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AAP's ideology of cleanliness is not an ideology at all

Kiran Batni http://kiranbatni

Updated: March 13, 2015, 6:19 PM IST
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Immunity from realpolitik, which is a fancy word for the give and take behind the scenes, was the central campaign message of the Aam Aadmi Party. That message has been completely destroyed after the sting operation involving none other than the self-appointed icon of political cleanliness in India, Mr Arvind Kejriwal. There are cartoons out there with the Kejriwal bee stinging itself.

As if to add to the party's woes, two of its top leaders, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, expelled from the party's Parliamentary Affairs Committee, are engaging with the volunteers and explaining how they did nothing wrong. Their courage seems to indicate that Bhushan and Yadav have less to hide, and less reason to hide, from the public than Arvind Kejriwal.

The problem with this whole experiment called AAP is that, in the absence of an ideology, the public is made to switch meaninglessly between parties and party leaders in search for mister clean.

The Delhi assembly election was pretty much won on the basis that Mr Kejriwal is essentially that person, complete with Gandhian public announcements extolling the need to control the ego. But now he has competition, and in the midst of it all, the idea that political parties have to stand for something over and above individuals is getting completely lost.

Despite all assertions to the contrary, operational cleanliness is not a political ideology. Things like abstention from bribery and horse-trading cannot be bullet points in an ideological document. They can only be bullet points in a party's code of conduct - how it behaves on the path to achieve ideological goals. Ideology is the direction in which the vehicle moves when it's roadworthy, not roadworthiness itself.

The fact that this simple thing is not understood by some of the most intelligent men and women in the country speaks volumes of the poverty of political thinking in India. Politics is no longer about ideology, it appears, and that is a problem.

It is not as if the framers of the Constitution of India finished off the job of creating a perfect democracy. It is not as if sticking to the Constitution is all it takes for the hopes and ambitions of every Indian to attain fruition. It is not as if all we need now is a few clean men and women to do what the book says.

We always need men and women who understand what's wrong with the Constitution at any given point in time, and what can be done to rectify it. That understanding has nothing to do with operational cleanliness. It is the domain of ideology. Our search must be for a clean ideology; the ideology of cleanliness is not even an ideology.

First Published: March 13, 2015, 6:19 PM IST

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