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December 28, 2013, will go down in history as one of the most important political days in Indian history. A from-nowhere movement called the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will form the government in Delhi. Enough has been written, and even more will be written, about this political miracle. Soon, concern will rightfully turn to important matters of governance, particularly economic governance. The AAP has set for itself, and the electorate, pretty high standards of thinking and governance. So, what can we expect from the AAP in terms of its economic policies?
One clue to their philosophy was recently provided by their ideologue czar, Yogendra Yadav. He admitted to the fact that the philosophy of AAP was socialist, though he added and hoped that its policies would not be silly. Both the socialist and silly components of AAP’s policies are examined through the prism of its well-articulated and developed policy on water distribution.
Most conventional beliefs about socialism centre on the ideology, and hopefully practice, of helping the poor, and the disadvantaged. What differentiates true socialists from populists is the practice of populism. We can forget about non-socialists because without the need for evidence we know that they are rapacious and guilty of every exploitative crime. The real question is whether the new socialists buck the trend of others who have also campaigned in the name of the poor—and grotesquely failed to deliver. The AAP and its leadership is acutely aware of this phenomenon because their campaign for two years has been against the Congress party, an in-the-name-of-the-poor political organisation bereft of any ideology except the exercise of power, and at least according to AAP, and many others, the fulsome exercise of corruption. One of the supreme ironies of the ascendancy to power of AAP is that its major ally in the governance of Delhi is none other than the Congress.
The thinking water policy of AAP is as follows: “within 24 hours” of coming to power, AAP will provide 700 litres of water per day free to every household. However, any household using even an extra drop of water than the stipulated 700 litre average would pay for all the water consumed.
Some idea of the thinking behind this extraordinarily innovative water policy is obtained from an April 2013 AAP document. This document notes that the profit of the Jal Board in FY13 was R466 crore, “and this is where