Sunday, 8 December was very different. Surfing through the TV channels I lingered on the news telecasts longer than usual. For a change, watching news channels engulfed me with a warm feel-good sentiment instead of inducing nausea as usual. Grim tales of scams, molestations, murders and rapes gave way for once to the positive side of human nature - idealism winning a popular mandate was on display.

This victory for idealism did not come about in some remote village untouched by 'practical' politicians. Instead, the venue was the political capital of the largest democracy in our world. In a hard-fought contest between two battle-hardened veterans, a new kid on the block emerged victorious holding the shining light of idealism. Politics, which in recent years, has become synonymous with corruption, secret deals, highhandedness and money power was making way for something good and enduring, or so I would like to believe.

AAP's achievement bears a strong parallel to the words of Neil Armstrong, the first man who set his foot on the moon, when he said, ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’ Only in this case, it is a giant leap for Indians and not for entire mankind.

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In the last few decades, successive elections saw the link between money power and politics grow stronger as people in the 'know' spoke of candidates spending a few crores for even assembly seats. For them politics is no different from agriculture or farming. You reap what you sow. Stories abound of winning candidates who successfully harvested their initial investment in electoral business many times over. Bigger scandals make the headlines, while the smaller ones are taken as facts of life that a prudent citizen should learn to ignore and look the other way. In contrast a few rebels who did not accept these facts of life, the 'crazy' few live in their own dream universe unconnected with the real world.

On 8 December, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) - the new kid on the block - looked to have unveiled the staircase linking their dream universe with our real world. Constructed painstakingly over the last one year, what seemed to be a mirage looks and feels real now. During the time after AAP was formed, debates in many circles focused not on the desirability of clean politics, which was unanimously conceded, but rather its feasibility which came under intense scrutiny. Supporters of clean politics could not find precedents to back their belief, while detractors held out popular wisdom that success in politics accrued only to those with money power or to members of political dynasty who have inherited 'it'.

AAP has made the cleanest electoral debut. A debut to be celebrated as it can potentially cut off the oxygen flow for corruption in public offices. Not only is their source of funds transparent as evidenced by their website listing the donors, the quantum of funds raised by them is also limited and comes from multiple sources thereby eliminating their donors' ability to influence policy decisions. Their single biggest achievement is in disproving the popular belief that only candidates with money power win elections. AAP's achievement bears a strong parallel to the words of Neil Armstrong, the first man who set his foot on the moon, when he said, 'That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.' Only in this case, it is a giant leap for Indians and not entire mankind.

India Together File Illustration

AAP's electoral success, like the moon landing, can remain a singular feat of human achievement providing only inspiration for future human efforts or it can be turned into a trailblazer that transforms human life in India by eradicating corruption. We don't have to search far for finding an inspiration for the second and the tougher route. Nelson Mandela, the giant of a man who passed away recently could be the inspiration.

In the current era of bitter rancour and distrust between political rivals in India, who have converted their opposing views into irreconcilable differences, Nelson Mandela is a shining example of how political differences can be bridged. Despite serving a 27-year prison term for his anti-apartheid activities, when he became the President of South Africa, he set up a commission to investigate human rights abuse during the apartheid regime and named it the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The absence of bitterness and extension of a reconciling hand is the most humane quality displayed in recent times. Can Nelson Mandela be reborn as a practice in the land of Mahatma Gandhi? Could an AAP government come into existence and put in place a common minimum programme to eradicate corruption and provide basic services for all citizens, agreed upon by both BJP and Congress? Showing this spirit of reconciliation for common good could be the best way for AAP to pay their tribute to Nelson Mandela.

Is this idea too idealistic? Perhaps, but idealism after 8 December need not be seen as impractical.