Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Common People and Electoral Politics

A phenomenon is being repeated in Indian politics. Yet another mass movement, a faction of the India Against Corruption is gradually appearing, in its new avatar as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or the party of the common man, to become a force in mainstream electoral politics. This first happened with the Indian National Congress in the pre-independence era. After independence the socialists and the communists too began taking part in electoral politics with a fair amount of success off and on and currently provide the backbone of the emerging Third Front. Tamil backward caste movements too transformed themselves into the Dravida parties and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) became the Jana Sangh and later the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Jayaprakash Narayan led Sampoorna Kranti Andolan became, after the lifting of the internal emergency in 1977, the Janata Party. This was followed by the All Assam Students Union becoming the Asom Ganatantra Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and various other Jharkhandi Adivasi groupings too becoming political parties. Then there was the Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sudhar Samiti becoming the Bahujan Samaj Party. All these parties, including the communist and socialist parties, which professed great ideals and emancipation of the oppressed during their movement avatars have after entering electoral politics become corruption ridden and lackeys of capitalism ( The RSS though Hindu Nationalist and fascist in character talks of Ram Rajya which is a form of good people friendly governance but the BJP wherever it has been in power has failed miserably in providing this). It would be worthwhile to ponder on why this is so given the fact that the AAP is claiming that it will succeed where the others earlier have failed.
First, let us see what are the prospects of the AAP. A few opinion polls have been published and broadcast which show that the AAP is going to put up a fairly strong showing in the forthcoming Delhi Legislative Assembly Elections. According to the latest opinion poll conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies for CNN-IBN TV channel and The Week magazine the AAP will get between 19-25 seats, the same as the Congress, while the BJP will get 22-28 seats and so there will be a hung assembly. Arvind Kejriwal the leader of the AAP got the maximum votes of 25% of those polled as the most favoured for becoming the Chief Minister way ahead of the incumbent Sheila Dixit and the BJP leaders Vijay Goel and Harshvardhan. This is excellent by any standards but the only problem here like in the case of the earlier opinion polls conducted by other agencies is that the sample size is very small being only 2507 spread across 140 polling booths in 28 constituencies and the survey itself was conducted in just nine days. The one done by Cicero Associates and Consultants does have a large sample size of 34,425 respondents but there seems to be evidence that it is an out and out conjob.
Now the appropriate simple random sample size for a survey to yield statistically significant results that can be taken to be a probable indicator of actual outcomes in which the universe population is large enough for it to be possible to assume that it is a normal distribution is determined by three factors -
a). the estimated prevalence of the variable of interest – which is the percentage of people who vote in elections in this case as we are concerned with the voting behaviour of the population of Delhi. The total population size is not relevant because we have assumed it to be a normal distribution.
b). the desired level of confidence and
c). the acceptable margin of error.
Then, the simple random sample size required can be calculated according to the following empirical formula derived from the theory of normal distributions -
n= t² x p(1-p)/m², where
n = required sample size
t = confidence level at 95% (standard value of 1.96 for a normal distribution)
p = prevalence of voting in the study area which was 60% in the 2008 Vidhan Sabha elections in Delhi (standard value 0.60).
m = margin of error which is assumed to be 5% (standard value of 0.05)
thus n = 1.96*1.96*.6(1-.6)/(.05*.05) = 368
However the survey has to be a stratified one and not a simple one to take into consideration the fact that the population is not homogeneous and so the sample size has to be increased by a design factor for stratified sampling which is generally taken to be 1.5 and so we arrive at a figure of 553. This has to be increased by a further 5% to account for non-responses and other contingencies to get a final sample size of 580. However, this sample of respondents has to be surveyed in each of the seventy constituencies of Delhi and not spread across the whole of Delhi because then the sample size for each constituency becomes an absurdly low 8 respondents. Therefore for statistical significance the total sample size for the whole of Delhi should be 580*70= 40600. Moreover, each constituency has to be studied in detail beforehand to see what are the characteristics of the population in each polling booth so as to choose the stratified sample properly to reflect the population diversity. Obviously this preliminary exercise itself will be a pretty long drawn one and then the survey of 40,600 people also will take a lot of time. Finally the surveyors have to be well trained to discern frivolous answers.
Since such an elaborate survey is very costly and time consuming and requires a high level of expertise it is generally not done and what is done instead are cursory surveys like the one quoted above which have no statistical validity whatsoever and it remains a mystery as to why the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, a top notch research institution in India, which is adequately funded by the Government and various other institutions, is engaged in such fraudulent surveying for commercial purposes. This is why there is a move afoot, initiated by the Election Commission of India, to ban these surveys as they are more or less unreliable and have been so over the years. Though, to what extent they do influence actual voting in this country is a matter of debate.
Nevertheless, the achievement of the AAP so far is very good if one compares it with the performance of other people's movements in recent years that have tried to raise issues of corruption, injustice and unsustainable development but have never been able to come out from the margins of the mainstream electoral system. There is a tremendous groundswell of support for the AAP on the ground in various parts of Delhi and especially in the areas where low income people reside in very poor conditions. The party has also been able to muster a fair amount of financial, material and volunteer support, especially from the youth. Much, much more than many of the other mass movements for sustainable development and justice have been able to do. So let us assume that the above opinion poll predictions will be proved true and try and see what are the challenges that this will throw up before the AAP.
The AAP has stated that in the hung assembly situation that is predicted by the opinion poll quoted above, it will not support the other parties to form a Government because both the other parties will not agree to implementing the AAP's agenda of cleaning up corruption and providing cheap or free electricity and water to the people. This will mean that either the BJP and the Congress will have to form a coalition government together or there will have to be a re-election. Since the former is unlikely the latter prospect will loom large over the two mainstream parties. Since the BJP and the Congress will have spent huge amounts of money in the elections they will obviously try to avoid a re-election and the only way they can do this is by breaking the unity of the AAP and buying some of its elected legislators. So this is the first challenge that the AAP will face. All the candidates of the AAP are greenhorns in electoral politics and despite all the rhetoric of a prolonged screening process most of them cannot be assumed to be wedded wholeheartedly to the causes being espoused by the AAP. Thus, there is a real danger of their being bought over. This is what happened to many of the socialists, communists and other mass movement legislators earlier.
Secondly, even when parties formed from mass movements have come to power on their own, they have had to jettison their people friendly agenda once in power. Nehru famously had said that black marketeers would be hung by the lampposts once the Congress came to power in independent Inda but he did nothing of the sort and instead relied on the British colonial bureaucracy to use the colonial laws to oppress the people after independence. Later, all the other parties mentioned above have had to follow the Nehru line and use the colonial bureaucracy and laws which are still in place today to remain in power and favour the capitalists against the poor whom they ostensibly fought for. This is most evident in the case of the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha which were in the same situation as the AAP now is in. In fact even the Bolshevik Party which brought about the Russian Revolution soon found that it had to use the old Tsarist bureaucracy and capitalist modes of industrial organisation to sustain the system that it had inherited as total overthrow would have led to anarchy and dissolution and it ruthlessly put down all opposition from the vocal section of the workers and soldiers. Centralised systems have their own strong logic of perpetuating themselves and they do not let those who claim to change these systems drastically by seizing power in them, either through elections or through revolutions, to function according to their ideals at all. Not that this should be taken as a reason to not contest elections in a big way as the AAP is doing or not conduct revolutions like the Bolsheviks did.
However, it is important to keep this historical fact of slippage of mass movements from their ideals post electoral victory in mind. Mainly because many of the supporters and activists of the AAP including its leaders hold the view that they will not only come to power but that they will be able to implement their radical agenda once they do so. They are so busy living this dream that they do not have the time to think about why those who have so dreamed earlier have not succeeded and have instead become a part and parcel of the oppressive centralised systems they had initially set out to change. Generally the common people who vote in elections remain influential only during the short campaign prior to the elections and lose all power once the party they have voted for, comes to power. The leaders of the party then decide its future course and the probability is high that this will happen in the case of AAP also and the Aam Aadmi will find himself sidelined ( the Aam Aurat has been sidelined even before coming to power as only 7 of the 70 candidates of the AAP are women!!!).


Sadanand Patwardhan said...

Simply put, Terrific!!
Great Job Rahul. Must reach wider audience.

Rahul Banerjee said...

An exposition of die hard cynicism Sadanand!!!