Kejriwal’s party gears up for Delhi polls with election reforms
(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)
The Aam Aadmi Party (common man’s party), led by bureaucrat-turned-activist Arvind Kejriwal, is gearing up for state-level polls in Delhi this year with an array of candidates chosen for their honesty.
Kejriwal’s election plank is to cleanse India of corrupt politicians and bring more transparency to government. With graft scandals embarrassing the ruling Congress and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Aam Aadmi Party is taking a more grassroots approach to the problem: weed out the bad ones before they become candidates.
Anyone can hope to be a election candidate for the party if they are endorsed by 100 potential voters from the constituency they hope to represent. Political analysts say that’s not too difficult but makes the process more transparent.
With political parties usually considering money, influence and muscle power while choosing candidates, preventing criminals from entering politics is a tough task. In the 2008 Delhi state polls, 91 candidates had criminal cases pending against them; 27 won the elections to become lawmakers.
The Aam Aadmi Party is forcing political aspirants to reveal criminal records in their applications while a screening committee vets the candidates before finalising names. (More on the process here)
“We are talking about clean politics in the country. It would be unfair to choose such candidates,” said Manish Sisodia, a national executive member of the party.
The Aam Aadmi Party is displaying shortlisted names (63 as on June 19 from 800 applications) on its website and at the party office, asking for feedback from the electorate. Political analyst Amulya Ganguly told Reuters it’s a good idea but involving such a large number of people may not be practical.
“No process probably is foolproof. Particularly when you put things on the Internet, people can come up with false allegations also,” says Anil Bairwal of the Association for Democratic Reforms, an NGO working for cleaner politics in India. “(But) doing that also is an important exercise to make the process transparent.”
The party has not yet made public how it will arrive at the final list for Delhi’s 70 seats. But Sisodia says the only criteria would be “winnability” and honesty.
It’s not clear whether transparency can help Kejriwal’s fledgling party trump the Congress or the BJP in the elections. Or will it fizzle out like his anti-corruption campaign?
“It’s a good endeavour but judgment has to be reserved on whether it will be successful,” says Ganguly.
But activists say it’s still an important step towards transparency, regardless of results.
“Even more than the method, there is also the intent behind the method that is important,” says Bairwal.
(Follow Shashank on Twitter @shashankchouhan)