Is AAP's victory a sign of postmodern politics or urban class consciousness?

For the time being, it must be unequivocally be stated that the AAP politics has really bought a new feeling among the common man and if the party fulfils its promises, then the impact will be really substantial.

Ajeet Kumar

Apart from the ongoing debate on the likely impact of AAP’s victory, another discourse which is taking shape these days is whether Indian democracy is entering a new realm of political aesthetics—devoid of any fixed ideology of Left, Right and the Centre. However, the discourse on “the end of history” and “the end of ideology” propounded by Francis Fukuyama in the late eighties and early nineties and by Daniel Bell in 1960 respectively, has been dominant in philosophy, literature and sociology.

By and large, both the formulations along with the postmodernism were basically neo-liberal concomitants which are now reincarnated into political neutrality.

Moreover, in India, mostly abstract post-ideological instincts or perspectives, such as rising identity politics and regionalism have largely driven the political discourse in post-liberalization era. But primarily, the political discourse of that time was based on grand narratives, such as Lohia school of socialism - centered around social justice, social engineering and secularism ; Kanshi Ram's Dalitism and subalternism and BJP's Hindutva. However, it is debatable if these narratives are that so grand in the true sense of postmodern discourse.

Because in the backdrop of AAP's emphatic victory in Delhi assembly elections, different types of discourses are taking centrestage again and some of the commentators are viewing it as a sign of the beginning of post-modern politics in India, while a few others are trying to relate it to the Leftist ideology. As of now, I disagree with the latter view and see no empirical correlation in comparing the new emerging phenomenon with that of the Left.

Albeit, a section feels that the new emerging consciousness in urban India, with which the Left failed to relate, has turned the tide in AAP’s favour. They mainly point towards the emergence of new ''class consciousness’’ among unorganized, migrated laboureres, slum dwellers, street vendors, hawkers, lower-middle classes and so on, irrespective of their caste, religion or region in urban India, leading to a clash of interests with that of the middle and upper class (corporate, bureaucrats, politicians, contractors, opportunist elitists). This new urban consciousness might expand in the rest of the country with the changing demography, which, according to them, is now confined to only Delhi. The ideological reason behind the emergence is supposed to be privatisation.

In the post liberalisation era, heavy privatisation widened the feelings of alienation among the unorganised workers , leading to angst towards corporates and their practices. This was mainly due to the excessive exploitation of the workers without giving them any social security and job guarantee. Since liberalisation, the population of these types of workers has substantially increased. These classes are mostly apolitical but their concerns towards the exploitative system are common. Prior to liberalisation, urban settlement was different and included mainly government servants, shopkeepers and traders. A small percentage of urban population consisted of labourers who were not even a part of the permanent or regular settlement because they mainly migrated and there was no interference of this class in the electoral process.

Propagation of class consciousness has failed to emerge among the working class due to absence of ideology-based labour unions. This is a major cause why the working class sympathizes towards anarchist and anti-establishment approaches who become champions or crusaders in a short span of time.

However, such anarchist forces project corruption, and governance as epics for discourse without giving the masses any concrete idea of how to approach the real cause.

When a proportion of these organised workers were insignificant or they were not the part of electoral process, consciousness over caste, religion and region mainly dominated the political discourse, resulting into a major obstruction in the making of class consciousness. This was also the reason for the upsurge of mandal, kamandal and Dalitism (Bahujan) in a predominantly feudal set up.

Here, it is to be noted that in most of urban India there has been a stronghold of BJP over the years due to its hardcore Hindutva ideology but the demography in the major big cities has started to change and the older urban class (settlement) that was traditionally inclined to Hindutva ideology has been outnumbered by the comparatively new classes (new urban settlement) which are mostly underprivileged- migrants, unorganised labourers, lower income groups and so on.

In the past, however, BJP generally by and large used the marginal classes as a tool to nurture its core Hindutva ideology by lumpenizing them. Today, for the BJP it is really a big challenge to maintain its stronghold in urban India and it can succeed only if it relates to the common man's concerns, its participation in mainstream, while also pushing its core Hindutva philosophy.

But if we try to look at the new phenomenon differently, it seems that the trivial and uninnovative approach of main political parties, mainly BJP and the Congress coupled with huge corruption, has helped these different or heterogeneous groups in mobilizing against them.

The Anna movement had also added to channelization of the angst of common man. However, the concerns of these groups are completely different from each other. Further, there is no common ideology/thought which connects the different classes. So their support for any of the political parties shouldn’t be taken for granted though a common chord which generally reflects the core ideology of any party enables the latter to maintain its connection with the groups and masses in the longer run.

Some analysts interpret this new apparent consciousness as ‘urban angst’ that was channelized and mobilised by the AAP party by promising them a number of freebies and populist neo-liberal gimmicks/slogans, and consider it as merely temporary outburst of the disenchanted classes towards the ruling class.

Furthermore, the phenomenon also shifts the discourse more towards the postmodernist political thought while we elaborate the trends that emerged in Delhi comprehensively as it was based on the mobilization of different groups owing to their own difficulties and truth rather than any class consciousness. Here it is sufficient to say that the new occurrence is that of identity politics which is far from the grand truth and also key to post modern discourse. Some even say that it has now become the reality of our times which might escalate in the coming days.

Above all, many also opine that there is nothing unusual in this new phenomenon which should be discussed as a trend-setter. No doubt, it has strengthened the democratic value by promoting participation, democratization, caring more about the marginal voices and showing down-to-earth types of approach. But it can still be a temporary phase.

But for the time being, it must be unequivocally be stated that the AAP politics has really bought a new feeling among the common man and if the party fulfils its promises, then the impact will be really substantial.

As AAP continues to bask in the glory, many are raising concerns about the internal structure of the party. The major challenge, therefore, before the party is to maintain its identity or develop a common character by assimilating their internal heterogeneity. Moreover, AAP is a congregation of Left, Right and Centrist approaches. A large group in the party consists of people who have no belief in any political legacy or political learning. Some are politically neutral while some are here only for their own concerns.

So here are the two major challenges before the AAP party—one is how the party will manage all these different groups within it and the other is how the party will develop a common political thought for its pan-India expansion. The party may succeed for sometime in Delhi without any concrete political thought. However, some are saying that the Delhi victory is temporary and AAP will not be able to sustain and thus finally perish due to its own anarchy, immaturity and differences.