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<nettime> Pran Karup: (Indian) Open Source Politics - Making sense of
Patrice Riemens on Sun, 27 Apr 2014 01:03:27 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Pran Karup: (Indian) Open Source Politics - Making sense of

Original to:
Bwo Babul Gogol

[It should be noted however, that AAP is a 'Center' party, like Greece's
recently surged 'To Potami'. And Francois Mitterand had probably the last
word on 'center' parties in general: "The Centre is neither on the Left
nor ... on the Left" ('Le Centre n'est ni a gauche - ni a gauche'). Unlike
To Potami however, which will dent left wing Syriza's appeal, and probably
will cost that party the electoral majority it was forecasted to achieve
only a few months ago, AAP is a danger to the very right wing BJP and its
controversial leader Narendra Modi, which is good news.]

Open Source Politics - Making sense of the AAP phenomenon
Pran Kurup
April 21, 2014

The open source movement in the technology world has had significant
impact on almost every aspect in the field - the Linux operating system
and, more recently, the Android operating system being two leading
examples. The open source approach involves sharing of the basic design or
code in a collaborative environment where anyone can participate and
contribute. Subsequent improvements and features help the development
community push the technology further and ultimately benefit end-users.
This approach attracts anyone and everyone who loves to get to involved,
learn and try new things, and get recognized by their peers in the

While working within the community, the individuals involved might benefit
by dreaming up new ideas built on these open source solutions or pick up
consulting opportunities, teaching gigs, etc. But ultimately, it?s a
community of developers that work together to progress technology in an
open and transparent way. In short, it creates a fertile ground for new
ideas, innovation, and out of the box thinking, unencumbered by commercial
interests for the most part. In the process, it inspires an environment of
healthy competition and somewhat selfless commitment to a cause.

The backbone of all these developments is a set of well understood ground
rules within which everyone involved operates. The system is
self-correcting, in the sense that any ?bad apples? are often weeded out
by the developer community over time, and likewise, the genuinely
committed folks often get the recognition they deserve. Very often,
commercial ventures emerge from these initiatives - Red Hat in the case of
Linux, the various browsers, and apache webservers being some examples.
The open source community, at large, has no ulterior motive as such, other
than the betterment of technological progress and in keeping the
commercial vendors honest. It acts as a counter-balance to proprietary
technology and provides end-users with potential alternatives.

In the world of politics, the AAP is akin to an open source movement. It?s
leader, Arvind Kejriwal, is, in some sense, a pioneer like Linus Torvalds.
He and his party have a defined a broad framework within which they
operate - direct transparent funding, open candidate selection process,
decentralization, no high command, people empowerment, involving people in
decision making, and commitment to the implementation of strict laws that
act as deterrents. The purpose of the movement is to ?change the politics
of the country,? while the mission is to end corruption, dynasty politics,
communalism, and criminals in politics. The vision is to achieve
transparency, reform, and accountability in government.

A number of people, including many who follow politics closely, appear to
have a hard time making sense of the AAP phenomenon. Critics misconstrue
the AAP as an attempt by an overly ambitious upstart to grab power.
Desperate Modi fans see it as an attempt to waylay his path to the PM?s
chair. With this preconceived notion, they attribute ulterior motives to
everything the party does when, in reality, it is merely adhering to its
basic framework. The AAP is really a platform for better, cleaner
politics. Had the Jan Lokpal bill been implemented, the AAP wouldn?t need
to exist today. Any political party can adopt the ways of the AAP. The
purpose behind Linux Operating System was not to put Microsoft out of

The moment you view the AAP in light of this analogy, then answers to
?frequently asked questions? become rather clear. One economist, a
?Modi-bhakt,? taunted Kejriwal on Twitter asking why he hadn?t said
anything about Sanjay Baru?s revelations in his recent book about Manmohan
Singh. Firstly, Baru didn?t tell us anything that the country didn?t
already know. Besides, if you agree with my analogy above, it?s like
asking Linus Torvalds to comment about a flaw in the Windows operating
system. He didn?t care for Windows in the first place, so where is the
question of him responding to a flaw in it?

The same applies to the question of ?Why did the AAP government in Delhi
resign?? Once again, apply the open source paradigm. The AAP is not in the
business of conventional wheeling-dealing that happens in politics. It
lives and dies by its principles. In this case, a Lokpal bill is a
critical aspect of its ?framework? and without that, the very paradigm
that it is fighting for falls apart. So unlike traditional political
parties, it took the historic decision to resign.

Next take the case of ?AAP spreading itself too thin. Why didn?t AAP fight
100 seats instead of 450?? Once again, such questions arise when you look
at the AAP with the same lens as you would look at all other political
parties and try to attribute a grand strategy behind these moves. Who is
to say who can and cannot participate in a movement like this? Want to be
a candidate? Sure, submit your credentials, should you make the cut, go
for it, drum up your resources, make it happen! The more quality
submissions the party gets, the more likely there will be more candidates.
It is as simple as that. As Kejriwal most recently pointed out, ?Who am I
to say who can and can?t contest, it?s for the people to decide if they
want to step up and for the voters to pick winners and losers.? This
indeed is the spirit of true democracy - the spirit of India that has been
sidelined due to commercialization and criminalization of politics.

Then another common question, ?What will be AAP?s post-poll strategy,
should the AAP get 30 seats, 100 seats etc.? It?s like asking Linus and
friends if they would openly work for the Linux vendor Red Hat in return
for pre-IPO shares and other perks. I would imagine that should the
situation arise, the AAP will have to evaluate the situation based on the
framework within which it operates, perhaps set some legislative
pre-conditions, seek peoples inputs, etc.

Yet another question that is often asked is about AAP candidates with
criminal cases against them. Once again, it goes back to the ?bad apple?
issue mentioned earlier. The AAP?s system of candidate selection is not
perfect. but it?s better than any available today. But what is important
is that the AAP is never afraid to admit mistakes and correct them too.
The AAP has promptly withdrawn candidates when problems are confirmed
unlike other political parties.

The reason why most people are flummoxed by everything that the AAP does
is because they look at the AAP like they look at other traditional
political parties. Think of the AAP as an open source movement born out of
the genuine purpose of changing the politics of this country, and most of
its moves will start to make sense. The AAP is not out to put other
political parties out of business, but it is meant to be a conscience
keeper, constantly holding a mirror to them so they can adapt to changing
expectations of the people. It is precisely because of this that the party
has excited and inspired unprecedent number of people to take the
political plunge.

The AAP is here to stay, irrespective of how the polls turn out, because
its fundamental framework is sound and sensible, just as Linux and Windows
continue to co-exist. What it offers today to the electorate is a
refreshing, clean, honest alternative packed with good intentions,
something of the kind the nation has never witnessed. The choice of
whether to embrace it or to ignore it, and how soon, is entirely up to the
people. There is no ?hard sell,? there is no Machiavellian master plan to
take over the country, and there is no ambiguity about what AAP has to
offer. What you see is what you get - It?s WYSIWYG!

You can follow Pran's tweets at http://twitter.com/pkurup

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