Arvind Kejriwal: From a Whiz Kid to a Revolutionary Politician
by Dr. Bhan Garg
Just a few hours later as the Assembly Elections 2015 begin, Delhi would start voting for its own destiny. So far Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party is the most-preferred CM candidate. The author takes an elaborate view about the person who nearly changed all equations of the Indian politics just within a year.
A child born in a middle class family in a small town in Haryana was once envisaged as a whiz kid. It was expected from this son of an engineer to become an IIT-ian which he did and nobody would have been surprised had the same IIT-ian made a fortune abroad or risen high in the IT-corporate corridors with the name of his company on major stock exchanges in India and even abroad as lots of IIT-ians have already done. However, instead of making his brand name in the IT sector, this IIT-ian took a different route and became successful in creating a new brand in Indian politics.
We all have read about different revolutions in the history of the world and we have also witnessed the Arab Spring where authoritarian rulers such as Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi and Ben Ali were taken out of power in bids to establish democracy in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia respectively. India in this context is a different ball game as, instead of a dictator, India is ruled by those who are elected by its own people. Unfortunately, the politicians who are elected turn by turn mostly behave as autocrats for five years and some of them are dynastic rulers. To make matters worse, these powerful politicians are all hand-in-glove with each other in terms of corruption, protecting and favoring their donor crony capitalists and other propagators of irregularities. Kejriwal was using the lesser-known Right to Information Act (RTI) to provide a solution by silently preparing for something very different and custom-made to address the complications of a rotten political system that has a nexus of megalomaniac politicians, crony capitalists, dissolute bureaucracy, and lax police. He was preparing the Jan Lokpal bill with the help of some eminent lawyers – the father and son duo of Shanti and Prashant Bhushan. He was successful in creating a buzz by igniting an anti-corruption movement popularly known as the Anna Hazare movement. The movement was nothing short of a revolution of its own kind – it was comparable to the Arab Spring, which was going on in several countries at the same time.
Arvind Kejriwal, an IIT-ian turned IRS officer, strongly believed that charity starts at home. He kept his image clean despite being a joint Commissioner of Income Tax – a position in the Income Tax Department, much known as one of the most corrupt departments of the Indian government. Instead of becoming part of the same corrupt culture in his department, he not only kept himself away from corruption but also started an NGO called Parivartan, which means change or transformation. This is where he successfully used the RTI to bring effective changes in the lives of people at the lowest level of the social hierarchy, earning a prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2006 for emergent leadership in a campaign against corruption. This award was a considerable milestone in his life, as it was enough to label him as an anti-corruption crusader. This former taxman and a silent, hidden crusader against corruption became much more visible and vocal as a hero on Anna Hazare’s platform for the Jan Lokpal bill. Anna Hazare may have been the face of the movement, but it was Kejriwal who was its brain. He was rightly accepted as the brain behind the movement as time proved and was projected by the media as a rising star in the civil society. The majority of middle class people including the intellectuals lost hope when the Anna Hazare movement fizzled away upon passing of the lame Lokpal bill, ridiculed as the “Jokepal bill” by Kejriwal, but he was unfazed and accepted the challenge thrown at him by entering into politics himself. He made a political party which is now popularly known as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) because it is a party for the common people he himself belongs to. Sometimes, it seems that destiny was in his favor – on top of an excellent name, he chose the broom, a symbol of cleanliness, as the party’s symbol. He proudly waved a broom during the election campaign, as it symbolized his promise to clean the rotten, corrupt political and bureaucratic systems. The broom quickly established itself as a brand in the Indian politics, making it an incredibly powerful party symbol.
Kejriwal, the whiz-kid was known to achieve success at everything in his first attempt, whether it was entering the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) or cracking the Civil Services Examination, which is the most difficult Indian Administrative Services exam. However, despite his track record being limited to academics and social activism, he surprised everybody when he took the oath as the Chief Minister of Delhi after his debut election. He reluctantly agreed to head a minority government after consulting the “aam aadmi” (common people) in 287 special gatherings throughout Delhi, called “jansabhas” (street corner meetings), consequently earning praise from his people for an unprecedented exercise and example in the history of Indian politics, hesitating before forming a government whereas other political parties typically try their best to form one in any way possible including unfair means such as political horse-trading and luring MLAs from other parties by offering ministries. As surprising it was to see him form government, it was just as surprising to see him resign on moral grounds after a mere 49 days of governance. And Why? He could not pass his Jan Lokpal bill which was dear to his heart and the centerpiece of his political agenda, thus proving once again that his brand of politics is of a unique kind since he wants to change the system, not acquire power. The majority of electronic and print media, which was playing in the hands of established political parties and crony capitalists, labeled Kejriwal a “bhagoda” (he who ran away), but he once again won the hearts of the people by admitting and apologizing for his political mistake in assessing the outcome, successfully blaming the Congress government at the time for not conducting a fresh assembly election along with the general elections, and successfully blaming the central government for delaying the elections while continuing to rule indirectly through the governor’s rule.
Revolution has mostly been seen as a violent exercise using the power of bullet rather than the power of politics. Kejriwal started practicing revolutionary politics – a combination of revolution and politics – in order to prove that the power of a ballot is mightier than that of a bullet. He catalyzed a transformation in the political system even before he formed the AAP and he continues to do that today at an alarmingly high speed, setting off what we can call a political revolution. With elections around the corner once again, this ‘muffler man’, another name he recently earned in social media, is poised to emerge even stronger than before despite the media and all other political parties trying their best to stop him as the status quo suits them. This muffler man, very dear to NRIs who saw his brand of politics as the only way to save India, will definitely succeed in his endeavors sooner or later and all of the forces trying their best to stop him are poised to fail. Since his entry into the political arena, he has been continuously slandered by both the grand old party, Congress, and Bharatiya Janata Party. The slander includes accusing him of foreign funding despite each party previously filing an affidavit in court declaring that contributions by NRIs cannot be labeled as foreign funding, thus contradicting their own propaganda. Despite the accusations, however, he has remained unfazed and both of the parties have failed to prove any wrongdoing on his or his party’s behalf. Now, both of the national parties are failing in the herculean task of tackling the rising popularity of AAP in Delhi. It is pertinent to mention here that those in the Third Front are trying their best to join hands with AAP without realizing that they are part and parcel of the same rotten political system that Kejriwal is fighting hard to change. Though the grand old party is virtually finished in Delhi, the ruling party, BJP, might use all possible unfair means to get the upper hand in the upcoming assembly election, ranging from fake votes to fielding dummy candidates with the same name and matching symbols, buying votes, and distributing liquor and money to lure voters. BJP accepted defeat when they could not find any credible CM candidate to match Arvind`s stature in honesty, and brought his one time associate Ms. Kiran Bedi, a fresh face in politics. BJP subsequently made its own local leaders peeved by declaring her the CM candidate, over night. She, instead of adding to the credibility of BJP, lost her own and now almost all opinion polls are showing AAP edging ahead of BJP with Arvind Kejriwal as the most-preferred CM face. Mr. Prime Minister and his team are rattled miserably and working overtime, indulging in smear campaign by deploying 19 Ministers, 125 MPs and 13 Chief Ministers to stop a ‘common man” but history indicates that this “revolutionary politician” will succeed once again against all the odds and the hurdles created by the saffron party, marching ahead with an echo of ‘Jai Hind’ to change the India’s destiny for good.
The author is a practicing veterinary surgeon in Canada. He can be reached on Twitter @bcgarg. These are his personal views.
Image Credit: Wikipedia