The past fortnight in India has been a tumultuous one; one in which the Aam Aadmi Party has hogged the airwaves with its populist, ‘Robin Hood’ style approach to politics and its self-styled anarchic protest. The party has managed to divide opinion, but, in doing so, it has arrested the attention of a city, and perhaps an entire country’s, people. So much so that the President, unfortunately and wrongly to my mind, has been drawn into the melee, using his address to the nation on the eve of Republic Day to remind it that “populist anarchy cannot be a substitute for good governance.” Perhaps nothing less, or more for that matter, should have been expected from President Mukherjee’s speech; after all, it is the Government in power that scripts it, and the President, as mandated by the constitution, is not allowed to air his personal views. But, specifics aside, in drawing the concepts of populism and anarchy together in his speech, the President has revealed the deep sense of fear that has been engendered in the ruling elite by the AAP’s unconventional ways; a fear strong enough to make the error of dismissing the collective anger of its vote-casting citizens as anarchy, and associating, by contrast, the dismal rule of the UPA to order and good governance.
In viewing Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to protest outside the Rail Bhavan as anarchism are we not confining ourselves to the narrow margins of dictionary definitions? In a country rife with pluralism, perhaps no movement or concept can claim or be bracketed under confining textbook neologisms. The movement outside the Rail Bhavan was started by the Chief Minister, but gained its momentum from the people who supported it. It was both populist in its sentiment, and anarchic in its decision to eschew the niceties of privileged politics. The violence that followed was on account of a people’s repressed anger, and, the policing of it reflected the genuine fear of those opposing it. Perhaps one term that has failed to make it into the discussions surrounding AAP in the last couple of weeks is ‘radical.’ A term that has moved above and beyond its 18th Century associations to Kejriwal’s contemporary movement against governmental high handedness. Continue reading