Politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed often and for the same reason.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you surely had watched the interview between Barkha Dutt and Arvind Kejriwal or at least have heard about it from different media sources. I guess the question that stood out for me was from a common man (Aam Admi) from Bihar who is I guess a parent and had genuine concerns about the education reform and how it relates to anti-corruption.
I am paraphrasing. “Forget Jan Lok Pal bill tell us what you are doing to fix the education system? I want my kids to go to private school and if they can’t then I will do corruption in order to get them in. Why can’t govt schools be at the same standard as the private school?” (For actual quotes please watch the video)
“They are eager to know what’s in it for them.”
I guess there are several things here. Firstly, AK and AAP ran on the promise that since ‘nothing’ has been done for the last 65 years to improve the conditions of the common man we need to do something. This is why I can understand why people are asking questions. They are eager to know what’s in it for them. AAP doesn’t provide a ‘time table’ (you may read magic wand here) on when and how to achieve all of their promises. They need to be reassured (especially the ones who voted for him) that they made the right choice. What some label as ‘skepticism’ I call being ‘cautious’ or even ‘cautiously optimistic’. And ‘no’ just because you ask a question you don’t fall under the pre-defined three categories of a) Congress Stooge b) BJP Stooge c) Corrupt. In our democracy one should be able to voice their opinions and ‘ask’ of their politicians questions.
Even president Obama when he first took office had to go through such scrutiny, why should AK or AAP be any different (Obama too promised people that he will take them out of the economic mess that the previous administration had left them with). I remember CNN or other media outlets used to post ‘100 days report card’ on Obama’s administration.
“Rome wasn’t built in one day”
A very common argument from AAP supporters I hear is that “Rome wasn’t built in one day”. Yes, they would be correct and it took careful planning and execution to get it to an empire with senate members, a parliament, and an emperor. Has AAP gone through this ‘careful planning’ stage? Or are they making changes on the fly? What are the long term consequences of their actions? What are the risks involved and what checks and balances are in place to mitigate them? Will the next govt. be blaming AAP for all the mess they would have left behind for them to clean up? With time will AK and his team of ‘honest’ party workers also become the very thing they have been campaigning against?
I don’t think the parent from Bihar who was questioning AK was hoping for an immediate fix to the ‘education problem’. I think he wanted to know ‘what’ his plans are regarding the ‘education reforms’ for the state and for the country (should he wins the big chair). If you recall from AAPs manifesto (which they are quite eager to display) there was a plan for ‘education reform’. However what it lacks is the timing or the ways to achieve the plan or in lay man’s term clarity.
From AAP’s manifesto:
“Aam Aadmi Party is committed to the provision of high quality education to every child in Delhi, irrespective of their ability to pay. Towards this end it shall make all possible efforts to substantially improve the standard of education in government schools, and bring them on par with high quality private schools. At least 500 new schools would be opened.”
“However, then the new issue (and a welcome one) would be that they will need a lot more schools”
The question that the parent asked is the reflection of the issues for the Aam Admi’s in the country. What are these “all possible efforts” they promised? The focus thus far has been to tackle the corruption issues, which is great but how can you tell people to stop giving ‘donations’ to the schools in efforts to give their children a better education system, when the govt. run schools aren’t up to par with the private schools? If you make the govt. run schools the same ‘quality’ as the private schools then who would want to pay enormous amounts of money to send their kids to a private school? You would automatically solve the corruption problem (at least in the education system). However, then the new issue (and a welcome one) would be that they will need a lot more schools (than 500) to house these students. That would be part of the ‘infrastructure plan’ for the education system, which again we haven’t heard much about.
“What they ‘are’ doing or have done since taking office is making headlines around the globe. It’s what they are ‘not’ doing that needs to be questioned.”
Another common argument that gets pushed around is what they (AAP) have done in a month no other govt. has done in years. So to that I would say as far is their ‘work’ is concerned (or by extension work ethics), I don’t think running protests in the streets of Delhi by the ruling govt. is the kind of work the citizens of Delhi voted for. What they ‘are’ doing or have done since taking office is making headlines around the globe. It’s what they are ‘not’ doing that needs to be questioned. Is that not fair?
Arguments can be made that the previous govt. didn’t have a clear majority and so they couldn’t get any agreements from the collective at least on the national level. If AAP doesn’t have a majority and knew this going into this role then I am curious as to why did they? After all, AK has repeatedly made clear that he isn’t after the CM’s position or into forming a govt. his ‘sole’ reason for doing this was to clean Delhi from corruption.
“It’s not as black and white as it seems”
As for their ‘track’ record there are many questions. It’s not as black and white as it seems. Like for example “An anti-corruption helpline was created”: Great initiative and it is yielding results in suspension of the four officers. However, during the interview AK throws out the number of 15%, 20%, 25% of reduction in corruption state wide. Sounds unimaginable, but doesn’t share how he got to that stat? Or what mechanism he has in place to measure ‘corruption’ in the first place? Or that how does he plan to deal with the back log in prisons cells once these criminals are put behind bars? Now, having an anti-corruption phone line isn’t unique to the state of Delhi. Other places in India also have them. So it’s hardly the “innovative” thinking that everyone is attributing to AK/AAP.
“If you think the problems we create are bad, just wait until you see our solutions.”
More questions can be raised on the other tasks that they have listed as completed on their site, but one thing that is glaringly missing is the ‘education reform’. If you think the problems we create are bad, just wait until you see our solutions. All of the ‘solutions’ such as corruption line, Swaraj bill, ending of VIP culture, electricity, water, social justice, etc. on their site have a question mark in my mind. The only thing I saw for education is the Delhi Nursery Admission Help Line. This help line is to deal with any form of harassment including demands for donation while applying for admissions to nursery sections in PRIVATE schools. So how does it help the common man like the parent from Bihar? I would say that if it is too early to have AAP fulfill all their promises (and clarified them), then it is also too early to say that they have “started moving in the right direction”. But that’s just me.
“Something is better than nothing”
I guess then there are those who think that ‘something is better than nothing’. I just hope that it isn’t all a gimmick to enter the PM’s seat or it isn’t to have Congress pull their support from them, so they don’t appear incompetent, just betrayed. I guess I also realized that people are automatically harsh of the previous govt. since they had more time in the chair, and are willing to give AAP benefit of the doubt (or be softer) since they are new. I guess time (5 years) will tell at the end of it all what all positive moves did AAP/AK really made. Promises are what wins election be it, rice at 2/- kg or ‘free water for everyone’. Let’s hope AAP is better at keeping their promises than the previous govt. What more I hope is that they carefully vet their promises and do a feasibility study along with the risk analysis to figure out whether these actually makes sense for a greater good and the future.
“If you keep asking others to give you the benefit of the doubt, they’ll eventually start to doubt your benefit”
We need to give AAP a newly formed party with a new Chief Minister at the helm some benefit of the doubt, but If you keep asking others to give you the benefit of the doubt, they’ll eventually start to doubt your benefit.