Saturday, March 15, 2014

Auto (Rickshaw) Politics of AAP and Others

(Manish Sisodia and Arvind Kejriwal during Delhi Assembly Election)

Subtitle: AAP Should not Rely on the Chameleon Middle Class

Is there in any truth in saying that the AAP’s Delhi win was majorly contributed by the messages of the party carried across the city by the auto-rickshaws? Today, the Delhi auto drivers have changed their stance. They have already started putting up Narendra Modi’s messages and anti-AAP slogans on their autos. With these slogans help or not in sending across the message, the opinion polls conducted by various agencies predict that there will be a NDA led rule in the centre and if miracles do not happen, Narendra Modi will be the Prime Minister of the country. In that case, what do these auto-messages do in the public domain for swaying the public opinion for or against a particular party? One cannot think that when the AAP was campaigning for the Delhi assembly elections, all of a sudden all the auto-drivers became conscious of the issue of corruption and they desperately wanted to bring in a change therefore they put up pro-AAP posters on their vehicles. There must have been an organized move through various independent auto unions to carry out such propaganda. Today, when they change the colours and put up pro-Modi posters, it takes only common sense to understand that these are organized and rather paid campaigns undertaken by the propaganda wing of the BJP. As portrayed or commonly believed, it is not a conscious decision by the auto-drivers to oppose the AAP or its leader Arvind Kejriwal.

After becoming the Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal had called for a mega rally of the auto-drivers, where he had asked them to take a pledge on the name of their children that they would never over charge or indulge in any corrupt activities. The euphoria and optimism was such that most of the auto-drivers promised then and there that they would obey rules and would never over charge the commuters. But the truth is different. When Kejriwal was in power, most of the auto people behaved. They thought that it was their moral duty to abide by their pledge or at least by the slogans that they had carried on their auto rickshaws. For forty nine days, auto people showed some amount of sophistication and decorum. Even if their meters are defective they at least showed the willingness to run by meter. But the day Kejriwal went out of power, they changed their colours overnight. They started over charging again. They have forgotten the pledge that they have taken. They have forgotten the oath. Reason, Delhi has not changed. Kejriwal had asked people to conduct sting operations. Even the policemen were afraid of asking for bribes thinking that they would be caught in camera. But the day Kejriwal tendered his resignation, Police came back to the Delhi streets in full force asking for bribe. As Kejriwal puts it extortion corruption is back in action.

(Delhi autos against AAP today)

Delhi showed some symptoms of preparedness for revolution when it voted for the AAP. But soon it realized that the country is not yet prepared for any kind of revolution. People want revolution but people are not ready to do any kind of sacrifice for that. When the Central Secretariat Metro station was closed in January this year due to Kejriwal’s sit in protest, majority of the Delhi middle class thought that Kejriwal was doing something wrong. Middle class elected Kejriwal to mind his business; not theirs. They thought like other politicians Kejriwal too would sit in the secretariat and by making policy changes he would provide a corruption free governance. But he showed the world that there were different ways of governance. Importantly, he told the world that to do good governance, the government needs right kind of power in hand. And to have right kind of power, people should have participation in governance. But the middle class in Delhi failed to understand that. That’s why most of the people today say that Kejriwal did something wrong by resigning from the power. He could have continued in power and fought from inside. But to fight from inside you need the support of the system. The system itself was hostile when he was in power. He was the first powerless chief minister in India.
More than the auto people, Arvind Kejriwal’s campaign was supported by the social networking sites. Social networking sites play an important role because many people believe that expression of opinion in the virtual space is enough and if they have done something for the AAP and if AAP has come to power, they feel good about it. Obviously, social networking sites have helped forming the opinion of people. It is just like mass mobilization of opinion in the real space. What evening rallies used to do once upon a time does the same today in virtual space day in and day out. People are swayed by mass likings and mass sharing. People are impressed by the number of followers in twitter and they also want to be a follower. But this actually does not contribute to the real revolution. Wherever revolution has happened, including Egypt and Kiev, people have come out en masse to the streets. In India it has not yet happened. People are arm chair revolutionaries. They speak their opinion in twitters and facebook and leave it there. Unless and until they come out in the streets and face the brutal power of the state, revolution is not going to take place. People are not interested. The latest example is the desertion of Mamata Banerjee- Anna Hazare rally in Delhi. People just refused to turn up. If Modi’s rallies are attended by too many people, they are paid to do so. Those people come out in the streets are either paid or are just professional protesters. The mass is still at large. Middle class does not want to dirty their clothes. The working class is absolutely disorganized. The auto people are just turn coats.

Where does the revolution lie then? In India, there is no possibility of revolution in the near future. Unless and until the middle class feel the need to do sacrifice on its part, revolution is not going to take place. People in the grass root level are the real sufferers. Displaced masses in the urban and suburban areas are the real sufferers. Though there are unions for farmers, Dalits, Adivasis and so on, they do not agree on so many things and do not come on to the same platform. When these dispossessed people awake and run over the middle class and destroy the cosy life of the middle class then only a revolution will take place in India. But in the meanwhile the middle class will join the ruling class without looking at the colour of the flag or the flavour of their ideology. They resist grass root revolution on behalf of the government/state. Middle class will be used as a shield against the possible working class unification and uprising. Auto drivers are the misguided disorganized mass that aspires for middle class status by looting the middle class. So they would in turn protect the middle class values only. AAP has to start organizing people from the grass root level and they should threaten the middle class with its ideology. And the future of India is in the hands of Communists in which the AAP has a great role to play. But people accuse the AAP of being ultra or Maoists. Maoists operate from outside the system. AAP operates from within. So fundamentally the AAP is not ultra leftists. But AAP is the dormant socialist and communist dream of India. We just need to wait for it to become a reality. It may take a few years or even a century. But I am sure that to turn that dream into a reality the medium is neither auto-drivers nor the middle class. The future of the AAP lies in the subaltern of all colours.

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