To modify the Aristotleian dictum that nature abhors a vacuum, the Indian experience seems to show that the political vacuum created variously by apathy, inaction or corruption has led to much of the opposition space being filled by activist-turned-politicians, in this case Arvind Kejriwal. At one time, it was the judiciary which prodded along an executive hobbled by a host of problems, the prominent being an inability or unwillingness to act. Today, whether we like his methods or not, Mr Kejriwal, the head of India Against Corruption and leader of a yet-to-be-named political party, is right when he says that the Congress and the BJP are both B-teams to his movement. Even as he engages in a public battle with law minister Salman Khurshid, he has also held out the threat that he has ‘proof’ of wrongdoing against several other politicians, most notably BJP party president Nitin Gadkari. The political class is scrambling for an air cover which just does not seem to be there anymore. Many people have little time for the Kejriwal brand of mudslinging, but it is clear that many of the same people do not dismiss out of hand the charges that are being levelled against people in high places. Mr Khurshid has sought legal recourse and time will prove him right or wrong as the case may be.
The larger issue is the systemic failures in governance which have led to people losing faith in parliamentary politics as we know it. The David vs Goliath act which is being played out today is definitely appealing to many people and explains why Mr Kejriwal is able to draw crowds and seemingly has the media eating out of his hands. Over the last couple of days, it would appear that nothing much else existed on the news front but the Kejriwal vs the political establishment battle. Those who had thought that with the exit of Anna Hazare the movement would peter out were quite out of sync with the mood on the street. In the sort of dystopian system which has come to prevail, it seems to be forces outside the formal framework that are calling the shots. Mr Khurshid may be right when he says that he cannot reply to people on the streets, but public anger is an indication that things need to change within the political establishment towards more transparency and accountability.
At a time when the government needs to act to fulfill the many promises it made when it was elected, and that too in a short span of time before the next election, it is busy firefighting, literally lurching from one day to the next. It is significant that it is not the BJP, not Mamata Banerjee with her anti-FDI rhetoric, the Left with its opposition to anti-poor policies or any other political formation which is setting the agenda today. It would seem to be people on the streets, led by people like Mr Kejriwal, who are leading the charge, calling for a just social order. To go back to Aristotle, “It is in justice that the ordering of society is centered.”