Academic literature on Idea Generation and Creativity emphasizes heavily upon asking the right questions. Quality of solutions depend on the quality of the definition of problems. In this light I would like to discuss the recent developments in Indian politics.
Rise of ‘Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’ and Arvind Kejriwal has been a remarkable event in recent history of Indian politics. Mass excitement that his rise has generated can only be compared to the rise of V.P.Singh in late 80s to take on mighty Congress party. I mention V.P.Singh because that’s the only political movement I have seen in my life. Within a year’s time since its establishment Aam Aadmi Party has not just become a formidable force in the state of Delhi but has managed to form the government as well. On one hand rise of ‘Aam Aadmi Party’ is the proof of robustness of India’s democracy and the efficiency of its electoral politics. On the other hand, it’s an interesting example of innovation and creativity within the political space.
This year, there will be general elections in India. Enthused by its unprecedented success in Delhi AAP is now aiming higher and is trying to make its presence felt across India. However what has caught my attention is the initial steps taken by AAP government in Delhi. Let’s talk about free 670 litres to each household. First of all, this is only for those households that have meters installed for water. This automatically discounts lower middle class, poor class and people living in slums who don’t have proper access to water. Another step is that of reducing electricity tariff. Electricity tariff in Delhi has been questioned in past and there is every reason to suspect the veracity of claims by the electricity distribution companies. In fact, Prashant Bhushan, the second most important person in AAP has been fighting for quite some time against high electricity tariffs. But once again, is high tariff the real problem or is it just the part of the problem? There are several residential zones in periphery of Delhi, where regular supply of electricity is a problem. The consumer doesn’t want only low tariffs. Consumer needs regular electricity at a reasonable rate. The solution that AAP has been seeking doesn’t address the problem in its totality.
And finally Lokpal. Creation of a quasi-judiciary system to take on corruption. It’s continuously argued, “Lokpal will fight against corruption”. That’s where the problem lies. When one says, ‘fight against corruption’ the subtle assumption is that corruption is some external entity against which we have to fight and eradicate. The problem is, corruption resides right within us – among us. People who take bribes are also part of us and people who give bribes as well. If the system is faulty you don’t create more system. Moreover, appointment of Lokpal – not by public but by a selected few – makes it even more vulnerable to becoming a political tool rather than an effective system.
In 2011, when the Lokpal movement was at its peak, I was in India and I happened to interact with some Law students about effectiveness of Lokpal. When I presented these arguments their only reply was, “You are right, but what’s the alternative?” And I didn’t have an alternative. But, lack of an obvious answer doesn’t mean you should stop asking the question or switch to a question where answer is rather more obvious. The risk I see in priorities of AAP is that, despite all good intentions it might be trapped in ‘easy solutions’. Such solutions give a false sense of action and progress instead of resolving problems. If AAP really wanted to emerge as a strong, honest and sincere alternative, they should have rather opted for harder solutions and asked deeper questions. Being creative demands greater perseverance and making tougher choices.