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HindustanTimes Sat,12 Jul 2014
Not down to the wires
Chanakya, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, July 06, 2013
First Published: 15:11 IST(6/7/2013)
Last Updated: 16:37 IST(7/7/2013)
Here is a little piece of advice for the intrepid Arvind Kejriwal, founder and leader of the Aam Aadmi Party if I may quote from Henry David Thoreau 'It is never too late to give up your prejudices'.


For our man with a mission, Kejriwal is brimming with prejudices, in fact I would go so far as to say he is an equal opportunities discriminator when it comes to the host of things which he loves railing against.

The top of the list, of course, is the corrupt political system. But he is part of that now, you may say. Ah, but a man such as he is not given to the frailties of avarice, sloth, pride, envy and so on.

Now the average Joe too is not exactly enamoured of our political class. They have let us down all too often. They have been caught with their hand in the till one time too many. They have looked the other way when they ought to have acted in the interest of the disadvantage.

And when Anna Hazare, the Spanish Inquisitor from Ralegan Siddhi, took to the streets, Kejriwal firmly hanging on to his coattails, public discontent with the political system was at its peak. And we thought that a viable civil society movement had been formed.

But unto each such movement some rain must fall. One by one, we heard of the less than pristine conduct of leading lights of the movement. We suspected now and again that some of them at least may be preparing for a career in politics.

Remember how vigorously Kejriwal campaigned in Hisar against the Congress candidate. Such suspicions were instantly beaten down - how dare you think that people like us, pure as the driven snow would sully our feet by stepping into this political cesspit, came the admonishment.

But, predictably enough, Kejriwal felt that a mere civil society movement was not enough to contain his ideas, his philosophy, his vision and ideals. Fair enough. The answer then was for him to grasp the nettle, however painful and take the plunge into politics.

So far, so good. But here is where the script started to go wrong. Kejriwal started off on a short fuse. He began to continue his antics begun during the civil society movement after setting up his Aam Aadmi Party, the name obviously designed to cock a snook at the Congress with its espousal of the common man.

Today, we have Kejriwal, a future custodian of the law if he is elected in the next polls, telling people that they must break the law. That they must not pay their electricity bills. When the authorities reminded him of the little matter of he himself having not paid his bills and cut off his supply, the crusader apparently did the 'right' thing, he reconnected his wires.

Here I must add a statutory warning. Don't try this on your own, you run the very real risk of being electrocuted and no one is going to fete you for having sacrificed your life for the cause of Kejriwal and co.

He has also asked people to burn their bills and roundly attacked in personal terms Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit. Now it is no one's contention that the chief minister should not be taken to task for the many lapses in administration, but what I would like to hear is Kejriwal's vision for Delhi.

We will come to India later. What does he plan to do about crime? About sanitation? About housing? About other civic amenities? And yes, about corruption in the administration? A dharna here, a fast there may get you a few photo-ops especially when a small child is forced to give you a glass of juice to break your self-imposed deprivation of food. But, beyond that, what does this party stand for?

It is to my mind a great pity that Kejriwal and co frittered away the chance to fill a void in our public life. That of creating a party based on the civil society movement which could engage with other political formations and act as a vehicle to keep them on their toes. To raise the issues that the big parties are cavalier towards, to be the genuine voice of the aam aadmi.

But what I see today is a bitter and cantankerous Kejriwal resorting to personal invective against politicians, unable to go beyond exhorting people not to obey the law. The politics of grievance will get you so far and no more.

If Kejriwal really wants to take on Dikshit, who despite all her faults has a fairly impressive track record, then he has to go beyond casting himself in the mould of some latter day proponent of civil disobedience. He has to get over seeing a conspiracy in everything which happens to people in his party and he has to stop being defensive about the dodgy members of his outfit whose incomes you and I are not going to see in a month of Mondays.

What a shame. I was really hoping that we could have a brand new, bouncy party focused on the everyday concerns of people that the big parties seem to forget sometimes. But I don't really want to burn bills and reconnect wires and land myself in the clink. If anyone has any ideas about how to form a real civil society-oriented party, do let me know. I am all ears.


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