Viewing Arvind Kejriwal
Recounting a Little Political Experience of My Own
Almost a decade ago, on 1 Dec 2013, I responded to a message by Professor Anand Kumar, now superannuated from the Jawaharlal Nehru University Sociology department. He had expressed a lot of optimism at the prospects of a newly formed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that turned out to be true that year.
With Anand Kumar, we had done student campus politics at the JNU in 1979-80. That year, I was elected as a Councilor with Prakash Nanda from the School of International Studies (SIS). Also on our panel, the winning candidates included the late Digvijay Singh (Dada) as the General Secretary of the JNUSU. Digvijay Singh later became one of the founding members of the Janata Dal (United) and a Union minister in the coalition government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Prakash Nanda is a Delhi-based academician and senior journalist.
In the aftermath of the national Emergency (1975-77) promulgated by Indira Gandhi, Anand Bhai had just returned from Chicago. He was under a barrage of criticism from the Leftists for having left the country during the Emergency. We were all on the platform led by the Free-Thinkers and the students who claimed themselves as “the products” of the JP movement.
Originally hailing from Banaras, Anand Bhai was once elected as the president of the Banaras Hindu Univ Students Union and throughout his career was close to the Socialist leaders from UP. People close to him always expected Anand Bhai would one day be accorded recognition for his image as an impressive orator representing the youth-wing of the Socialists. But, he was apparently disappointed first by his protege, Raj Narain and later by Mulayam Singh Yadav.
In 2014, Anand Bhai became a Lok Sabha candidate of the Aam Aadmi Party from one of the Delhi constituencies.
In his excitement at the formation and initial success of the AAP, Anand Bhai, addressed his friends and colleagues through a Facebook posting. The note read:
“Are you taking any interest in the political affairs of our country these days? I am. After getting involved in the elections of Delhi Vidhan Sabha for the last two weeks and visiting more than 10 constituencies in different roles and capacities, I feel tempted to report that the Indian democracy, our election process, party system and voter – Neta relationship are not going to be the same after the voting on 4th December for 70 seats of Delhi Vidhan Sabha.
The people of India have entered a win-win situation with the emergence of Aam Aadmi party as the third alternative. There is a third way of citizen-centric political mobilization for common causes in contrast to caste and community centered mobilization paradigms around ‘identity politics’.More about it later – after the results are out on 8th December.
For the time being, you can guess about the intensity of the campaign by a sample of slogans of Aam Aadmi Party volunteers which I heard during a 3 hours long Padyatra in one of the most neglected areas in the neighborhood of Delhi University campus. These slogans were being repeated by more than 100 AAP volunteers who have come from different parts of India. It was a programme led by a smiling and enthusiastic Dr. Harish Khanna who is a candidate from Timarpur Constituency of AAP and General Secretary of Delhi University Teachers Association. Let me report 4 of the most interesting ones:
1. Nikal Aaj Makano Se! Jang Karo Beimano Se!!
2. Pahale Lade The Goro Se, Ab Ladana Hai Choro Se.
3. Ab Bhi Jisaka Khoon Na Khaula, Khoon Naheen Woh Paani Hai!
Jo Desh Ke Kaam Na Aaye, Woh Bekar Jawani Hai!!
4. Desh Humara – Aapka! Naheen Kisi ke Baap Ka!
Imagine the atmosphere if the country starts repeating these slogans all over the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies in 2014. I feel very optimistic about the possibility of a new chapter of reforms and improvements in our political culture and national mood with great strides of citizen activism for cleaner politics and a better country. There is no chance of allowing ‘more of the same’!”
It’s for us to give our verdict on which way the political culture has changed!
The same day Anand Bhai had written his message, I responded on his wall.
My letter read:
Dear Anand Bhai,
I share your enthusiasm because you are reporting from the field. However, the new fledgling AAP is known only by its leader, Arvind Kejriwal. He was a member of the team that spearheaded a movement for administrative and judicial reforms in India. The Anna movement was intensely popular only for a short time. But, it rightly focused on the eradication of corruption from the Indian social, economic and political system.
Quite frankly, similar to the JP or the Anna movement, India needed a continuous popular upsurge at the scale of the Freedom struggle or anti-Emergency movement. Only a grass-root, bottom-up non-violent resurgence will purify the polity and streamline the system. It’s a tall order and will call for leaders willing to make supreme sacrifices.
Setting up a political party and fielding candidates for elections, I’m afraid, may turn out to be a short-cut measure. This may win a few seats here and there or enhance the profile of a leader but will not accomplish the types of remedies India needs right now.
Political parties in the present set up will have to fall into the same dirty pit unless new rules are put in place that will level the playing field. Indian electoral politics aren’t yet free from the clutches of big money, muscle or ministerial powers.
Above all, in many cases, the representatives are declared elected because the majority of votes against them are splintered. The electoral system is deeply flawed.
None of the major political parties raises these basic issues because they all benefit from the existing system. One may genuinely fear the AAP will also become one of them.
With best wishes,
Anand Bhai ended up parting company with Arvind Kejriwal because of the latter’s authoritarian and personality-centric politics. He became a part of the Swaraj Party with Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, also driven out of the party.
We can see where the AAP stands today, with Arvind Kejriwal’s ministers in jail and corruption charges hanging over their heads.
[Originally from Darbhanga, Bihar (India), Dr Binoy Shanker Prasad lives in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). He is a former UGC teacher fellow at JNU in India and a Fulbright Scholar in the USA. Author of scholarly works including a book, “Violence Against Minorities”, “Gandhi in the Age of Globalization” (a monograph) and a collection of poems”, Dr Prasad has taught at Ryerson University, Centennial College and McMaster University. He has also been the president of Hamilton based India-Canada Society (2006-08 and 2018-20)]