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The 'mango people' of India

Aam Aadmi party seems to be living up to promise to be the formidable challenger of the powerful elite of India.
Last modified: 7 Apr 2014 15:00

Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of one of India's most powerful politician, Sonia Gandhi, had once scoffed at anti-corruption activists in the country calling them "mango people in a banana republic." This was before the Common Man Party was formed.

"Mango people", translated into Hindi, means Aam Aadmi (alternatively translated as common man). Anti-corruption crusader-turned politician Arvind Kejriwal had warned Vadra that "mango men" would one day prove to be the nemesis of the powerful elite of India.

Nemesis or not, he succeeded in ending the 15-year rule of the Congress Party in Delhi and now is up against the might of "Brand Modi", the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

India's official mango men or the Common Man Party on Thursday released their election manifesto in New Delhi, a plank made up of their campaign base - anti-corruption, social justice, education and transparency.

From pressing for police reforms, media regulation legislature, judicial reforms, the AAP manifesto also calls for lowering of eligibility age for contesting the Indian upper house polls from 25 years to 21 years.

"Our government will put CCTV in police stations. We will put cameras in interrogation rooms. Anybody can ask for that footage using Right to Information," Kejriwal said.

The police have been under attack for their treatment and handling of various cases while Kejriwal was chief minister.

There are messianic expectations placed on Kejriwal and his team.

Seize control

In a way Kejriwal's call to action mirrors that of Obama's clarion call to Black America in 2011 to struggle alongside him while campaigning for a second term in office.

"I expect all of you to march with me and press on," Obama said. "Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying."

AAP has also made constant references to the common man to "seize control".

"Niklo baahar makaanon se, jung lado beimaanon se (Come out on the streets and fight the corrupt)," is a frequently used slogan.

For a political party which is barely two years old, it is phenomenal that they stand among the counted in India's mammoth electoral exercise - the world's largest.

It is not that they are not confronted with challenges, the biggest being loss of support among India's middle class which essentially is status quoist. This is also the class that is being wooed aggressively by the BJP's rising star Modi with promises of "golden growth".

By resigning from his 49-day government in the Indian capital, Kejriwal has belied their expectations. A class which is craving for opportunity thought he had one and frittered it away. But those who still believe in him argue that it is not "opportunity" but "change" which Kejriwal is striving for.

Who else would have argued that there should be a regulator for media in his election manifesto, knowing fully well that the media resists it and also that media has an important role to play in the electoral process.

For those who believe that the system needs a rude overhaul, AAP is the brightest option. For those for whom change means change of government, AAP’s ‘antics’ are nothing but an invitation to ‘chaos’, a narrative cleverly constructed by their political opponents.

And that’s where the last part of the description once created to besmirch Team Kejriwal has come to haunt them – that of a perceived threat to transform the nation into a "banana republic".