By Rakesh Bisaria
Case for Modern Governance - The votes have been cast in Punjab and the people are now back on the farms preparing for the Rabi harvest. AAP overseas volunteers are also back in New York, Philadelphia, and Toronto frequently facing a rough winter. The voters in Punjab have done very well keeping the focus on real issues that include a surge in farmer suicides, an uncontrolled drug epidemic, alarming rural unemployment, and one of the most skewed gender ratios in the country. Contrast the state’s peaceful and issue based elections with the shameful spectacle of power grabbing in Tamil Nadu, or the juvenile charade to trick the public by SP in UP, and one can sense a mature resoluteness in Punjab to rise above the chaos to solve their problems.
According to the volunteers, Punjab’s young voters have found the well thought out governance priorities of AAP far more trustworthy than the election promises of Captain Amarinder Singh and the Badals. By the way, a volunteer asked me why the captain who wants to run the state a second time never got promoted to be a major.
I have no answer but if we go by media polls, the youth vote that cuts across economic and regional lines is very likely to put AAP into power in Punjab after the poll results are out on March 11. If that indeed happens, AAP will have its work cut out to overhaul the public services in the state including education, health, transportation, sanitation, law enforcement, agriculture loans, crop insurance, crop procurement – probably a much longer list that seldom got the attention it deserves from previous administrations. And that by itself is nothing out of the norm because modern states are supposed to govern for the public and in partnership with the public.
By this token, despite all the contradictions, AAP’s Delhi state government is the only government in the country with elements of modern governance. Today Delhi’s governance is driven by public policies and programs and not by considerations of caste, language, religion, family, money, vote bank, power brokering, crony capitalism – again the list is endless. The hope is that AAP has the organizational capability to transform Punjab into a modern state at least in some core areas of governance.
AAP's Organizational Challenges - Punjab is a great opportunity yet it is also a huge organizational challenge for AAP. AAP has not invested appropriately into building the party organization needed to support governance for a full-fledged state. The National executive has 25 members and many of them are invisible in the party in terms of initiating policies and building the organization. There are no committees open to volunteers that discuss and formulate policies in core areas like primary health, education, sanitation, transportation, water supply, electricity. There are no internal forums that meet regularly and engage the party cadre on substantive organizational and policy issues.
Let’s face the facts, the party has no credible second tier or third tier leadership. The party desperately needs to expand its organizational base by finding new talent and retaining its volunteer base. National Executive needs to gradually expand to 100 members through an open election process. Core Committees need to start engaging volunteers in key policy areas. AAP volunteers are a very diverse and talented base including students, business owners, lawyers, academics, scientists, writers, political strategists – it will really hurt the party if this vibrant base remains untapped. Finally, the young volunteers in India who work for the party day and night need a fair deal from the party.
Fair Deal for the Volunteers - According to an informal survey, 60-65% of AAP’s volunteers are in the 25-35 year age group. AAP is very much a young party and its young volunteers need to be sustained, nurtured, and prepared so that the baton can be passed to them in a time-bound manner by the current leadership.
Thousands of party volunteers have no regular income and fail to contribute their fair share to their families. In the process they face loss of dignity and humiliation and sometimes fail in meeting their responsibilities. There is no question in my mind that volunteers are the future of the party. We see frequent appeals for donations to finance elections. We would love to see a donation appeal go out from the leadership to build a fund for the volunteers so that many of them can be provided a living wage. The sentiment is so strong for volunteers that a reasonable volunteer fund can be created in a short time. That would really be an honest and sincere gesture towards thousands of volunteers who deserve our thanks for risking everything so that a better life can be realized by millions who never had a chance.
Rakesh Bisaria is an AAP volunteer based in New Jersey. He works for AT&T.
Update: 04 March, 2017