to exercise them?
Urban infrastructure. The Aam Aadmi party’s first electoral outing will be for the Delhi assembly in 2013. The capital of India faces an acute housing problem; real estate prices have shot through the roof and many millions live in illegal enclaves with little or no infrastructure. What is his Delhi master plan?
Reuters tried to ask Kejriwal and other team members at the party for answers, but they have not responded to our calls and text messages till we published this write-up. In a country of more than a billion people, aspirations are especially tough to meet. The aam aadmi in India does want roti, kapda aur makan (food, clothing, shelter), but that surely is not the end. Can the Aam Aadmi Party meet the tasks at hand? Stay tuned.