Arvind Kejriwal became Chief Minister of Delhi on December 28, 2013. I had written a piece about him in June 2012, at a time when there were no indications of the erstwhile Team Anna going political. Here is a re-post of that article to commemorate the beginning of a new regime in the state of Delhi.
This week Team Anna claimed that fifteen Cabinet Ministers of the Central Government were corrupt and released detailed documents containing evidence of their ‘misdeeds.’ Some Ministers questioned Anna’s integrity as he impugned their honesty, while others went as far as to threaten legal action and filed defamation suits! Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, thus far has been seen as the lone ranger in the UPA Government, the only clean face of the party leadership. With Arvind Kejriwal’s thorough explanation to the media (on June 1, 2012) as to why the PM could be found guilty of corruption himself, for the first time, a dark cloud of doubt hovers around the PM’s shield of ‘honesty.’ Dr. Singh defended himself by saying, “If any of these allegations are proven, I will give up public life.” This might sound like a very noble sentiment, but ‘giving up public life’ is a very lame argument when an ordinary citizen would have to go to jail if found guilty and won’t be allowed to take ‘sanyas’ as our PM aspires. All these events have heightened the smug mood that had become characteristic of the past year and has continued in this year as well. The reason I write about this pessimistic scenario is that amid all the negativity, I found a ray of hope today when I was watching a press conference.
When I hear Arvind Kejriwal speak about his opinions and ideas about India’s democracy and the problems plaguing it, I am inspired. It is the kind of inspiration that I imagine may have been generated when great orators like Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee spoke. I feel a sense of security, which tells me – “All is not lost! India hasn’t yet run out of worthy leaders.” His clarity of thought, ability to express his views and a knack of convincing the listener of his perspective can sway anybody (except the corrupt Ministers of course!). It is my firm belief that his place is not in the Civil Society. He is too fiery and popular to remain out of politics. He should set aside all his reservations about taking that leap and till the 2014 election, build a party of his own.
Although the thought of building an election campaign and a party network from scratch sounds like a daunting task, it might not be that tough for Arvind. In every town and city of India, there exists an active network of ‘India Against Corruption (IAC)’ volunteers. All he has to do is form a political organization and invite membership across the country. My hunch is that if he does that, people will throng to him because, albeit an invisible lot, I have always felt that there is a decent number of people today who are just waiting to be a part of an honest effort to make change from within. Obviously there are such efforts already going on – the best example of which is the Lok Satta Party – but none of them has a nationwide appeal and have no face with potential to attract the masses. Arvind Kejriwal, on the other hand, with his control over Hindi and inspiration-infusing qualities can easily woo the voters. Through IAC, he has a ready, on-field network of activists and in himself he has an intelligent and popular face. What more does a political entity require? Funds, of course! Fortunately for him, the IAC has already attracted large donations for his cause. If he pitches himself in the upcoming General Election, the flow of donations would begin once again. Large business houses would be one of the largest benefactors of a clean Government with an IITian at the helm. They would ‘invest’ enough funds in him to finance his campaign if approached in the right manner. I wish Arvind considers this option some day, if not today.
When he was asked whether he would enter active politics at some point in time, Arvind had answered in a firm negative saying that he and the team were fighting for ‘systemic changes’ and not for running the Government. Arvind, who is a firm believer in participatory democracy, runs another NGO Parivartan that promotes this cause. A great advocate of the concept of ‘power in the hands of the people,’ his NGO’s goal is “to ensure that our society becomes more inclusive and that real power rests with the common citizens of India.” In one of my previous articles, I had written about how India needed a visionary and I think we have one in Arvind Kejriwal. What he chooses to do with regard to politics is completely his choice, but at the moment along with Team Anna he will continue the fight against corruption.
As the Lokpal Bill has been purposefully buried into another one of the ‘Parliamentary Procedures’ by referring it to the Select Committee, Team Anna is rightfully crying foul all over again and this time, instead of an aging Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal is going to fast in Delhi from the 25th of July this year. I wonder how long the campaign for a Lokpal is going to go on and just how much patience the Team has.