AAP and the limits of expansionism

Why did AAP win Delhi? Can AAP do to the rest of India what it did to Delhi?

Among many answers to the first question, one must stand out as important: the party had its ears to the ground, i.e., it spent most of its time listening to those at the bottom of the pyramid of power instead of imposing the images and words of supermen from above. That they didn’t have any supermen in the first place helped them become popular with laypeople, providing them an impression of flatness of organization and ideology. Everyone, it appeared, was welcome to AAP as long as they weren’t with “the bad guys”.

But organizational and ideological flatness within AAP is a myth. It was stated in exactly these terms by some, who left the party, but one doesn’t need a proof for it; it’s a truism. Any well-run political party must have a command and control structure, and those who command and control must, in a well-known hierarchy, be above those who are commanded and controlled.

When the organization isn’t large enough, hierarchy doesn’t come in the way of its being close to the ground: the voices from below reach the top because the top isn’t too high up in the air.

Why am I bringing this up? I’m bringing this up to answer my second question above, as to whether AAP can do a Delhi with all of India. AAP’s relative flatness compared to BJP and Congress, which was good enough for the geographically insignificant area of Delhi, is not scalable as it tries to “go national”. Localness isn’t expandable from one locus.

For starters, the very name of the party is in a foreign language for most of India: Hindi. The language of Delhi, it is considered a dangerous threat to liberty in South and East India; there aren’t any Aam Aadmis there to begin with; that’s an alien expression. The actual Aam Aadmi, who speaks an Indo-Aryan language like Hindi, is not exactly welcome in South or East India because he comes to replace the native Dravidian or Tibeto-Burman, to colonize.

No successful organization, because of its inevitable hierarchy, can maintain even an impression of flatness when it expands beyond a certain size, or beyond certain natural boundaries such as those of language and ethnicity as discussed above.

The Congress and the BJP have mastered the art, of not even putting up a facade of flatness, in “going national”. They essentially operate without the advantage which AAP had in this Delhi victory, and they’re not apologetic about it. In fact, they want the peoples of India to apologize for being diverse and making it difficult for them to keep their ears to the ground.

AAP’s fate will be no different as it tries to expand beyond Delhi. Aloofness from the ground is in the very nature of expansionism. I’m not saying this to cast my vote in favor of the BJP or the Congress. Far from it, I am saying this to forewarn the peoples of India against falling for another national party to rule over them thinking it will be fundamentally different from the existing ones. The thing to learn from AAP is that localness is the way forward, and this naturally requires rejecting AAP everywhere outside Delhi.

 

[First published: IBNLIVE, 11-02-2015]