AAP’s baby step towards participatory democracy

December 20th, 2013 Posted in India, Politics

In a brilliant and possibly game-changing move the AAP decided to take the decision of whether to form the government in Delhi directly back to the people for their inputs. For the first time in Indian politics, feedback is being sought directly from the people using ubiquitous present-day technologies – email, sms, Internet, social media etc. Delhi is a relatively small state and hence a perfect testbed for such progressive democratic experiments.

The Congress and BJP are surprised by this move and have tried to respond to this in traditional political style – “Are you going go back to the people for every decision? Are you afraid to form the government? Form the government and let us see how you deliver on your promises etc.” Some call it a “drama being enacted by AAP.” Nitin Gadkari calls its “right-wing Maoism!” The reality is that our two major parties and large sections of the media are completely flummoxed by this new brand of politics.

It is interesting that this is happening in the backdrop of the supposedly historic passage of the Lokpal bill. Contrast what is happening in Delhi with the sequence of events that lead to the passage of the Lokpal bill. Anna Hazare was at the forefront of the Lokpal battle in 2011. His fast brought lakhs of people to the streets at that time. But now Anna seems to be happy with the revised sarkari Lokpal bill. The BJP and Congress were thrilled that Anna had turned around and diluted his earlier demands. But are the people who supported Anna in 2011 still backing him on his new position on the Lokpal bill? In other words, is this revised bill acceptable to the lakhs of people who supported him in 2011? As of today, we just don’t know the answer to these questions because no attempt was made to get the direct response of the people. In this case a “political consensus” does not necessarily mean a “consensus of the people.” Thankfully, the elections are just round the corner and the people of the country can deliver their verdict in the next few months.

There is fundamental difference between what happened with the Lokpal bill and what is happening in Delhi today. In Delhi the focus is not on the individuals. Instead the focus is on the people. What we see unfolding is a consultative process where every citizen is actively co-opted into the decision-making process, thereby creating a shared sense of community, ownership and people empowerment like never before.

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times

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