Two spokespersons of different political parties held a riveting debate on the evolution from Anna to AAP at the Bangalore Literature Festival.

Moderator Ashwin Mahesh kicked off the discussion by outlining two broad questions that he said would pervade the discussion: “Firstly, Ashutosh, do you know how to do the job? And Sambit, do you know how to do anything apart from talk about the job?”

Sambit Patra, spokesperson for the BJP, was the first to speak, describing what he saw as a shift from 100% denial that the AAP would take any perks to a 400% acceptance of salary hike. On a more serious note, he stated his belief that the biggest of changes comes gradually. He graciously congratulated Ashutosh and Arvind Kejriwal for bringing about a huge change in Indian politics, before admitting that he is saddened by certain issues. He went on to state that what has changed from Anna to AAP is that they have gone from “listing the corrupt leaders to hugging the corrupt leaders.”

Ashutosh, spokesperson for the AAP, joined the discussion at this point, stating, “I’m not only the spokesperson; I also have a responsibility to build the organization.” He explained that when you look at AAP and the Anna Hazare movement from the traditional mindset, you wouldn’t be able to understand it. When asking the question “Why has AAP got 67 seats despite Modi being there?” Ashutosh noted that something has changed at the ground level. He enumerated what exactly has changed, saying that people don’t like politicians anymore, they don’t take them at face value. He also stated that the country is a lot more open, the present generation doesn’t suffer from colonial mindset and that they are a confident generation.

Patra countered him with his opinion that democracy is not about satisfying the power of an individual. He mused, “From a public enterprise to a Private Ltd. this is what the journey is. The AAP today has become one man’s fiefdom. But Anna is no more in this movement.” He asked about the whereabouts of Yogendra Yadav, Shanthi Bhushan, Santhosh Hegde and Prashanth Bhushan, and observed that they were no longer involved. “And you say you are not a centralist figure. To say that Mr. Modi is centralist and Mr. Kejriwal is Mother Teresa is completely wrong.”

In his response to Patra’s statements, Ashutosh said, “I was talking about a socio-political phenomenon, not a particular person. Irrespective of Mr. Kejriwal, this socio-political phenomenon will grow and persist.” He further explicated that the AAP believes that physical infrastructure is important. “But unless we create human capital, this will not be possible.”

Quick to react, Patra responded by saying, “We are in governance because of the mandate of the people in this country. He said that governance is not a stitch here and a stitch there. Rhetoric does not form governance. It is for the citizens to say whether they have got this governance.”

Ashutosh then countered by saying “My friend is indulging in sophistry.” He alluded to the rising intolerance in the country. After a brief discussion of intolerance, the moderator stepped in and said “We’ve phrased this debate as the formation of the anti-corruption movement to a need for better governance. What do you have to say about Bihar?”

However, a conclusion was not reached on this issue. Patra directed his statement about AAP at Ashutosh once again, saying “It is ambition which drives you, not rectification. It will take eons if you really want to come to power.”

The discussion was then thrown open to the audience, with quite a few shrewd observations by the audience members woven into questions directed at the two panelists.

By Nupur Sachdev