How Arvind Kejriwal’s fight against crony capitalism is similar to Pablo Iglesias new communist movement in Spain

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal addressing  the special session of Delhi assembly on (IANS)
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal addressing the special session of Delhi assembly on (IANS)

By Saeed Naqvi

The new poster boy of European politics could well be a pony tailed Pablo Iglesias, in a dark blue denim shirt, 40, leader of Spain’s new communist movement, Podemos, which threatens to end the two-decade-old rule of the right-wing Peoples Party (PP). Playing second fiddle to PP in Spain were the socialists. As phenomena, is there a similarity between Iglesias and Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party?

Regional and mayoral elections last Sunday had Prime Minister, Mariana Rajoy, reeling against the ropes. Not only will Podemos now decisively have its candidates as mayors of the two biggest cities, Madrid and Barcelona, but it will be influential in most regions.

In their sixth year since the global economic crisis, Spain’s neighbourhoods (virtually like Residents Welfare Associations in India) protested against housing evictions, unemployment, austerity, above all, unspeakable corruption. Podemos which means “we can”, provided the ideological linkages across the regions. Where is such a linkage in India? AAP can, at best, be a model regional force depending on how it performs despite the sniping.

Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, AAP in Delhi, are all part of a global trend.

Electorates in most countries, afflicted by the economic downturn since 2008, are feeling suffocated in the strait jackets of two party systems that have been imposed on them. These systems may have evolved over time but they are now being reinforced by powerful vested interests who have developed links of profit with the two parties.

This exactly is the situation in India too. Narendra Modi’s extraordinary success in May 2014 can be attributed to two major facts. The world’s biggest, most expensive media campaign, which lasted a full year, ever since Modi’s candidature was announced in Goa.

This campaign harvested the disgust against the triumvirate of Sonia, Rahul and Manmohan Singh. Yes, the Gujarat model was repeatedly, mentioned but it was nobody’s case that the Indian electorate had fallen in love with Narendra Modi. Whatever chance there may have been for a pro Modi scent in the air was neutralized by Sakshi Maharaj, Yogi Adityanath and the Sadhvi who divided the world neatly between Rama’s devotees and those she declared were bastards.

Consequently, the record mandate with which the Delhi electorate returned AAP, within 10 months of Modi being sworn in, rattled Modi and his cohorts.

Big Business had allowed the media it controls to pay attention to Arvind Kejriwal prior to the elections. If he won, they would still have the BJP and the Congress to play the balancing game with it. But the scale of AAP victory reduced BJP and Congress to ciphers in Delhi.

The electorate had transformed Kejriwal into a Gulliver and his colleagues into Lilliputians.

It was a piquant situation. Even as the multinationals, Indian corporate, Sangh Parivar, the middle class on the make, planned a binge for the next five years, the party was spoilt by the Delhi vote. Kejriwal’s visage had to be tarred.

A triumphant party, with control of South and North blocks, indeed the nation, stood trounced in its capital city.

The media, reasonable about Kejriwal before the elections, unfurled its fangs. First, Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav were boosted on page one of newspapers, on prime time shows, for two full weeks without a break.

Then cameras focused for a week on a man who climbed a tree and allegedly hanged himself. In a burst of investigative journalism, the media found an AAP minister with fake degrees. The allegation was never proved.

True, the union government has four more years to tire out the AAP government. But has the tipping point not been reached when the negative publicity heaped on Kejriwal begins to cast him as the David standing upto the centre’s Goliath?

In Spain the media likewise gave space to Podemos at the outset. But now that Podemos threatens to upturn the capitalist applecart by his victory, Iglesias himself expects the media to turn upon him.

Being Spanish has helped Iglesias and the Spanish left in general in a very special way.

“For us Latin America has been a fundamental reference point – we have worked in Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela.”

Iglesias said all this to Tariq Ali on, increasingly a medium of choice as more and more serious viewers drift away from the mainstream, something AAP must learn in double quick time.

For want of space, I have not expanded on President Joko Widodo in Indonesia and President-elect Andrzej Duda who are not communists at all (in fact Duda is anti-Marxist) but represent the global trend to smash two party systems corrupted by crony capitalism. (IANS)