The Managers Want to Write An Obituary for Higher Education

I remember long long back Avijit Pathak wrote a piece after his interview for promotions in Mainstream and described how the people sitting on the other side of the table behave. He was right and anyone who has appeared in an interview would agree to his observations. The fact is that the two sides of the table in an interview are best instances of how power works within an ‘academic’ realm. Those who have filled up their API forms in Indian universities or other world class places or have filled up Annual Reports to prove their worth would it better today.

It does not matter who knows how much and whether there is a possibility of a dialogic relationship there. Despite all rhetoric of ‘be comfortable’, ‘dont be nervous’, ‘ have some water’ and so on the structure remains that of someone seeking a favour – promotion, job or regularisation – and someone taking a decision whether you should be given that favour or not. It does not matter whether the people on the other side possess even sufficient knowledge on what you are to be tested. (The tragedy is that you are to be ‘tested’; you have to prove your ‘merit’ and ‘ability’ and so on). All this does not begin at the table where many pairs of eyes insatiably await to prove your incompetence with questions like ‘what is sociological about it?; What is the difference between peasant and farmer’; why do you publish from Rawat Publications or Aakar Books because the quality is doubtful and so on? Sometimes they even ask you to explain in a few sentences how Gandhi, Foucault and Marcuse can be critiques of modernity. They might also ask you that ‘why is your article so short in length’? Or ‘ what is the impact factor of the journal you published’? In other words, you can’t escape their predatory nature. They are out there to really ‘test’ you.

It does not start here. It starts with the idea of measuring your capability, which is to be defined by those on the other side of the power hierarchy. It is a different matter they would have been promoted simply because they spent so many years in an institution without any of the measurements that they have introduced to weigh your intellectual capability. It is a different thing that they have no inkling that most of the great works historically in South Asia have not been published by the ‘good quality publishers’ otherwise everyone ranging from Phule, Gandhi, Ambedkar, Bhagat Singh, Maulana Bhasani, D D Kosambi, A R Desai, Yoginder Singh to many more were not published by any of the university presses or corporate houses that denote quality for them. It is a different thing that intellectualism for them meant engagement and dialogue and not insane number crunching of indexes and tables.

The interviews, the process of putting oneself up in the academic labour market is no doubt a compulsion that many academics have to do. However, the interesting part is that we all fall into the trap and reproduce the process which humiliated us, at the cost of killing the intellectual spirit of our work.

As Avijit Pathak quoted Foucault aptly to talk about JNU: “The judges of normality are everywhere. We are in the society of the teacher-judge, the doctor-judge, the educator-judge, the ‘social worker’ judge; it is on them that the universal reign of the normative is based; and each individual, wherever he may find himself, subjects to it his body, his gestures, his behaviour, his aptitudes, his achievements. The carceral network, in its compact of disseminated forms, with its system of insertion, distribution, surveillance, observation, has been the greatest support, in the normative society, of the normalising power.”

The judges out there are like vultures prepared to shred the idea of education itself in name of merit, quality, capability, marketability and relevance. Their agenda is obvious – to write an obituary for higher education.

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The King and his Court gives a new farman: Attendance for JNU teachers

An university where students did not require to register their presence through an attendance system or whether the teaching and examinations will be held in the most unusual manner rather than the mechanised form of examinations and pedagogical transactions prescribed by a centralised examination branch that most universities had. Imagine a class happening not in the typical oppressive, uncreative format but in the most unconventional manner, a teacher asking you to maintain a daily diary of whatever you do in the class and then reflect on each lecture. These nature of assignments , or unusual questions posed to students could happen because there was no centralisation. And guess what – it produced some of the best intellectuals, bureaucrats and politicians proving that such an academic transaction could also be compatible with the dominant social order apart from producing critical, thinking students and human beings.

But look what they have done in a few years towards destroying that model of an university. Obviously, it has not been done a single person who comes as the Vice-Chancellor but with the help of a host of faculty members who are either in positions of power such as Rector’s and Chairpersons and Deans but also without any visible power. The agenda has been very clear: let there be uniformity, let all universities resemble each other – mechanised, uncreative, corporatised places which produces unthinking, subservient citizenry and workers for this auhtorian system to run with public support (!) So they issued another set of rules today after an Academic Council, which does talk much about academics but more about administration : the extremely prim and proper looking intellectual administrator issued th following press note after the Academic Council meeting:

Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi

Press Note 13-07-2018

The 146th Academic Council Meeting held on 13 July 2018 took a series of decisions on a host of critical issues that would bring about major improvements in academic and research activities of the University.

In addition, the AC also adopted certain rules and regulations which will improve governance and accountability of all the stakeholders of the university, such as students, teachers and staff.

While JNU had already implemented the rules of attendance for students and administrative staff, the 146th AC meeting through its resolution has made attendance mandatory for the teaching community as well, JNU faculty need to give attendance at least once in a day. Moreover, the AC also approved a rule that during the registration process at the beginning of every semester, all the incoming and continuing students are required to give an undertaking that they will abide by the attendance rules.

Secondly, an important decision has been taken by the AC to make JNU Entrance Examinations completely computer-based, i.e. online mode. Many members pointed out during an hour long discussion on this issue that the admission process in JNU will now be fairer, efficient, secure and bias-free.

The third important decision of AC was to approve the introduction of a two-year M.Sc. Degree Programme in Mathematics in the School of Physical Sciences.

The fourth decision was related to a University level time-table to be in place which will enable the student community to make choices for taking up courses in various schools and also lead to proper time management, and better utilization of available class room space.

Prof. Chintamani Mahapatra
Rector I

I am reiterating what I have written earlier the plan is to do away with alternative ways of thinking and working. The Indian state wants every building, to put it figuratively, to be painted in the same colour. One should not be surprised if they implement biometric attendance for faculty members. Next step will be fee hike, which has already started under different pretext. But there will be raise in entrance fee as well admission fee soon.

The student as well as teachers politics will also not remain the same unless serious battles are fought. It seems like a fight to save the institution from it’s death. Will the teachers realise their position as workers and fight as them or do we still think that such serious battles will be won through lobbying and judiciary . Will JNU go back to the same status quo as it was even in 2013? If not, the battle is lost.

HECI: Inevitable Product of the Corporatised Capitalist Education

BJP regime still needs to learn how to frame a document of governance. It messes it up and makes it look unprofessional and infantile. The HECI Act is an example of it, as it is full of contradictions and incomplete facts. Here is an Act, which is clear about the intentions of the government but those intentions are badly expressed. As an example it talks of centralisation as well as self-regulation making it difficult to understand how would it implement the two. Anyhow, the most important part is that its intention is clear – concentrate power in the hands of government.

There is great amount of opposition and concern to the newly proposed Higher Education Council of India (HECI) as a replacement for the University Grants Commission. The concern, as far as it could be seen, emerges on the following grounds:

  1. It seeks centralisation of power with the Ministry of Human Resource Development
  2. It has no imagination for an inclusive higher education, which is otherwise constitutionally guaranteed
  3. It will adversely impact financing of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)
  4. It goes against the idea and spirit of federalism
  5. It professes a misplaced notion of autonomy

The concerns seem genuine and well framed if I look at them experientially as a teacher-worker. But then it also raises, to begin with, a methodological question for the critiques: why is a policy measure like HECI seen in isolation when it should be dialectically located within the larger processes that constitute a system grounded in the way how capitalist ‘development’ determines the forms and content of policy in different arenas. None of the analysis or concerns that I have come across till now point to using such a methodology because of which most of them end doing criticism of current regime, which is flawed. Some analysis have pointed out how this is a continuity of the earlier regimes as well. It is within this framework of analysis that one can encounter answer to many of the concerns pointed above.

At the first instance a lay person like me does get baffled at the proposal to do away with bodies like UGC and asks a basic question of what has been the need.

One pragmatic answer can be that with changing times we need to “upgrade” or “redefine” our institutions. And the proposed act seems to be well aware of it at least the way it makes itself relevant. Its preamble recycles the old rhetoric of how central government is concerned about “determination of standards” in HEI. The same preamble reinforces the idea of authority that central government holds through instruments of “systematic monitoring and promotion”. In the same breath it contradicts its commitment to autonomy (read privatisation) by saying that it would promote “uniform development of quality of education in higher educational institutions” because it not only wants to dismantle state control over HEI through autonomy but it also seeks to create an unequal HE scenario with private HEI for those who can pay and the state run HEI with bad infrastructure for the masses who can’t pay. It redefines itself by saying that the “mandate” of UGC needs redefinition because the “priorities of higher education” have changed. Obviously one would ask what are those changes.

The other answer can be that like the present regime undid all symbols and institutions of the past because it wanted to show a clear break from the past (decaying) welfarism into a new world of outright aggressive corporatised social, economic and political order this move is one among many. A new order has set in, a new imagination and new world needs to be showcased. The recent move is merely that. In this sense it is a continuity of the same process which replaced Planning Commission with Niti Aayog.

The UGC is obsolete because given the needs and requirements of the current situation Indian state needed a body that fully liberates education from its management. It is not that UGC was not doing anything towards liberating it. It had been allowing universities to run on guest and adhoc faculty. It had reduced funds, the infrastructure was being squeezed, the authoritarianism evident in any corporate funding was becoming the order of the day, students, faculty and staff were discouraged to unionise and therefore could not become stakeholders in the university system. Scholarships have been cut and teachers were sent letters early this year that if they needed seventh pay commission they must mobilise funds to run the institution. Nobody seems to be talking of the Gazette Notification that created different category of universities? What more is expected in terms of corporatisation except that all this needs to be formalised and institutionalised. Many of the voices of concern have been, in fact, part of the institutions that talked of redefining the institutions because in the changed situation with private universities etc., new institutional frameworks need to be worked out. If a move like this has to be opposed it cannot be opposed as a stand alone event but the whole process has to be opposed but unfortunately many of us have been part of the process at one point or the other.

Within the given mandate UGC had outlived itself. A new mechanism to facilitate a full-fledged overhaul of education system in interests of private capital to allow rampant and uncontrolled profiteering is required. One way to do this is to centralise the working of the system. Decentralisation, which has been critiqued in the past as messy, is a way to counter the invasion of private capital to some extent, till state does not become fully colonised by private capital and the decentralised governance becomes a facilitator of its rule. That process of colonisation is nearing it’s completion. It was started by the Congress regime in the early 1990s and has been carried forward by every successive regime. What BJP has done is that it has loosened the shackles through changing the nature of all institutions. It has defined and implemented the idea of ‘autonomy’, which is a move towards complete integration of HE in the market as it also talks about how HEI in India could have an education and research “in a competitive global environment.” The moment discourses on linking market and educational institutions came up in past, and even Yashpal committee was concerned about it, it implied that one is moving towards erosion of the idea of education in general, which should not have anything to do with whether one gets a job after completing it or not. Once, that becomes the concern the institutions will end up doing what private capital wants it to do – become direct producers of tailor made labour power for the market. It is not surprising then that the discourses on skilling would come up after that and so would emerge discourses on prioritising the disciplines and reframing the courses that are taught. Linked to these would be prioritisation of expenses with institutions. Some of my colleagues get fascinated by how an institution in West is run by only guest faculty but has a lot of other resources Or how the administration academics still look at UK/USA as model without even thinking about how their HEIs are being destroyed. Sometimes it does not seem like myopia of analysis but a comfortable position of how well we can live within capitalism by becoming its best advisors.

Section 15.3 of the proposed Act and its various sub-sections talk about academic standards and how to ensure it. Many provisions such as 15.3.b talks about laying “down standards of teaching / assessment / research or any aspect that has bearing on outcomes of learning in higher educational institutions including curriculum development, training of teachers and skill development.” This is centrally determining what is required as a knowledge or not. What should be an outcome of higher learning – be a good, servile worker and the institutions must be geared towards it or produced a critical knowledge. This new move will not only determine what kind of courses will be taught but also who will teach them and who will not. Provisions on content will be decided by a group of people, which will not have many academicians (02 out of 12). The question that remains is whether the HECI will be capable of going through the courses etc., of such a mammoth system or will a set of courses approved by it be valid throughout India. The way it is proposing the working of HEI across India will it not change the very fact of education being in the concurrent list?

Section 15.4 makes it amply clear that the HE would look like a market place where different enterprises compete to survive, flourish or perish. It talks of (15.4.c) laying down “standards for grant of autonomy for institutions and provide flexibility and freedom to institutions granted autonomy to develop their own curriculum”, (15.4.d) specifying “norms and standards for Graded Autonomy to Universities and Higher Educational Institutions and accordingly prescribe regulatory mechanisms” and; laying down “norms and standards for performance based incentivization to the faculty and the Higher Educational Institutions and the Universities”. It makes its intention amply clear by proposing that universities will be enabled “to become self-regulatory bodies for the maintenance of academic quality in higher education and research and in colleges affiliated to it” (15.4.m). The self-regulation also means that the institutions will not have to constantly go to the Ministry if it does not want money. Once, it fulfils all the formalities of annual reporting (which we know by now how corporates are experts at manipulating). At the first instance it might appear contradicting to the idea of centralisation it may not in longer run. These provisions if read along 15.3 also indicate at the centralisation aspect of the content of HEI. The Government decides what to teach, how to teach and (in other words) what not to teach.

One is surprised to read scholars argue that UGC with all its lacunae has been good whereas the HECI will be very bad. However, I would see HECI, dismantling of UGC, institutions of eminence, autonomy to HEIs, etc., as moves towards liberating the HEIs from clutches of state funding. It, at the same time, also moves towards making Higher Education more unequal, destroying the possibilities of research and teaching. But there is nothing new in this because this was already happening and the concerned analysts have failed to understand the inevitability of this. This would also mean that if a battle is to be waged against this it has to be enmeshed in the larger battle against the system that produces these policies.

When Haryana Burnt: Religion, Politics and Lumpenism

The Failure of the Haryana Government

Why the Haryana government failed to ensure that the violence that Panchkula and Sirsa witnessed is more than merely a law and order question because law and order is as much a political as social question. As pointed out by courts despite section 144 thousands of supported marched into the city whereas we know that the few hundred workers trying to hold a meeting in the Honda compound were beaten up mercilessly and very often smaller sized marches by workers and civil society are repressed with utmost efficacy. In other words, the thousands who marched inside the city were allowed by the administration to sneak in knowing from past experiences of violence involving Rampal or much later the Jat reservation agitation unless Haryana government admits its inability to handle such incidents.

The administrative machinery has been lenient towards Dera Sacha Sauda because he has been providing them a vote bank. It was way back in 2014 that the Dera supported the BJP in Haryana and asked its supporters to vote for them. The BJP leaders even sought his blessings. The BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) also found his support in Delhi elections in 2015. The pictures of Haryana Chief Minister and leaders like Kailash Vijayvargiya also pointed to the relationship that the present government had with him. In fact, the education minister of the state, Ram Bilas Sharma, defended the march of Dera supporters to Panchkula on grounds that the Dera supporters are peace loving. He, in fact, had donated Rs 51 lakh to the Dera recently. Anil Vij, the senior Minister of the Haryana government had given Dera Rs.50 lakh from his discretionary funds for promoting sports. Manish Grover, another Minister did lag behind and gave his some money from his discretionary fund. In other words, if the political party running the state has such a close relationship with the Dera it was impossible for the law and order machinery to act against them. The administration could only maintain the appearance of being on guard while allowing the mob build up in the otherwise quiet township.

The implications of such a politics are serious. We have seen in recent past how godmen have been charged with serious criminal charges and have been awaiting court judgements – ranging from Asaram to Rampal to Ram Rahim. It is important to note that these are are also extremely rich entities. For instance, the Dera’s income was Rs 165,248,455 in 2010-11; In the year 2011-12, it grew to Rs 202,099,999 and in the 2012-13, it touched Rs 290,818,760.

Once this money combines with the political connections it produces an extremely corrupt and deviational religious entity. A process of militarisation of such sects also start as we saw in case of Rampal and now in case of Ram Rahim, who is also one of the 36 people in India to get a VVIP status and Z level security. While such personalities must be held liable for their acts the political formations, which help them in building an empire based on sheer lumpenism and violence waiting beneath the appearance of quietude and solidarity, must also be held liable.

BJP’s Politics: Opposing Judiciary, Supporting Violence Against Women?

BJP has a history of its leaders coming out openly in support of chargesheeted godmen such as Uma Bharti’s defence of Asaram Bapu in 2013. Their understanding of women’s position was also clear when their leaders remarked that they must remain within their laxman rekha or that they must not wear jeans, etc. The events of August 25 are more or less a repetition of the same understanding within the party. With over twenty people killed in the first few hours after the judgement, the statement of the Haryana Chief Minister that some miscreants had infiltrated the followers was still an act of trying to save the Dera leader from further humiliation. Thankfully, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has been extremely proactive and ordered that all his properties be attached. Even in such a moment apart from the milder reaction of the Haryana Chief Minister the vocal BJP leader Sakshi Maharaj stood for the convicted godman. He not only put the onus of violence on the Court, which convicted Ram Rahim, but also indirectly meant that he should not have been convicted. His conviction appears to be an attack on India’s culture to the Member of Parliament.

The MP asks as to why was the voice of one person (meaning the complainant) given so much of importance when crores stand with him. The ramification of such a defence is also that the complaint filed by a woman in this highly patriarchal society should not be given as much as importance as the larger (patriarchal) society itself. Hence, let the oppression continue because it hurts the perpetrators. Now the question also remains that why does BJP and its progressive Beti Bachao Beti Padao rhetoric has space for such voices and such politics to coexist within itself. It may not be a rocket science to answer this question given the history ad politics of the Right but it needs to be answered by the ruling party in light of all its rhetorics and even other formations who have been patronising this phenomena as why would noboy came in defence of the women who for so long stuck to their complaints when powerful politician and officials were trying to pressurise the CBI official to drop the case.

What also needs to be understood is how such a huge following from the poor, marginalised section of society gets attracted towards such sects. It is more than the charisma of the person – it is also the larger political economy within this needs ot be located.

Photo courtesy: The Economic Times

Ghar Vaapsi for Nitish Kumar and Project Bihar of BJP

In 2012 Nitish Kumar had said, “The leader must be secular and have an abiding faith in the democratic values“. In 2013 JD(U) executive had criticised Narendra Modi’s candidature for Prime Ministership on the grounds that he failed in discharging his duties as the head of the state to check communal riots in Gujarat in 2002. The same political party today sees him as upright and secular as Nitish Kumar moves back to his old ally. So, either he has become ‘communal’ or BJP’s Prime Minister has become secular since 2012. Whatever is the nature of transformation in the orientation of the two personalities it will have significant ramifications for Indian politics. Whatever the ‘ghar vaapsi’ of Nitish Kumar means it denotes more a victory for BJP than Nitish Kumar, who would only be a loser in long run because he heads a party which is without cadre. He only survives through populist policy measures. BJP will use these few years to demolish the support base of Laloo Prasad Yadav and extend the RSS presence in state and Nitish Kumar will happily oblige them as he did earlier.

BJP’s Bihar project seems to be nearing its completion. In an environment where corruption is abounding the selective display of efficiency of Enforcement Directorate or Income Tax authorities or CBI definitely raises questions. The recent expose about Chhatisgarh minister’s wife buying forest land, Shashi Karnawat’s complaint against corrupt bureaucracy in Madhya Pradesh, criticisms from within party have come and veteran leaders suspended for raising questions, Anandiben Patel‘s daughter took advantage of her mother’s political position, veteran lawyer Prashant Bhushan has been raising issues of corruption relating to Birla-Sahara papers and the related trail of corruption in the system or evidence have been there about the undue favours to particular corporate houses but nothing has been done. When there is so much of corruption around the country when the central government picks up certain cases (which are in the opposition political spectrum) and ignore the ones which are within their own realm it smacks of a deep seated motive.

There might be valid cases of corruption against the Yadav clan as they failed to learn even after the conviction of Laloo Prasad Yadav and, therefore, there is no ground for not raising questions about the same. However, the way BJP and JD(U) have managed to create a political atmosphere to delegitimise one political force and not others also need equal attention, which nobody seems to be doing. Nitish Kumar’s closeness to BJP is definitely not due to the sudden discovery of a corrupt Deputy Chief Minister but he has been consistently showing signs of going back to the old ally as pointed in an earlier article. In an alliance with Laloo Prasad Yadav Nitish was not getting any national significance and RJD was definitely going to be part of a national alliance against BJP. If he remained with RJD alliance he would have been gradually eclipsed. Nitish Kumar wants to be in limelight and is looking to play much longer innings and BJP seems, as of now, to be more helpful in that. He fails to understand that Narendra Modi would overshadow any political personality because of his own domineering and masculine traits.

Another Mockery of Democracy and Right-Wing Orientation of Nitish Kumar

The quick unfolding of events on 26th July 2017 are too quick to be taken as a result of some sudden development. The calculations and internal lobbying must have been going on for some time now. BJP has shown that if it cannot win by popular mandate it has other ways to come to power. It must be recalled that the 2015 assembly elections were fought by telling people that they should vote for a secular political alliance which also went by the agenda of social justice (it is a different matter if they really believed in it) against a brahmanical, communal political alliance. BJP and its allies were routed in the elections. People voted for a secular front. The upright Chief Minister of Bihar belied the hopes of voters and has now gone with the opponents against whom he was asking a mandate. He could have gone to people with the problem of corruption rather than going against a democratic verdict which brought him to power.

What also needs to be analysed is the fact that the upright politician is going back to an alliance which has shown its fangs post-2014 through encouraging mob lynchings of minority community, delegitimising the judiciary, parliament and office of President (where swearing-in is celebrated through slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’). His allies would be politicians who spew venom against minority communities. It would be interesting to see how he would defend his ‘secular’ credentials amidst all this.

Implications for 2019

It is increasingly becoming clear that the anti-BJP alliance of the so-called secular parties will be more cosmetic than with any potential to do damage to BJP in 2019 elections. With JD(U) going with BJP and Mulayam Singh, in all probability, will be siding with the NDA, the possibilities of a front would be between Congress, CPI(M), BSP, TMC, Akhilesh faction of SP and RJD as major parties. Whether these will be able to counter the corporate funded blitzkrieg and RSS cadre work on the ground will be a big question. Also, the positive outcomes for BJP in impending elections in states like Orissa will have a popular sway in their favour. Given the existing political circumstances, it would be difficult to counter the right-wing offensive even in 2019. The only option left for the anti-BJP forces would be to go back to the masses as BJP cannot be defeated now only through the mere arithmetic of alliances.

Political Turmoil in Bihar and the Future of Anti-Communal Politics

When the 2015 assembly election campaign was in full swing central locations such as Dak Bungalow road had massive posters pointing to the way BJP fomented communal riots. The history of Laloo Prasad Yadav and the memory etched in the popular imagination of a leader who arrested Lal Krishna Advani when the ascendant BJP had taken out a rath yatra for the Ram Temple at Ayodhya. Laloo could do it even though the Left government in West Bengal had failed to arrest Advani. This consolidated the secular support behind RJD and thereby JD (U). The initiation of the campaign through a mega congregation in Gandhi Maidan brought another section behind Laloo when he announced that the election was for Mandal – II. These consolidations also happened when Sangh Parivar leadership was spewing venom against minorities and reservation. The additional advantage that Laloo brought to the alliance was mass support. As the main campaigner, his eloquence connected him more to masses compared to the rhetoric of Narendra Modi (who addressed 31 rallies, more than any other leader) and Amit Shah.

BJP has overcome its defeat in Delhi and Bihar elections through victories in Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur. Given the absence of any formidable opposition, it will perform better in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu compared to earlier elections. Bihar is one state where it would not be an easy ride for BJP even in 2019 and this is largely because of the brahmanical and anti-minority politics it has pursued. Hence, it is important for BJP to work out mechanisms to delegitimise Laloo Yadav, which would make it inconvenient for the possible allies to go ahead with him. And one way of delegitimisation is to bring up the corrupt nature of Laloo Prasad Yadav.

It is a universal knowledge that Laloo has been convicted once in case of corruption. One would assume that such a mature politician would not repeat the same as it jeopardises his political career. If the charges are proven against him it would reflect not only his political immaturity but his failure to overcome the shortcomings of being trapped in family-led politics.

The challenge for Laloo

A lot of is being said about the dilemma of Nitish Kumar – wherein he can neither afford to be branded an opportunist and communal by going with BJP nor can he completely go against an image of anti-corruption leader that he has projected for himself. However, it may not be an easy ride for Laloo Prasad Yadav and his family in case they part ways with JD(U). Even if BJP is not able to fast-track the cases against them (which it can be given its authoritarian penchant) how would Laloo project himself to the voters will be complicated. One possibility would be that he goes to them and plays victim at the hands of a brahmanical and anti-minority party and whip up caste and religious sympathy and support for himself. However, it may not be that easy now given that there is an expansion of middle class, if not economic then aspirational, which has been made to feel that a corruption free India would ensure them a better life (the absence of any popular discontent against demonetisation and GST reflects this tendency). The OBC youth may not go in as large number as it used to go earlier with him. Minority vote might stay with him.

Given that BJP’s vote share in the last assembly was around 24.42 % of the total votes polled if JD(U) goes with it (its share was 16.83%) even with reduced votes from minorities it would a stronger alliance also assuming that some OBC votes would go towards it. RJD’s vote share was 18.35% and Congress’s was 6.66%. This would not match the BJP alliance unless they are able to bring towards them at least some savarna votes due to their disenchantment with the BJP leadership at centre as well as the state. They would also require bringing back the Dalit votes towards themselves from JD(U). This political scenario would bring a lot of difficulties for Laloo Prasad Yadav and the big breakthrough that BJP is looking for could be achieved. It must be recalled, as I had stated in an earlier piece in Scroll, that Nitish Kumar has been soft towards Sangh Parivar, hence, with its increased network, it would go to the masses with the BJP agenda like no other political formation. It would also depend on how effectively can the Sangh Parivar take the BJP’s message to the masses. Only Left could have challenged their ideological work at ground level but that is a spent force in Bihar, no doubt some of them would be aligning with RJD if elections happen.

The Long Term Loss

It seems that the battle against communal forces has not been taken seriously by the so-called secular formations. This is reflected in not only an absence of a counter-narrative at ground level to what Sangh Parivar does but it is also reflected in the many chances that they give to the BJP to delegitimise themselves through one charge of crime and corruption or the other. Bihar is important for the national level politics against BJP because if Laloo is delegitimised it would affect the national alliance and may delegitimise the anti-communal politics as well. An alliance of the spent forces like non-BJP forces from UP, Orissa (because BJD would loose in all possibilities) and then Bihar would not have much teeth to encounter the well organised BJP.

Punjab, Goa and Delhi Elections: Scripting a Requiem for AAP

The municipal election results of Delhi have been of special interest this time not so much because one wanted to see whether the BJP-RSS wave (a combination of corporate capital and cadre based politics) sweeps it or not but more because it would give a mid-term appraisal of AAP’s hold over the city. First it was AAP’s humiliating defeat at the Rajouri Garden constituency in an assembly bypoll and now it’s drubbing in the MCD elections. The party would have its usual naïve and implausible explanation – such as after the assembly bypoll Arvind Kejriwal’s comment that people in Rajouri Garden constituency were unhappy because their sitting MLA was sent to Punjab – and then after MCD elections it is obviously the EVM’s fault. Those who are blaming the will have to ensure that when paper trail will be introduced in 2019 General Elections they must win to prove that BJP wins only because it manipulates the machines because they don’t they would be further discredited. The opposition in general and AAP in particular are still not seriously analyzing the reasons of BJP’s victory and therefore have no plan to counter its surge.

However, this is the right time to reflect upon the ‘phenomena’ called AAP. When it won the landslide victory in assembly elections in 2015 analysts and activists felt that a new political force had descended on India’s political horizon. Remember that when it won it was not a chance victory but a concerted work by ‘volunteers’ from across the country and it was a victory of ‘hope’ that AAP would cleanse the system and allow an ideal and clean model of governance. You would have sat in a rickshaw two years back and heard words of praise for ‘Kejriwal’. Going around Delhi talking to people then one felt an excitement about this new political force. The frustration of the middle class with the existing parties and governments and its search for an ‘ideal-type’ governance found an echo with AAP while the poor of the city saw promise of a better life in its rhetoric. The contractual teachers, the temporary DTC staff, the health employees and more importantly the youth had hope from the new dispensation. These hopes, two years down the line, have been shattered and the support base among youth, middle class and the precariously working population has declined drastically.

It all started when a few people within AAP felt insecure and started purging it of others who might have challenged them as objections were raised to the way tickets were distributed among many other things. Given that some of the MLAs have been forced out of the party has partially proven those objections to be true. On another front the party started appointing its public faces to different state bodies, which could have been given to others from outside the party to expand the organisational reach and the public faces could have been assigned important organisational role. For instance, it could have started identifying intellectuals with expertise to head bodies and it would have sent a different message. Along with this its experiments in student’s politics in Delhi University failed miserably and it could neither make inroads into the vast mass of unorganised workers who have been suffering from extremely precarious existence. Like other non-BJP political forces it failed to organisationally capitalise on the demonetisation issue as well. Many of these things were difficult to manage because of the high rhetoric that AAP engaged in during elections. It lacked the basic understanding and foresight that once in state power it would have to follow the rules of the game like going back to a welfare state when the national economy is being aggressively neoliberal was an impossibility. It also needed to realize that within the given framework there are limitations imposed by countervailing political and bureaucratic forces.

It has undertaken significant initiatives in the field of education and health as one could see infrastructural developments such as construction of school buildings and improving health facilities. However, it failed when it came to regularizing teachers in their jobs and undertaking qualitative changes in curriculum and pedagogy. It made a historical decision to implement the idea of neighbourhood school which was recommended as early as 1966 by Kothari Commission and it would have set in motion a lot of changes in schooling system but it could not foresee the High Court’s rejection of the notification at private school’s plea. A step like this could have been made use of if there was an organisational set up to follow it up and take it to the larger public. The idea that private systems of education or health care are not the affordable solutions to the education and health needs of masses and that there can be alternative models as Scandinavian countries or British or French systems demonstrated prior to their dismantling by neoliberal state could not be taken to public. The reason was AAP has lost its network and it never had a robust cadre base.

If AAP needs to save itself from a wipe-out in 2020 it will have to understand two things – that it’s rhetoric and promises of 2015 cannot be achieved fully on account of many political and economic reasons and, secondly, to survive Congress is not the opposition it is the BJP, which has a huge cadre support base through RSS and financial support through corporate funding. In order to sustain itself it will have to expand itself and get out of an oligarchic organisational set up and try to build organisations across the sections that it considers its long term support base. During the MCD elections in a constituency like Greater Kailash or Chitranjan Park one could see that it did not have volunteers, leaflets, public meetings, hoardings or any local mohalla faces. The others had all these. If they do not realise right now and start acting on it even after Punjab, Goa, Rajouri Garden and MCD fiascos this might be a requiem for a political trend that appeared briefly only to get lost in what seems to becoming an unipolar Indian politics.