Almost exactly one year ago I’ve had dinner with Mehmood Khan in Delhi. It was November 26. He came from the launch of a new political party: the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Common Man’s Party. He is one of the founding members – mostly engaged “behind the scenes”, a strategist and a person who strongly believes in the power of open networks. November 26 – by the way – is also the anniversary of India’s adoption of its constitution in 1949.
The birth of the AAP was pretty “loud” – media wise. Mainly because of two issues. First the formation of the AAP resulted out of a conflict between their current leader, Arvind Kejriwal and Anna Hazare, a veteran Gandhian social worker from Maharashtra, who led the 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement in India. Both, Kejriwal and Hazare were leading figures in Team Anna, a non-political Indian group that lobbied against corruption. Hazare wanted to keep this movement non-political, Kejriwal wanted to politicise. On Gandhi’s birthday, October 2, 2012, they decided to split and move on on separate ways. The second issue media jumped on was the tremendous financial support the newly formed party achieved within its first days of existence. They raised millions of USD from a broad range of people.
Then they basically disappeared from the media scene.
Now they are back in media.
Here are a few statements:
“For the first time, Delhi will see a three-way contest in assembly elections, thanks to a political party that is only 11 months old but is already making waves.” (= AAP), NDTV
“Surveys predict AAP will sweep Delhi elections: Arvind Kejriwal.”, Business Standard
“Aam Aadmi Party: The Incorruptibles?”, Tehelka
“With separate manifestos, AAP focusing on local needs”, Hindustan Times
So it’s all about the upcoming Delhi Assembly election in December.
I only know little about Indian politics; I watched the inner circle from a short distance over a few month as a house guest of a well-known journalist in Delhi, but I never felt attracted to it. It seemed just like back home – only the actors were even older and the system itself in a different way corrupt. I learnt about the two big parties, Indian National Congress Party (a somewhat confusing name, I think) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and that’s basically it. But AAP – not only because of Mehmood – caught somehow my attention. And I followed them over the last few month trying to find out what make them different. And here are a few things I find at least remarkable – and I assume these points would suit any new party in the West as well …
- The AAP candidates are young people. They are mostly in their 30s. They are also a mixed bag: a former NSG commando, social activists, a business management graduate, an auto-rickshaw driver and an IT professional.
- They set up an amazing network of Indian students from universities from all over the world including names such as the MIT, Berkeley University and others. These volunteers organize google hang outs, they donate money and promote AAP online very authentically. It is NOT campaigning or promoting, it is much more fighting for their causes; meaning fighting corruption and finally giving the youth a voice!
- AAP is not directed by a program. They are borrowing from the left, they are borrowing from the right or the middle – what ever helps to define a solution. The party seems to be much more solution driven than focused on a paradigm.
- This together with the fact finding approach of local manifestos makes them really attractive for the people. Together with the people in each single constituency local manifestos are written which define the people’s needs – and those become the program/agenda for this constituency. It’s binding for the candidates. And it’s binding for the people. So it’s NOT a top down approach; no, it’s truly a grass root act. And each manifesto is different in tone and issues being raised. It’s about taking ownership and responsibility.
All in all very interesting to observe.
Are the winds of change tangible in Delhi? I hope so. Time is ripe.
Let’s see what Dec. 15 will bring.