First he annoyed them. Then he dazed them. Finally he stunned them. He has not stopped needling them on a daily basis. By his unconventional politics Arvind Kejriwal, operating under the banner of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), acts like a whole army by himself. He chooses his target very carefully, mounts a commando operation, and moves on. What he has done is captured by the media first even before the main stream political parties notice the effects of the verbal guided missiles fired by Kejriwal. It has created so much of confusion in the enemy ranks that they find him some kind of an enigma. One national party advises its cadres to “learn” from the AAP techniques and skills while another has asked its cadres to compile a list of all the mistakes made by the AAP and Kejriwal in the last 80 days or even all of the 2 years of its existence. But both the AAP as also its chief Arvind Kejriwal are on the radar of the national parties, who are the main targets of Kejriwal’s vicious war on them. In fact Kejriwal attacks the whole “system”. He wants to change everything from the Constitution of India down to the last level of government. His freshest attack on the media forms part of this plan for change. He calls himself an “anarchist” in this context. He makes his moves in a strategic manner whereas the media jumps at it as breaking news causing the desired level of excitement all around, compelling the political parties to react without adequate analysis of the canny moves of Kejriwal. Any knee jerk reaction is enough to give spin to the story, many a times far away from the central issue involved. The saga of point counter-point benefits none other than Kejriwal. Attacking Kejriwal is counter-productive- it is like Goliath criticizing David. Since Kejriwal is a fresher in active party politics without any baggage of the past irregularities on his back, he leaves little scope of attack on him personally by the national political parties. Their only strong point is hauling the AAP on burning coals in matters of policy, economy or security and other similar issues. But the promise to change the system, which means anarchy followed by order as in any revolution, leaves really little scope for them to tear in to him. While the stunned political establishment tries to unravel the enigma of their creation, let us do a quick reality check on the achievements and failures of the new phenomenon.
The state has three organs: Parliament, Executive & the Judiciary. Press and media are the Fourth pillar of democracy (also called the Fourth Estate) but not the organ. Kejriwal chose the softest target out of these 4 to begin his political run. Governments globally are considered corrupt. Ministers, Prime Ministers, Presidents, bureaucrats and businesses have all looted the tax payers’ money all over the world. India is no exception to this global phenomenon. Public anger against corruption is so high that anti-corruption campaigns have been able to garner mass support. The level to which corruption has reached under the government of Manmohan Singh is revolting. The recent Anna Hazare led campaign against corruption was so successful that the government was jolted out of its deep slumber. The AAP and Kejriwal are born of that campaign. Kejriwal split from Anna Hazare when he decided to form the AAP and enter electoral politics. Anna Hazare opted to remain the moral force of the people against corruption. To galvanise his newbie, Kejriwal chose to make individual ministers of the Manmohan Singh government the target of his attack, charging them with corruption. He knew that the people were hungry to get such misdeeds of the ministers exposed fast. It was a daunting act with the risk of legal action under the defamation law and the organized might of the Congress Party and its allies in the UPA government led by Manmohan Singh. He chose not only those ministers who were loyal to the Congress President Sonia Gandhi but her son-in-law also. The government was coming under attack from the newbie on the one hand and the C&AG (Comptroller & Auditor General of India) on the other, whose reports exposed corruption cases of astounding amounts of rupees 186000 crores, 176000 crore, 75000 crores and many more. This proved immensely beneficial to Kejriwal, who was pursuing a single point agenda of anti-corruption to get the guilty brought to justice. He gained enormous stature as a man who could eradicate corruption. Kejriwal played cleverly on public sentiment against corruption. He encashed it in the elections to the Delhi assembly in December, winning 28 seats for his party and forcing the Congress Party to extend him unsolicited support to form the government, in spite of being second to the BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party), which is the single largest party in the assembly. While forming the government he boasted that the Congress Party would regret its decision to support him. People thought he meant business, but this success whipped up his ambition to strike similar success at the centre. Without making public his ambition, he has started dreaming of becoming the Prime Minister. He neglected governance in Delhi and resigned so as to devote himself to the parliament elections. He is putting up more than 300 candidates. Even a small success in the parliament elections scheduled for next month will launch him into the national politics, which might boost his plans for changing the system. His target 2 happens to be the legislature.
Members of parliament and state legislatures became the next casualty of the Kejriwal campaign against corruption after taking away the jobs of several ministers for corruption. Kejriwal declared in the Delhi assembly elections to field candidates against corrupt members of both the Congress and the BJP and fight against Sheila Dixit, the incumbent Chief Minister, himself from whichever constituency she chose to stand. He compelled all parties to screen their candidates very carefully. It was for the first time that clean candidates were put up by all the parties. He fought against Dixit and defeated her by record margin, ending her political career. She has been exiled to Kerala as Governor, a punishment wrapped as a reward for an active politician. The pressure of cleanliness of the candidates continues to play a decisive role for the parliament election next month. Many ministers are opting out of the fray or seeking “safe” seats, only because Kejriwal is going to exploit the opportunity in every single case of a corrupt candidate. The national parties are especially very careful. Till last election, it was crime and corruption (muscle and money power), which guaranteed electoral success. This time their business stands disrupted for many years, if not for ever. Good achievement for a newcomer to influence so vastly two organs of the state i.e. the Parliament and the Executive (Government).
Kejriwal has attracted a lot of flak in the meantime on several grounds of policy, governance, commitment, sincerity etc. But all that emanates from the mystery about him- an enigma wrapped in a conundrum riddled with multiple puzzles clouding understanding because of the thick layers of smoke of confusion. While he is proceeding according to his design to achieve his envisioned anarchy in India, the national parties are wasting time in fault finding, criticizing or untangling him. Even the alert media has also fallen prey to his depredation. They failed to notice the game plan of Kejriwal in choosing to attack the media of being sold out and putting out paid news.
Such strident criticism was not expected from him by the media. This time it was the media to be stunned after the legislators and the ministers. As in earlier cases, their first reaction was very angry. The Broadcast Editors Association termed it irresponsible and TV channels gave free vent to their ire, shredding Kejriwal to pieces. Kejriwal was superbly happy to watch the reactions. Besides dominating the entire press and media, especially the TV channels, to the total exclusion of other parties and personalities, he quietly achieved his third objective that is rattling the Fourth Estate. Who knows it better than Kejriwal that the media makes or unmakes government in India. He, his party and programmes have achieved unexpected success because of the media. He has several journalists as active members of his party, who are standing for election to the parliament next month. Even then, he keeps his eyes and ears open and like a true communist (he seems to draw inspiration from Naxalite leaders) knows the damaging capabilities of journalists and the media. In Manmohan Singh or AB Vajpayee governments, the media ruled politics but under a communist dispensation the party rules the media. That alone is news which the Big Brother approves. The Indian media might have helped him grow, but that is no reason to expect windfall profits. After all media houses are also business ventures, owned, controlled and run for profit. They are not philanthropic ventures to give doles to intellectuals- they must earn revenue and profits. They run successfully under the notion of free press, which is one of the many fictions of democracy. Newspapers, radio and TV depend heavily on government advertisements and other endowments. Kejriwal knows it and resents serving their interests. His timing is perfect, as in attacks on two other organs of the state. The free press has been shown its place before it makes any attempt to prevail upon him. Once he forms or helps form the next government at the centre, the press & media come under his administrative jurisdiction. As the media carries a chip on its shoulder, Kejriwal has sent out a polite warning to them not to desert him but help him as they helped him initially to capture power at the centre. His subsequent reply to a question “how can I criticize the media” is another sting from him in his trademark mildness. What he conveyed was that the media was so powerful that he can’t criticize it. Scorpion sting! AAP leaders came on TV shows in stout defence of Kejriwal. The incident delivered the desired result: he is not only getting more than due publicity but his opponents are coming under sharp media attack in the name of neutrality. In order to put up a show of unbiased coverage, the media must criticize the opposition even where it is unjustified. The media has become very careful in the last two days. It is all due to Arvind Kejriwal charging it of airing paid news and being sold out to the Congress and the BJP.
That leaves us with the third organ of the state- the judiciary. Today the court has fined Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia Rs 2500 each for failing to enter appearance in a case of defamation. The judiciary has always been on the radar of members of the AAP, particularly Mr. Shanti Bhushan and his son Prashant Bhushan. Both father and son are esteemed lawyers of the Supreme Court of India and responsible for drafting the Jan Lokpal Bill. Shanti Bhushan has been the Law Minister of India. He has been attacking corruption in the judiciary for long and had also filed complaints against several judges, including a few Chief Justices of India . So it should easily be surmised as to what is in store for the judiciary. The judiciary has punished corrupt ministers and legislators and has been targeted by them. They want to control the process of appointment and discipline of the judges. Legislation is already before the parliament. If Kejriwal is helped by destiny to rule at the centre, these legislations come handy to him to treat the judiciary the same way he has done with the other two organs of the state and the fourth estate.
That completes the circle of Kejriwal’s anarchy. He has not yet put on the table the alternate system. He may or may not be having any such alternative system. But he need not be taken lightly. He is making his moves carefully. He has the political DNA of the right variety. He is clean so far. He is a trained technologist, capable of conceiving, designing, making and commissioning products and systems. He has spent some years in government service. He has been running NGOs. He has agitated with Anna for the Jan Lokpal Bill. He has created a party, fought election, formed government and built up a huge organization to bring about a genuine change of the system. But that alone doesn’t suffice for a country like India. Elections in Delhi were a success due to demographic change in the voter community. Like PIO (Person of Indian Origin), Delhi is home to vote banks comprising Person of Assam/Bihar (all 29 states) Origin. People from all states live here. It has changed the composition of the voter community in Delhi, which earlier used to be dominated by the two national parties, Congress and the BJP. This deprived the immigrants from other states to partner in the running of the Delhi government. Kejriwal has been working in illegal colonies, inhabited by the poor. Earlier they used to come to Delhi for earning and go back to their villages. Now they stay back and raise families. Poverty breeds more poverty in these colonies. Lack of education and skill development makes them unemployable. Crime thrives in such situations. Government can’t do much for them. They become fertile grounds for NGO operations, majority of them being instruments of further exploitation of the already exploited poor people. The problem of the urban poor has yet to catch the attention of the government. The national parties are too busy with more important matters of national interest. Consequently these colonies nurse frustration, anger and anarchy. When a man like Kejriwal incites the people in these habitations to attack the police or take unauthorized electricity or water from the public facility or promises to grant them free electricity and water, he strikes a chord with them. When a respectable looking educated person demonstrates the ease with which anyone can take the law into his hands with impunity by indulging in such unlawful activity himself, he galvanizes the voter to harvest a rich crop in elections. Kejriwal played another master stroke by putting up very young, half-educated, inexperienced and even some poor candidates against the aged, stale, controversial candidates of the national parties. As the voters suffered from “politician fatigue” they decided to change them like the old shaving blade. All AAP candidates were below the age of 40; rather most at the lower end of the band. In contrast, all the candidates, with some exceptions, from old parties were above 40, led by those above 60. The projected Chief Ministers were also above 60 years in contrast to below 48 years of the AAP. The number of young voters having swelled enormously in the last election, their preference was for the candidates from their age group. That was how Kejriwal and AAP made a success of it at the Delhi Assembly elections last year. That is the challenge the old parties face even in this general election in 2014, who are grudgingly making room for youngsters to occupy political space. As the Congress party has been in existence for the Nehru dynasty and its scion Rahul Gandhi, it had started rearing up young politicians loyal to him some years earlier than others and is poised to face the challenge from Kejriwal better. India is not Delhi. Conditions and vote banks are different. The youth belonging to the modern knowledge society is behind every party and no one party alone can command their commitment or loyalty. Corruption is one of the several pressing issues on the minds of the voters. Local and national issues coalesce rarely. Whether the Delhi success will be repeated by the AAP in the parliament elections in April is doubtful. But this much is certain that even a small and insignificant number of MPs returned to parliament on AAP ticket is going to make a big difference. Kejriwal is at his best when in opposition- he is not meant to run the government.