Dear Mr Yogendra Yadav

I happened to read your excellent interview published in Mint last week. Of particular interest to me was the question, “What is the ideology of AAP?” I can’t think of anyone better than you to articulate an understandable response to this question.

I must say, I was pleasantly surprised to notice that both Centre for Civil Society (CCS), an organisation I work for and admire very much and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have very similar ideologies. I could easily identify at least three main common principles to support my claim. In your own words,

The first principle being Swaraj itself. By Swaraj, we mean that in democracy, power has been alienated from the people. While it is called democracy, people wield very little power. So, our fundamental concern is, we want to return that power back to the people by devolving the power, by ensuring direct participation of the people, by doing decision making closer to the people.

Bravo! At CCS, we too believe in and work towards decentralisation of power.

With this, the second big conviction is what you may call the very name of the party ‘aam aadmi’ (or common man). We stand for the vulnerable; we stand for the last person. My own interpretation would be the last person first. When I have to think of economic priorities, when I have to think of social priorities, when I have to think of developmental priorities, I would apply the Gandhian test. This is something that Gandhiji said: ‘Think of the weakest person you ever met in your life and ask yourself, what I am going to propose, is it going to help him or her or not’. So that, I think, is a very good litmus test. So, the ‘last person first’ is clearly a principle that can be used.

At CCS, we also pride ourselves in championing cause of the ‘ordinary man’ – ‘ordinary man’ who is just trying to make a living despite all the chains put up by the government. Some of our work in this area that should interest you are – freedom of a street entrepreneur to earn his/her livelihood, freedom of parents/students to go to a school of their choice, freedom for youth to get vocational training of their choosing, etc.

It was also great to hear you say that AAP does not typecast itself into a standard ‘left’ or ‘right’ party. The fact that you acknowledge AAP’s political programme as evolving over time gives me great hope that your party has not already set itself in stone on different issues – left, right or centre. Once again, in your own words,

What is amazing is not that we retain a bit of those convictions; what is amazing is that in the course of one year, we have come to share a certain basic political programme which we go by. And that political programme is evolving, that programme refuses to typecast itself into standard ‘Left’ or ‘Right’. It looks at specific situations and it actually is into attaining our objective. So in a way of saying, you could say problem solving, responding to specific situations, looking at evidence and trying to say which is the best way forward. That is our ideology.

In other words, you seem to be saying that instead of getting married to one kind of ideology – left, right or centre, your party believes in ‘policy-that-works’, in other words, what we policywallahs call ‘evidence-based-policy’. When it comes to policy-making, we at CCS too firmly believe in ‘evidence-based policy making’. The same was also reiterated my your leader and the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in an interview on Saturday.

It thus dawns on me that we are not very different in what we are trying to achieve (Gandhian test of policy-making), or what we want to change (Swaraj, decentralisation of power) or how we want to go about it (evidence-based policy).

However, given some your party’s recent policy decisions, it would appear that your party is failing its own ideological test.

Your party has decided to ban FDI in retail. You may think that this will help kirana store owners by helping them continue in business. What you are missing is that each one of us is worse off as a result – since the efficiency brought about by greater investment is now missing, as are the new jobs that would have been created. So you see, the policy-ban may not pass your Gandhian test.

As promised, your government in Delhi is now providing free water (up to 20 kiloliters per household per month) and cheaper electricity (at 50 percent of the current rate). Such universally applied schemes would work against the objective that you are trying to achieve.

There are two sides to this largesse – scarcity aspect and incentive aspect. The scarcity aspect tells us that tax-subsidised water and electricity are not actually free and someone somewhere is paying for it all – more often than not, all of us are (through taxes, both direct and indirect and inflation). Basically, you cannot legislate away scarcity. The incentive aspect tells us that the tax-subsidised goods/services (water and electricity in this case) will lead to their misuse and misallocation by both households and businesses – unless the prices are market determined. Case in point here could be the long-standing policy of subsidy for diesel to help promote agriculture, which instead promoted diesel-based motor vehicles. Thus, your policy may not pass your own ‘evidence-based policy’ test.

All this tells me that while we broadly agree on our ideologies, we disagree on what policies will achieve the desired results.

I would urge you to kindly reconsider some of your methods employed to achieve many of these laudable goals. Please note the unintended and far-reaching consequences of your policies before you implement them, and not just the immediate help/profit it causes to a select group of beneficiaries. I am sure you understand that ‘good-intentions’ alone will not be sufficient for intended outcomes.

I understand that your government in Delhi is relatively new and you guys are still learning the ropes of policymaking. I also take this opportunity to commend your government for going about its business at a pace like no other government in India’s history. The zeal, commitment and the sincerity at display makes me hopeful. We hope that AAP’s ideology, as I understand it and as your party intends it, gets translated into policy making. All the Best!

Yours Sincerely,

Ek Aam Aadmi

3 Comments on An Open Letter to AAP’s Yogendra Yadav on Our COMMON Ideology

  1. dsylexic says:

    High hopes.anyone seeking power in a majoritarian voting system can only rise to the top by courting the base set values.hayek knew that when he said that only the worse get to the top

  2. Unfortunately, CCS should stop deluding itself. None more arrogant, ill-informed and irresponsible than Yogendra Yadav and Arvind Kejriwal.

  3. k says:

    I see AAP as a repeat of the 1977 Janata Party experiment under Morarji Desai and Charan Singh, V P Singh, etc., that failed miserably. There was euphoria at that time also – like the euphoria behind AAP now – which was misplaced (like honest or integrity of a few men, real or imagined) and which was doomed to fail as it was only against Indira Gandhi without any radical new ideas or principles, which is also the case now.

    Janata Party came to power after the 1975 Emergency Rule of Indira Gandhi and the forced sterilization program under Sanjay Gandhi that was carried out during that time. Socialist policies continued to dominate the new Government (like now under AAP) dominated by socialists like George Fernandes and Raj Narain.

    The insignia of that rule was throwing out of the country of Coca-Cola and IBM as a symbol of taking the country towards a more socialist state than Indira Gandhi’s India and prove that India could do better than the West by making our own substitutes for the products of Coca-Cola and IBM.

    I do not know how many of this generation of Indians know about the failure of that attempt, even in the case of a soft drink like Coca-Cola. A substitute was made involving Government Research Institution and named as 77 in memory of the victory of Janata Party in 1977. That product went out of the market within months, I think.

    As far as the computer Industry is concerned, they could not do anything immediately but a company named Semiconductor Complex Limited, was established in 1983, in an attempt in that direction, but the entire complex was destroyed in a fire in 1989, and I have not heard much about that company later.

    Now, India is trying to woo IBM and another western company to build integrated chips in India as India imports its entire need of computer chips with resultant enormous outflow of dollars aggravating the balance of trade problem. I knew at that time that men like George Fernandes (he was also called an honest man and a man of integrity at that time) were just power seekers cashing in on the trouble India facing because of its collectivist and socialist policies, and I knew that those men would fade away as quickly as they come, but not before they have done enough damage to India.

    If you ask any expert in the field of computer science, he would say that the throwing away of IBM in 1977 put the country back at least 10 years in the development of that industry.

    What India now needs is not men such as George Fernandes or Arvind Kejriwal or parties like Janata party of Aam Aadmi Party who follow the same old failed socialist and fascist policies but new thinking and new ideology. Anyone who has any concern for the future of India must be able to answer the question why the collectivist policies such as socialist and fascist polices have failed all over the world, either established by vote in Europe or by force as in Soviet Union and China, and find a radical new alternative.

    I want to quote Ayn Rand in this regard, We cannot fight against anything, unless we fight for something. Ideas cannot be fought except by means of better ideas. The battle consists not of opposing, but of exposing; not of denouncing, but of disproving; not of evading, but of boldly proclaiming a full, consistent and radical alternative”

    Here in India, if anyone wants India to be a country of morality, it must have a culture based on reason, and India must be a country based on free trade and free market principle, a country based on the moral principles of reason, individualism, and capitalism. Noting else will do.

What do you think