AAP’s Impact: Lesson I

In his first book[1] published almost two decades ago, Mark Kingwell invoked an analogy similar to the tragedy of commons for philosophy. He was discussing the ethics of civility and argued something along the lines of: civility is much like an individual’s need for a bigger car that makes one go faster/ feel safer; except it only makes everyone else join the race and thus make everyone including the original individual feel less safe and travel slower. Implying a sort of arms race at every level of human need.

It’s an indication of the political climate one inhabits that reading Mark Kingwell’s analogy reminded one of the middle class political space occupied by the BJP and AAP. Until a few months ago the opinion polls and conventional wisdom suggested that space was largely occupied by the BJP; recently, at least a part of that has been usurped by the AAP in certain pockets of North India. While the relative merits of the two parties is not at all interesting, the inherent volatility of the space is. Further, this usurpation is remarkably similar to the arms race situation in all the other zero sum games of the kind Mark Kingwell describes. After all heightened rhetoric, symbolism and display of earnestness are hardly the preserve of any one group.

What stands out here however is the contrast of this space with the decidedly sticky caste based non-urban vote. Regardless of the AAP’s appeal to Valmikis in Delhi, UP’s Dalits are mostly going to vote BSP. As are Yadav’s going to vote SP. Because those parties exist because the castes do — not vice-versa as the casteless society visionaries from Delhi will have us believe. In other words, the lesson that traditional political parties are likely to take from the AAP’s usurping of a cosmopolitan vote is:  they are better off having a base that isn’t fickle enough to be swayed by vagaries of election cycle.

[1] – Yes, the book has 2 comments on Amazon and both written by Mark’s wife. Philosophers live a strangely sad life.