Jhanjhar Bhaidia, the veteran leader of the Adivasi Morcha Sangathan then got up and asked them why they had now come to the conclusion that electoral politics was the key to people's emancipation. He said that even if it was the policy of the Adivasi Morcha Sangathan to be indifferent to all elections from the lowest Panchayat to the highest Lok Sabha it allowed its members to fight elections or support political parties on their own. Consequently members of the AMS have fought at the Panchayat and Assembly election levels and supported some party or other at the Lok Sabha level. During the assembly elections of 2008 Versingh Davar of the AMS had contested and a big contingent of the Sangathan had taken part in the rallies organised by the NBA in Khandwa. However, when Versingh and Jhanjhar had asked the NBA to support Versingh in the elections then the NBA had taken the stand that they do not take part in elections and neither do they support any party considering the whole electoral process to be corrupt. Jhanjhar asked Alok as to why had the NBA now changed its stand when it had refused to support Versingh earlier.
Alok had no answer to this apart from repeating that by becoming part of the AAP phenomenon it had now become possible to win elections. In the same breath he said that since the NBA was a people's movement it did not have the resources of political parties and thus it required the support of the AMS. Then, I intervened and said that organising people's movements and electoral politics are two different ball games altogether. The AAP had performed well in the Delhi elections by mobilising huge resources from all over India and abroad both in terms of finances and voluntary human power. On an average Rupees 25 lakhs had been spent per assembly constituency and hundreds of volunteers had given their time and skills to the electoral campaign. This had created a mass upsurge in its favour through a publicity blitz involving door to door campaigning, hoardings, radio advertisements and the like. Thus, if Alok wanted to win the elections he would have to mobilise similar resources which in the case of a large Lok Sabha constituency like Khandwa meant Rs 2 crores at least. Given the fact the AAP's centralised resource mobilisation had mustered only about Rs 10 crores so far, there was little possibility of any support coming from the central kitty for Alok's campaign and so he would have to mobilise resources on his own. Therefore, in addition to appealing for support from the AMS, he would have to more importantly mobilise resources for a publicity blitz to cover the whole of Bagli assembly constituency because even at its best the AMS could mobilise only about 10000 votes which is not sufficient.
Later on we had a long discussion about electoral politics. People said that electoral politics had become extremely vitiated with money power and it was unlikely that it could be cleansed on the strength of idealism. Unlike many of our Adivasi activists in Alirajpur, the veterans here did not appear to be impressed at all by the AAP's Delhi performance!!! Deepsingh, another veteran of the organisation said that the farther we stayed away from elections the better it was and he broached the subject of the annual Gatha celebration to commemorate the martyrs on April 2nd instead.
Alok is not the only activist but there are many others of the people's movements, notably people like Medha Patkar, who have now jumped into the electoral fray enthused by the AAP's performance in Delhi. However, none of these activists seem to have given a thought to the crucial resource mobilisation aspect which was the main factor behind AAP's electoral success. Both door to door campaigning to cover each and every household in a constituency and a publicity blitz through hoardings, posters and vehicle rallies will cost a huge packet and without this it won't be possible for a candidate to convey to the electorate that she is a winning proposition.
And here lies the most important problem. People who have money, not only the upper class but even the middle class, do not go along with the views about development that people like Alok and Medha espouse. Arvind Kejriwal was clever enough to target only corruption and promise freebies but he took care to not fundamentally challenge the present development pattern and that is how he has managed to raise resources. In fact faced with the daunting prospect of raising resources at a much greater level for the Lok Sabha elections he even went and held forth to the Conference of Indian Industry that he was in favour of capitalism and only against cronyism. Nevertheless the daily contributions to the AAP rarely cross Rupees 10 lakhs these days and that is woefully short of the huge requirements of fighting a nationwide election. Thus, if Medha, Alok and many other activists have to garner funds then they have to give up some of the central tenets of their development philosophy. There is no way in which Adivasi Self Rule or decentralised sustainable agriculture can be accommodated in the resource extractive development paradigm that holds sway at present. Even if Alok and Medha do declare like Arvind that they are for capitalism they are unlikely to be believed by those who hold the purse strings.
Even if we grant for the sake of argument that the activists of people's movements will be able to garner the necessary financial resources, the fight for a more decentralised system is unlikely to be won through winning elections with such huge expenditures. Winning the elections in this manner will require a jettisoning of the ideals for which the people's movements have been fighting. A lot more thought should be expended on how to take forward people's movements in an era of near complete capitalist domination instead of getting carried away by the AAP's victory in Delhi. Personally as an anarchist I find this rush of stalwarts of the people's movements across the country to join the electoral bandwagon of the AAP a little disconcerting!! Anyway the forthcoming elections will provide a reality check to all and sundry!!