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Where the party’s at | The Indian Express

Namdeo Dhasal’s poetry dared the reader to look reality in the eye. It also offered a redemptive vision. AAP cannot claim to be post-ideological as it welcomes members with clear ideological slants. The Aam Aadmi Party is expanding its membership on a seemingly daily basis. Most recently, and prominently, social activist Medha Patkar, who leads the National Alliance of People’s Movements, has declared support for the party. Several corporate leaders have also thrown in their lot with the AAP. Meanwhile, it is also trying to distance itself from the controversial opinions of its leading members, as in the case of Prashant Bhushan’s advocacy of a referendum in Kashmir on the question of security. It is obvious that the AAP has opened its doors to individuals whose worldviews often directly contradict each other. But how is it to sustain a bounded political party and government without some attempt to synthesise those disparate views? Some of this dissonance is inevitable. The party has its origins in the Anna Hazare-led popular movement against corruption, a caravan of ideologically disparate groups that came together to push for their version of a Jan Lokpal bill. But what was acceptable in a single-issue campaign may be insupportable for a political party in charge of a state government. Further, as the AAP sets its sights on the national stage, it must go beyond please-all populism and provide clear outlines of its own social and economic philosophy. That will be risky, and will involve choosing among various interests and alienating some, but it may be necessary to avoid collapsing under the weight of its own internal differences. After all, for all its blurry agenda, the AAP has made some consequential policy decisions — reversing FDI in retail to placate certain groups, for instance, while claiming in the same breath that its decisions are not ideological. Even if it resists being bound by the rigid set of issues that have so far organised the political field, the AAP will have to clarify its bent on empirical policy questions now that it is running a government. Just as a coalition of different parties must frame a common minimum programme to inform its operational priorities, the AAP must necessarily place itself in some kind of political grid. This is particularly important because, in the absence of a coherent platform, the party will be judged by its individual constituents. If it welcomes people as diverse as Medha Patkar and Meera Sanyal, it is obliged to tell us where its own views lie, on the spectrum of ideas that these two individuals represent. It cannot distance itself from the opinions of members as and when they are voiced, without first explaining what its own opinions are, where it agrees and disagrees with these party members. Going forward, greater transparency about its own agenda will serve the AAP well.
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