Aam Aadmi Party’s and Arvind Kejriwal‘s amazing journey from being a corruption activist to becoming Delhi’s youngest CM is stuff of fairy tale. And all this in just one year where people sped all their lives in politics tying to become some minister. And becoming a CM right away that too representing a party which celebrated its one year on 26 Nov 2013. It is all so surreal really.
Equally amazing is How Delhiites have voted so strongly for the party. Anyone you talk to in Delhi, says we knew they will win some seats but so many was never really believed. To see a change (if we can call it one) in India’s political capital is amazing to see.
Coming to the title of the post. As expected, there have been lot of praises from all corners (barring the opposition camp which is stumped for words). People have analysed the reasons for victory, challenges going ahead, how many days will it last etc..
Now there is another section which says AAP’s economic manifesto is full of problems. Basically it is all about uneconomic stuff – cheaper electricity bills, free water etc. I picked some economic agenda from its manifesto:
Electricity: Delhi’s consumers have been getting inflated bills due to malpractices by Discoms. AAP promises a reduction of consumers’ electricity expenditure by 50%. This will be done by ordering an audit of discoms, rectifying inflated bills and getting electricity bills checked by independent agencies. Licences would be cancelled of any discoms that refuse the audit .
- Traders: Simplifying VAT structures and opposing FDI in retail
- Industry: Improving facilities in industrial areas and simplifying licensing procedures
- Contract Labour: No contractual jobs for work that is required 365 days a year; ensuring implementation of minimum wages
- Unorganised sector: Ensuring social security for unorganised sector workers; regulating wages and working hours of domestics workers; improving working condition of rag-pickers.
- Street Vendors: licenses and fixed locations to be given to street vendors.
- First, no matter how much you propogate, elections in India are not won by economics. It is won on politics and populism still works. Especially in these inflationary times, what else will people vote for? When basic things have gone to the roof people will vote for a party which promises to lower some part of the household bill. It may be disastrous in the end, but that is how things are. Live in the present…
- Econs pointed and celebrated how populism lost its way in Rajasthan but at the same time were silent on how in Chattisgarh the ruling party won despite having so called populist measures. The reason is in Chattisgarh the benefits could reach people (atleast that is what the message so far is). Well, you can be populist but at the same time the benefits have to reach people. It is stupid to be just populist. UPA lost in states not because of populoism but because of serious negative wave against the party.
- Elections in India are like Test matches. In both five is the common denominator, as maximum time for both test matches and governments is five days and five years respectively. Just like tests, surviving for five years is full of ups and downs. In tests, you never know as just one bad session could cost you the whole match. Same thing is in government too. Just one bad phase and you are out. So you may have done a great job in the rest of the four days/years but just one bad day/couple of months and all is lost. The opposition suddenly smells blood and turns the tables for what looked like a certain victory for the incumbent.
- And then how else does one expect a new party to come to power without being a populist? Can it come to power by promising so called prudent economic policy like people will have to pay the true price of everything. foreign competition will be allowed in sectors and so on. After twenty years of so called reforms, people still do not really understand the benefits of them. Perhaps they are not getting them as much as economists want us to think otherwise. There are massive social upheveals especially for those that are left out of the globalisation rat race. So populism is what they look forward to and not the fancied economic reforms. And the numbers of such people remain large. How else does one explain these wins for parties which have poor economic manifesto?
- The thing is most people do not even understand what these reforms mean. But if some party exploits this and tells people that reforms is what has led to current woes, people do understand this and vote accordingly. This also explains the reluctance of any political party trying to showcase its reformist credentials. NDA tried in 2004 and lost really badly..
Now, one can argue whether AAP’s economic policy is any useful. It could lead to issues later.
However, as people have voted for AAP in large numbers and that too in Delhi where one would expect people to be more econ-literate, it isn’t the case.. Atleast on the basis of results, people do not care much for so-called sound economics principles…