The period of Internal Emergency from June 1975 till January 1977 was a great learning experience for me. I was still a student and one of the youngest detenus who spent 19 months in detention for having opposed the Emergency.
A key question for us in prison was how long Emergency would last. Mrs Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister, consistently justified her dictatorship, proclamation of emergency, press censorship, detentions of political opponents on the ground that it was a ‘bitter pill’ to be swallowed during the ‘era of discipline’.
She claimed that the people of India supported it. She was convinced that the 20-Point programme that she announced during the emergency had a popular sanction. There was no way of measuring this support.
But her unilateral assessment guided her political decisions. Towards the end of 1977 she announced general election on the basis of this popular support and sanction to the Emergency. She was routed in the election. She lost even her own seat.
This is one of the dangers inherent in excessive propaganda. Demagogues always believe their own logic to be true. Governments buy their own propaganda. The UPA government had also misled itself because of excessive advertising of its so-called achievements.
The Aam Aadmi Party
The Aam Admi Party’s performance in Delhi Assembly elections was certainly remarkable. Its silent and systematic campaign produced results. It succeeded in marketing an idea which was accepted by a significant number of people.
It emerged as the number two party behind the BJP both in terms of votes and number of seats. Delhi has produced a hung assembly. A hung assembly is not necessarily a dead-locked assembly. If smaller parties give support to any of the major parties, a government is possible.
The Congress with eight seats is the balancer in Delhi. It has announced a conditional support for the AAP party.
The AAP had categorically stated that it represents ‘alternative politics’. It is guided by idealism. It will neither support or accept support from either the Congress or the BJP.
Obviously if the AAP stands by its publicly-stated commitment, the Delhi assembly becomes a dead-locked assembly wherein after a reasonable time a fresh poll has to be ordered.
How does the AAP justify a volte face where it seems to be compromising on its commitments of alternative politics. Obviously, political opportunism should have no place in alternative politics dictated by idealism. The AAP may be concerned with the fact that many members of Legislative Assembly including the AAP MLAs do not want an early poll.
It may even be strategsing on how to capture power, announce a few popular decisions and carve out a further positioning for itself.
For any of these strategies to prevail the AAP has to somersault from its stated position. It has to retract its public commitments of not accepting support from the Congress Party. It has, therefore, decided to enact a farcical referendum.
This referendum has a self-serving model. Motley crowds are collected all over the town whose support is sought. A question is asked whether AAP should form a government. Obviously, they are all thrilled with the idea.
In the process, a statistical wonder is produced wherein less than 30 per cent people voted for the AAP in the election but more than 75 per cent want it to form a government.
In effect, political opportunism is being masked with the idea of popular sanction behind it. A space is being created wherein its leaders could argue – “we were not hungry for power, we would not be taking Congress party’s support. But we are democrats who are now bowing to the popular will of the people. It is the people who want the AAP to form the government with Congress support.
Is this the beginning of the alternative politics or the end of it?