Last fortnight, a widely known left-leaning political functionary and popular blogger from Kapilvastu Bishnu Hari Sharma made a fervent plea to Dr. Babu Ram Bhattarai to take a radical break from the conventional adversarial type politics dulled by a full bag of hollow promises, rhetorics, slogans and demagogic platitudes without any attention to delivery and fulfillmernt. He called on him to take cues whatever from Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's style politics where he focusses more on accountability and delivery, less on rhetoricsm, demagoguery and tongue lashing. An anti-corruption civl scoiety champion Kejriwal shot into promince in the political domain of India when his party Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) smashed the power citidels of both Congress (I) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the last province level elctoral competititon.
The AAP style alternative politics has its ripple effects in Nepal, too. There is no gainsaying the fact that India's politcs and political developments have had their bit of influence in Nepal starting from the time of India's freedom struggle against the British rule through on to the contemporary times. It is, therefore, natural that Kejriwal's rise in India's poltical horizon to have direct or indirect impact on the direction and definition of the Nepali politics which is testified by the proliferation of the groups and caucuses vowing to cultivate alterntive model politics. The results of the local elections held two months ago imparted a new vigour to the debate on alternative politics as some civic spirited independents won the key metropolitan mayoral posts dealing a sharp blow to the established political leadership in the country.
However, the trysts with the destiny of alternative politics in Nepal that was started with the launching of Naya Shakti Party by Dr. Bhattarai followed up by a reputed mediaperson Rabindra Mishra's Sajha Bibeksheel, among others, did not succeeed to make any dents. Many commentaors even wrote epitah on alternative politcs in Nepal. However, the political ambience has undergone a change now. Sensing that alternative politics has bounced back to have a future drawing inferences from the results of the local elections, Dr. Bhattarai has dissociated from the Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) and articulated publicly about the growing relevance of Baikalpik Rajniti in the evolving context of the country.
Though it is premature to presage about his impending moves, some of his aides mention that he will again opt for reviving Naya Shakti type politics that he had abandoned to team up with Upendra Yadav to lanch Janata Samajbadi Party more than three years back. However, many of Dr Bhattarai’s followers seem skeptical of his political acumen and deftness to give leadership towards the rejuvenation of altetrnative politics which he had once espoused with much fanfare but failed to sustain it with organisational skills and resources. A question naturally arises as to why the AAA could win the elections in Punjab state not very long back apart from Delhi in succession over the last decade whereas the political outfits claiming themselvers as alternative groups established in Nepal during the same period have failed misearbly to build political base and secure meaningful space in the elections held for provincial and and federal elections?
In fact, it is important to take into account the differences between the leadership and social-political value orientation of the AAA and self-proclaimed alternative parties of Nepal. The AAA owes its origin to the grounded grassroots civil society activism drawing on the Gandhian ideals whereas socalled Nepali alternative groups have been driven by top down model lacking socialisation, commitment and experience of civic orientation and grassroots mobilisation.
As a party born out of a historic anti-corruption movement that had received wider acclaim and popular support in India, the AAA holds itself to the highest standards of probity and cleanliness in public life. Many reasons can be cited to make the AAA unique and synonymous with the idea of honest and alternative politics in India. As a political successor of the 2011 anti-corruption movement, the commitment to end corruption from politics and government forms an integral part of the party’s values and rationale.
After winning a landslide majority in the 2015 Delhi elections, according to the news reports, the AAP government confronted with dangerous and powerful individuals and corporations to secure the rights of the people and in the process vanquished several mafia running Delhi such as water tanker mafia, contractor mafia, power company mafia, private school/college mafia and so on.
The AAP’s governance record in Delhi speaks for the pro-people agenda – offering lifeline water free, creating a globally acclaimed and India’s first three-tier universal healthcare model in cities, radically transforming education in government schools, raising minimum wages in the country, among others. A paper titled ‘What makes AAP different’ claims that it is India’s first political party to reject the use of red beacon cars for elected representatives and ministers. In 2013, Chief Minister Kejriwal’s Cabinet became the first to shun the use of red beacons of their official vehicles. This set the tone for other political leaders and parties to follow ever since. The AAP’s constitution forbids two members of the same family to contest elections or to hold a position on an executive body of the party. The party believes that political dynasties have monopolised entire parties and governments for decades.
In fact alternative politics is easier said than done. Have Babu Ram, Rabi Lamichhane, Milan Pande, Balendra Shah and many others who talk alternative politics the doggedness, stoic commitment and value orientation, clarity and patience to keep the fight for alternative politics on relentlessly? This is a moot question given the past records.
(The author is presently associated with Policy Research Institute (PRI) as a senior research fellow. firstname.lastname@example.org)