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HindustanTimes Thu,31 Jul 2014

Is Arvind Kejriwal an agent of change or a successful demagogue?

Vinod Sharma, Hindustan Times   January 21, 2014
First Published: 01:02 IST(21/1/2014) | Last Updated: 01:05 IST(21/1/2014)

Arvind Kejriwal is a master event-manager. Or call him if you like a political showman. There’s no other way to describe a person positioning himself for the PM’s slot without a glimpse of any administrative prowess as the new chief minister of Delhi.

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His sit-in demanding suspension of policemen over whom he has no control as CM is unusual. But his politics isn’t about following precedents. He’s an iconoclast rearing to set precedents of his own to take on the established order — together with its most visible instrument of coercion and corruption.

There evidently are no Rubicon streams in Kejriwal’s war plan. That’s what leaves him room to at once be the government and the Opposition. In many ways, he isn’t as much ruling Delhi as he’s campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls.

The AAP mascot’s demeanour as a “man in permanent rage” identifies him with the public angst and outrage against a system that has neglected rather than served popular aspirations. The more the public anger, the higher his chances of riding it to carve for his party a bigger role in national politics.

Kejriwal’s dharna outside the Rail Bhawan — on being denied permission to squat at the home minister’s office — must be referred to and contextualised against his backdrop. In the run-up to the parliamentary polls, he’d stoke or accentuate in all manners the latent and overt public disaffection with the obtaining order.

Kejriwal lent his dharna a loftier aura by declaring: “For us Independence Day will start today; we will sit here (to) demand independence.” He forgot perhaps in the prevailing excitement that the country was to celebrate on January 26 the Constitution its people gave themselves 64 years ago.

It was under that very Constitution that he took oath as Delhi CM on December 28. But he obviously believes — like most of his followers — that the document hasn’t worked in setting the country on the path of “justice, equality and fraternity” its makers envisaged. In fact, his lawyer colleague in AAP, Shanti Bhushan, had, in the course of the abortive talks with the government on the Jan Lok Pal Bill, remarked that his team was there to rewrite the Constitution.

If not the Constitution, Kejriwal’s fledgling party has managed to rewrite the rules of engagement with the people. In copy-cat moves, mainline parties have scrambled for livelihood issues amid pledges to make democracy more participatory.

The first winds of the AAP-led change are blowing already. They pick up velocity each time his adversaries hark back to the past the disempowered citizenry detests revisiting.

As the catalyst for this tangible change of mood — if not the system that isn’t easy to alter that fast — Kejriwal figures in every frame of the unfolding narrative. At times too simplistic, even outlandish, he’s the face and the idea of AAP.

Dogma isn’t his cup of tea for he professes no ideology. Demagoguery is his stock in trade. And it has worked well in the short haul.


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