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In search of new politics and better governance

Published: Apr. 26, 2024
Updated: May. 07, 2024

The more politicians talk of change, the more similar they seem to become. Politics is in a rut. But a new orientation is needed if India is to be a modern and competitive country. It is not every day that new parties are launched and manage to acquire power. The Aam Aadmi Party has been an important initiative. It was fashioned by activists and raised hopes that it would cleanse politics and in an inclusive way meet the needs of the less privileged. AAP’s coming to power in Delhi was unexpected. So also its gains elsewhere, particularly its victory in Punjab.

The crossover from activism to politics is, however, fraught with challenges. Even if there are early gains, the glass ceiling that the political system imposes on new entrants is not easily broken. Entrenched interests come in the way. The system is also designed by and for the established parties. They don’t want disruption. Similarly, the corporate sector feels far safer with the status quo. It wants continuity and perhaps understandably so. But no reform of the system will be possible without big business' involvement.

Our cover story looks at these concerns in the context of AAP’s sad decimation. The young party is not without its shortcomings, but its demise, if it were to happen, would be a setback to reform in the country as a whole.

How should new politics and with it a better development paradigm be ushered in? Political parties obviously need to attract new talent. Young and educated entrants with professional degrees make a difference whether it is as party workers or elected representatives. The quality of political life will improve when there is a level playing field, particularly in equal access to funds. Right now, the system is skewed such that new entrants either exit or are forced to compromise. This is the best description of AAP’s woes.

Robust social activism is also needed to bring in change. Activists, without getting into politics, have the capacity to drive new ideas across the spectrum of interests in the economy and political system. We have seen this with the passing of many important laws in the past two decades. There is an opportunity in the courts where activist organizations like the Association for Democratic Reforms can doughtily fight on and ensure transparency and accountability in public life. It is not easy but, as we can see, it has been done.

In this special issue we also bring you a collection of interviews which have retained their value over time. As journalists we speak to people all the time. Our best stories come from people.


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