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The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was a refreshing change after the corruption, lavish spending and hubris of the two leading national political parties. The persistent inflation of the last two years, almost zero employment growth, declining infrastructure and declining investment growth have added discomfort to disgust. The AAP, which came out of the anti-corruption movement organised by Arvind Kejriwal and led by Anna Hazare, offered squeaky clean leaders, apparently ordinary people who were tired of the political and economic quagmire that India had become. They appealed to many who swept them to power in Delhi polls. In fact, millions are flocking to join the party across the country. Small financial contributions from thousands are pouring in. They now appear to pose a serious challenge to both national parties and the regional ones.
Kejriwal is RK Laxman’s iconic cartoon, the Common Man. His approach is that of the man on the street. So are his solutions. Power and water are too expensive and rates must be cut. Report all corruption cases to a government helpline and that will solve the problem. The metro is the common man’s transport and for short distances it must be free. All problems faced by the common man can be solved by an honest government and its representatives.
What is a disaster for the future economic growth of India is that the AAP’s appeal has influenced other parties. The Congress in Haryana is already considering reduction in power tariffs by 30%. Sanjay Nirupam, a Congress spokesman, is agitating in his state Maharashtra that his party should do the same. The new Rajasthan chief minister is now bending to be ‘common’ from being a princess. No one remembers that, long before Kejriwal, Manohar Parrikar in Goa was living a simple life as the chief minister. A more modest and humble demeanour among political leaders is welcome. But imitating the AAP’s simplistic approach to pricing of expensive services like electricity, water or transport (with others to come) must be condemned.
Captain Gopinath, now in the AAP, almost destroyed the Indian airlines industry with his ostensibly ‘low cost’ Air Deccan by actually setting tariffs below costs. High aviation fuel cost, no cheap air terminals or airports, and inefficient airports with low turnaround times for planes make major cost reduction impossible. Gopinath had no plan to reduce costs. He and his lenders lost money. Kingfisher Airlines, which acquired Air Deccan, is now practically