The Rise of the Nouveau Politique

Being a rebel is fun.
It’s trendy
It’s even cooler when it is in the ‘best interests of the society.’
And one way or another, often short-lived. Either the rebel dies, or the rebellion dies within.
Pragmatism eventually recovers the part of the brain that works according to Darwin instead of Creation. Demands of living, of supporting dependents, of fulfilling duties closer to the hearth than perhaps the heart… compromises that try to bridge the life you wanted to lead with the one you have to, sometimes leaving you right in the middle and unable to enjoy the thought of choosing either bank.
But sometimes, with the same odds as the current Indian bowling attack rolling over an opposition with cunning or pace, you get lucky. You come across a movement that satisfies the Robin-hood within, needs sufficient investment – time, money, emotional attachment, faith, whatchamacallits – to make you feel good but not so much that it seems like work. You get to sit in judgment of others, discuss vehemently, include yourself in the millions who are ushering in the change and revel in the anonymity that being one in a million offers.
I know how that feels. I sit in front of a laptop, pontificating on the rights and the wrongs of the world as I see it, hoping that at least some of the people passing by the window pause, maybe even come into the shop and browse through stuff. On Facebook, I ‘like’ pictures of cute dogs and show them to my wife, promising her that one day, we’ll adopt at least a couple of them. I whizz by streetkids peddling stickers, thinking I’ll do something to get them off the streets and somewhere safe; I look at families balancing themselves on two-wheelers and imagine ways to get our traffic etiquette on track.
And I’ll do all this tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after…
My solace? I am not alone. I am one of those millions that dream of making a difference in one way or another. I am anonymous, and I like it that way because I don’t want a disgruntled mob, the target of my righteousness, showing up on my doorstep or painting J’Accuse on my nameplate.
The rise of the Aam Aadmi Party must seem like water to a rebel parched for action. Like the youth who step into the campuses in Kerala or West Bengal or JNU and are immediately assaulted by the glories of revolution of the working classes, of the privileged getting their kneecaps dirty as they bend by the sides of their less fortunate counterparts and give them a stronger voice, of the indoctrination at that age that immediately pegs narrow, communal feelings as unbecoming of a young life that wants to change the world, the aam aadmi’s imagination has been captured by the panacea for all the ills of this nation, the AAP.
“They are just like us,” the Aam Aadmi’s aam aadmi gushes. “Until now, we thought politics was only for the dirty or the criminal. But they have shown us that even decent people like us have a chance.”
And like any good story, there has to be a strong Evil that has to be beaten back by the morally-superior Good. That Evil, in the current narrative, takes the form of mainstream parties, established players in the order of St.Politique, and come in clever disguises that are, nonetheless, too easy to spot – they are not us. How could they be? Because we are not them.
It’s a truth that is. Because it is. No uncomfortable questions, please. We are the nouveau politique
Nouveau-riche: Wealth without pedigree
The nouveau politique are the newest revolutionaries on the block. They observe divisions of neither caste nor community, neither education nor social standing. These are men and women (and, to be PC, persons of the neutral gender) who want the system to be cleansed and are willing to wield the broom that will sweep the deritus away. They have discovered the call of politics within their hearts and have embraced it with a passion that is equalled only by their loathing of the established order.
But the road to hell, as the saying goes, is often paved with good intentions.
Our typical reaction to anyone challenging our beliefs.
Indians are like tortoises – slow off the blocks, and a preference to get back into our shells when challenged. The established political parties and their followers are perfect examples: challenge a Congress or a BJP supporter and watch them fall back on oft-repeated defenses against corruption, appeasement and the ‘acceptable’ way of living. The Nouveau Politique are no different. Ask an aam aadmi about the compromises that have been made and watch him/her fall back on the “better-than-yours” defense. Or the increasingly-popular “internally cleared” label.
That is my problem with the Nouveau Politique. Not their aspirations – for we have that – but for allowing it to blind them to the dangers of supporting an institution whose sense of direction is akin to “somewhere… north. Maybe northeast, or northwest, but… north.” And where, in the blinding light and deafening noise of the rhetoric, no one is actually able to paint a true picture of the elephant. No one has any idea what the AAP will mutate into once it starts to feed on power and the demands of multiple constituents, each with its own set of demands.
The AAPmoeba. Scientists place bets on how it will mutate…
A party like the Congress or the BJP, for all its faults, has a compass that’s largely static. If it’s welfare and more welfare for the Congress, it’s development and uniform civil codes for the BJP. The regional satraps have their own priorities, hammered into their constituents for years. You know what they stand for, and when you vote for them, you know what you could be voting in.
The AAP, on the other hand, is an amalgamation of differences against a singular, overarching objective – an overthrow of the establishment as they see it. If you are not with them, you are against them – and therefore, you are corrupt, communal and against the interests of the nation. It’s a murder case where there is no chance to defend yourself against the claims of the prosecution. What should have been a diplomatic, ends-driven exercise is now a jingoistic, means-driven rebellion.
One of the biggest problems with Kejriwal – as I see it – was his shoot-and-scoot press conferences that made allegations of corruption without actually doing anything about it. Contrast this with Subramanian Swamy, a man often dismissed for his windvane-headedness, who took the 2G scam to the courts and actually brought down a minister. Making allegations is easy, proving them is not. I cannot reconcile the man who once stood on a podium claiming to have a 370-page report that ‘proved’ Sheila Dixit’s corruption with the one who wants an MLA to provide him with this ‘proof’ again.
And that is where I am disturbed by the trending political conversation in the country. Supporters of the AAP are no less intolerant of others’ views than the ones they accuse of being trolls. A man with very little experience (and when you are on the cusp of a crisis, experience should feature at the top of your wishlist) is now being hailed as the Messiah of the middle class, as if the flourish of his signature on a piece of paper is enough to wipe off the ills that face this country. To believe that is the height of naivete – optimism, yes, but naivete nonetheless.
We seem to be far more demanding of a CxO than of a CM or a PM. Priorities?
For nothing of what we have seen of Kejriwal suggests that he has answers to the needs of this nation that go beyond, “Give it to them for free. The Government can afford it.” Arvind-saab, the government cannot afford it. It prints money, but the more it prints, the less valuable that money is. Surely, as an IT officer so fed up with the system you relied on a technicality to get out of your promised service, you must know how sorrily our treasuries are being managed.
His heart is in the right place. #AllThatMatters
Yet, in the din of populism – and he just needs to keep it going for six months before we vote for the broom in the general elections, after which *Conditions Apply will come into effect – such hard questions are not being asked. An image beyond reproach has automatically translated into the blind faith that he will be the one to lead the nation out of the doldrums. No roadmap is sought. No long-term policies are required to be drafted. No one questions the irony of closed-door “internal Lokpals” or paranoia that sees death in the shape of cricket balls. 
A manifesto that panders to the short-term desires (couched in the language of perpetuity) is all that it takes to woo the nouveau politique over to the side of the ‘angels.’ And of course, if you face an uncertain situation, you can always throw the decision back to the people and ask them to vote. (without a Captcha, of course)
Make no mistake – I am all for the principles that created the AAP. I want probity from my representatives. I want government servants to execute their jobs as laid down by law, without having to be compensated additionally for their service efforts. I want the natural resources of my nation to be utilized for the utilitarian good.
I am also for the principles that created the Congress. Freedom and sovereignty. 
I am also for the principles of the BJP. I want development, tolerance (Loka samastha sukhino bavandhu) and a Uniform Civil Code that would be the hallmark of a truly secular government.
I am also for the principles of the Marxist parties (except the ones that prefer violence). The society needs to take care of its weaker sections. Appreciation of merit has to be blind of caste or communal considerations.
And I have a problem when the nouveau politique or the fanboys in the media see every expression of support for the AAP’s principles as an extension of support for the AAP itself. No one is going to say, “I hope the movement fails!” Not even Lalu or Mulayam, or even Diggy! 
Whose fault is this?
But that doesn’t mean that you believe, with the blind fervor of the converted, that our problems will be solved by voting the AAP into power. That level of a change will not happen until the day we stop at a red light not out of fear of being caught but because it is the right, legal thing to do. It will not happen until the day we become intelligent enough to question, question and question until we are informed enough to take a decision. It will not happen until the day our sense of individual identities is so strong that we do not have to see ourselves as a rebel to make a difference to the society.
Question. Understand. Decide.
Because right now, we aren’t rebels, not in the true sense of the word. We aren’t Bose, Rajguru or CheG. We aren’t leading because we understand – we are followers because the AAP promises us answers we want to hear, and not always the right ones. That’s the betrayal to the movement that wants to create an enlightened citizenry, not merely an aroused one.
And until such time, you, my friend, if you are part of the Nouveau Politique that has the politics but not the maturity, if you are a rebel who’s not really questioned his/her faith, you are a far bigger danger to this country’s future than the dark side you are trying to fight.

Jaago re…

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