It’s not everyday, we see an upstart political party making waves in an important constituency in India. If opinion polls are to be believed, Aam Aadmi Party is all set to win a few seats in the recent Delhi elections.
Not restricting itself to Delhi, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has spread its wings all across the nation, setting up a Kerala entity in Feb 2013. We spoke to Manoj Padmanabhan, convener of the AAP party in Kerala.
What is AAP Kerala’s objective?
The objectives of the party, be it national, state or district level are the same — we intend to give the power back to the people of this country and we feel that people should have a major role in the decision making process of the country.
In Kerala, what we have now is a nominated committee. According to the constitution of AAP, it is a bottom up approach, starting from primary level, you’ll get elected members, who form bloc level committees and they all form district, to state to national level elected members. That’s how it should normally happen. But to facilitate that, we now have a nominated committee from top to bottom. We were given a clear cut role, the primary objective is to grow this organization in the state, and to reach out to the district level. We have been successful in forming committees in 9 districts in Kerala.
One of the challenges in Kerala, unlike many other states, people have a definitive political view point. Because of that, making a dent in the society is slightly more difficult. But after we started this exercise, a lot of people have been coming to us, saying that they have been waiting for a party like this. Slowly at the state level, it’s becoming very obvious that ruling party and opposition are somewhere in collusion. If you look at many of the recent incidents, it becomes quite obvious. Opposition is not playing a healthy role as opposition. People are disgruntled. That gives scope for a party like this.
Kerala has been predominantly either a UDF or a LDF ruled state and it is difficult for a single party to contest and win even a single seat, will AAP be part of any of these coalition?
AAP has made it clear that it doesn’t intend to join any coalition. Once you join a coalition, you are diluting your principles and your ideology. Honestly speaking, that’s been a curse to the growth of the country. Too many ideologies coming together is like too many cooks spoiling the broth. If you look at Kerala now, in a 140 member assembly, it’s 71-69. Even a party which has probably only 2 MLA’s have huge power and can pull the string any time.
Does AAP intend to contest polls in Kerala in the near future?
In 2014, Lok Sabha elections are too early, I will say. Even if I am very optimistic, I don’t think we would be able to contest in those elections. You never know though, unless something dramatic happens. Other than that, we will be looking at the next assembly elections.
What’s your take on the current corruption allegations against Kerala politicians?
Everyone knows there is corruption. There are no independent investigations that are done. How are we expected to have a fair and transparent judgement then? India Against Corruption movement started because of this, which led to the Jan Lokpal bill. It’s all about the willpower of the implementing agency. 10 years back, if you look at Kochi, you wouldn’t find a lot of people wearing helmets and driving 2 wheelers. Today, you find almost everyone wearing a helmet. It’s because, the implementing agency have implemented it strictly.
Last year, the current UDF government, launched the Rights to Services(RTS) act. It’s a very progressive act and beneficial to the people. But how many people are aware of it? The government or the opposition have not taken a single step to spread awareness about this. Even if you go to government offices, the officers there make sure people are not aware of RTS services.
One step we have taken today is that we are conducting awareness programmed for RTI and RTS. People need to know what powers they have. These are very progressive laws, but there’s an inherent lack of willpower to implement it.
Switching gears a little bit, tell us more about how and why you wanted to join this party?
I was completely away from politics. I was born and brought up in Madhya Pradesh, came to Kerala to do my engineering in REC Calicut. During my study time, the university was a no politics zone. Then I did my MBA from Cochin University. Again, not much politics was happening. I had a feeling that politics was a dirty game. After studies, when you enter the real world is when you realize what hardships a common man faces. I went through it on a personal level and professional level. That was when Anna-ji came out against the corruption movement. That was how the activities started. People in the government are not at all sympathetic towards the plight of the people. We realized that a political alternative could be the solution for all these problems we are facing right now. That’s what pulled me into this.