ByÂ Nanditha Sankar:
“Indian Democracy stands at a crossroads. Sixty five years after Independence the promise of Swaraj is yet to be redeemed”.
Thus begins the 27 page long manifesto of the Aam Aadmi Party, which goes on to describe itself as not ‘just another party’ but one that has risen from the struggles of the public across Jantar Mantar and Ramlila Maidan. The fledgling party, which was conceived in November 2012 has expanded its avenue by fielding 426 candidates in the Lok Sabha polls ahead of Congress (414), BJP (415) and SP (160).The AAP had earlier released a prelude to their manifesto showing what was to come. The actual version seems to reflect most of the points mentioned there with a few additions.
The AAP manifesto outlines three major issues that seem to be plaguing the country according to them —corruption, communalism and crony capitalism. Recalling the heroes of the nation, our freedom fighters, the party has listed its arduous trailing of the anti-graft Jan Lokpal Bill in an attempt to ensure that what ended with the Delhi Government will continue. Focus has been placed on empowering the common man through theSwaraj Bill that would devolve power to the Gram Sabhas and Mohalla Sabhas. In an attempt to provide easy accessibility of the judicial system, a set of judicial reforms have been put forth in the form of Gram Nyayalayas, simplified judicial procedures and a greater number of fast track courts. They’ve also mentioned police reforms and action against policemen in the event that an FIR filing attempt is denied.
Electoral reforms including lowering the minimum contestable age from 25 to 21 have been quoted by drawing analogies from the lives of young Indian freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh who had attained immense knowledge of the political system at such a young age. However, at a time when youth politics kick-starts only around that age, the practicality of this point remains to be seen. In the field of health reforms, a Bill to help the needs of both the rich and the poor has been included. There also seem to be plans to promote India’s indigenous health practises in Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani etc. Impetus to education in the form of more IITs and IIMs , quality teacher appointments and rolling back of the controversial DU Four Year UG programme find mention in the manifesto.
In the matter of economic reforms, return of Black Money stashed away in foreign hands has been mentioned. Avoiding contractual employment, protecting the common man from rising prices, implementation of Swaminathan Commission Report recommendations, promoting India’s entrepreneurial spirit are highlighted. The AAP has not forgotten to remember the Muslim community India, by taking the onus upon them to put an end to fake cases filed against Muslim youth and undue harassment meted out to them in various arenas of life. Secularism and communal harmony have been included and the Adivasis, Valmiki Community, Nomadic populace have not been forgotten. Plaudits to AAP for including efforts to make physical constructs conducive to those with physical disabilities. Decriminalising gay sex is another key agenda in the AAP Manifesto.
Respecting India’s age-old tradition of living in harmony with the fauna, policies to strengthen Wildlife Act,1972 and enhancement of the powers of the Animal Welfare Board find mention in the manifesto. In matters of internal security, the much-controversial AFSPA has been included for subject to review while zero cross-border terrorism highlights AAP’s take on India’s foreign policy. Anti-doping measures and provision of state-of-the-art facilities to help India become a sport super-power have been enlisted.
Overall, the AAP Manifesto covers various facets of life, caters to all the masses, makes special mention of the disabled, the LGBT community and other deprived sections. By what seemed like a purely populist manifesto from the prelude, AAP has shunned that idea and moved forward to encompass a wider vision of things. With the party attaining national spotlight in this year’s elections, there are considerable chances that it could whisk away a few seats from the traditional players- the BJP, Congress and other major parties. One must also remember that the multi-point agenda in Delhi made by the AAP was all forsaken for the sake of just one agenda-the Jan Lokpal Bill. It remains unclear if AAP has given equal focus to all the entities listed in this manifesto or has some other plans behind closed curtains.