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“It’s already super legal, as we’ve seen, for me to be a pretty bad guy, so, it’s even easier for the President of the United States to be one, I would assume?” asked Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez of Walter Shaub, Senior Advisor, Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington. To which Mr. Shaub replied, “That’s right.” This was the end of a small game which Ocasio-Cortez played with the expert witnesses panel at the Oversight hearing of the 116th Congress in Washington.

The game was a to and fro between Ocasio-Cortez and the experts on the panel revealing the very weak condition of finance laws in the US, which can easily allow someone as powerful as the POTUS to be exempt from being ethical in the financial aspect of his political campaigns, and even advance his own interests ahead of the interests of the nation.

“In terms of laws that apply to the President, yeah, there’s almost no laws at all that apply to the President,” said Mr. Shaub, who also later went on to congratulate Ocasio-Cortez on her little game on Twitter, calling it “a great moment in the hearing.”

So let’s get a little context about the woman who has been raising a lot of eyebrows with her radical campaigns in the United States of America. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, popularly known as AOC, is a member of the Democratic Party and there had been speculations that she will be running for the 2020 Presidential race (however, at the time this went for publishing, we learnt that she will not be contesting). She currently serves as a member of the US House of Representatives from New York’s 14th congressional district (which includes The Bronx and parts of north-central Queens), and, at 29, is the youngest woman ever to do so.

Closer home, AOC seems to have more in common with Indira Gandhi than her granddaughter, even while people have been harping on about how much the grandmother-granddaughter duo look similar. AOC’s work around themes of social injustice resonates strongly with the different issues that India is facing today.

AOC recently stated that one of her pitches would be implementing 70% marginal tax rate for incomes of 10 million dollars and above in the United States. For the capitalistic sentiments of American society, this very radical campaign got a lot of naysayers shaking their heads. Her Twitter bio which reads “in a modern, moral + wealthy society, no American should be too poor to live” seems to be the underlying sentiment behind her work as Representative. However, the similarities probably end there.

AOC’s work around themes of social injustice resonates strongly with the different issues that India is facing today.

Just like Gandhi’s 1971 Garibi Hatao election campaign, which became the slogan of the time, steering the Congress to an electoral win, AOC too is aiming for a more equitable redistribution of wealth among all classes. But while Gandhi’s campaign wanted to attack poverty and reach the poorest of the poor in the country, and attack corruption in the path to realising her campaign, it did much lesser than it promised it would.

Garibi Hatao would raise the tax exemption limit, implement land acquisition ceilings, and take back illegally acquired properties in order to bridge the gaps between the rich and the poor in India, her campaign was not much more than an electoral ‘jumla’ as we now say. It was not well thought out, and only about 4% of the funds for the economic development of the country were directed towards this campaign.

She came to power in 1971 riding on the back of this campaign, but redesigned it completely, so it soon started looking like a Garib Hatao campaign. She gave out a nationwide call for forced sterilisation as well as demolition of slums to make India appear as a more equal nation. Not very different from Modi’s very own Swachh Bharat Mission, which has in several places, destroyed slums and displaced families which did not have toilets (and let’s not even get into the functionality of the toilets that did get installed) right before the assessment teams came around to record the work done under this campaign in the different states.

The number of constructed toilets that have been recorded by the assessors of SBM are too large to remember – which should be a good thing for any campaign – but in the obsession over making India open-defecation free, we have subtly been eased into a garib hatao campaign in broad daylight and under everyone’s noses.

Also read: Why Are We So Obsessed With The Personal Lives Of Female Politicians?

The unequal economic conditions among the different sections of people are a pressing concern for every nation, and US is no different. AOC’s 70% taxation rate plan was prima facie booed by several across the political spectrum, with one even touting it as ‘the Trump re-election campaign’, but surveys done among voters showed surprising results – 59% of registered voters, which includes 71% democrats, 60% independents and (pause for dramatic effect) 45% republicans said they supported AOC’s apparently ‘comical’ agenda. We all love a good comic, now, don’t we?

Apart from this, AOC has also actively campaigned for free medicare for all, jobs guarantee and a free public education system, issues which are also in the limelight in our country today – with Modi’s failing Ayushman Bharat scheme, a 45 year high in India’s unemployment status, and the recent Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) which has shown the sorry state of government schools in our country.

AOC is fearlessly leading the way for a more egalitarian society, and if she can whip up a few laughs along the way, then we shouldn’t be complaining.

AOC’s fearless interaction with the Congress panel has shown that she is willing to speak truth to power if she has to, even if that means being the ‘bad guy’. Our political leaders in India would do good to take a leaf out of her book, and be fiercer in using their power to bring about qualitative change instead of endorsing quantitative data which is becoming increasingly easy to see through.

AOC is fearlessly leading the way for a more egalitarian society, and if she can whip up a few laughs along the way, then we shouldn’t be complaining. She has been speaking extensively about holding the government accountable for issues like climate change – her conversations around the #GreenNewDeal are truly inspired. With her campaign calls, she faced a lot of backlash in terms of the fact that she shouldn’t dream so big from the get go, and she should start smaller – from city council or some such.

Also read: Circumventing Merit: What We Do To Priyanka Gandhi And Kamala Harris 

She has spoken out against the naysayers and asked them why billionaires (like Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks, who also wants to run the 2020 Presidential race) are not asked to ‘work their way up’. And she sure doesn’t think that universal healthcare for all is an impossible task. She is asking all the right questions and America needs to say yes to something new, once AOC is 35 and is eligible to run, paving the way for a strong woman presidency. Because, really, the ‘strongest nation’ today and never a woman president? A real head-scratcher.


Featured Image Source: Vogue

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