The transformation from street corner protester to elected representative is never an easy one. In the case of some politicians, they never quite get over their penchant for tub-thumping, as we can see to some extent in Mamata Banerjee. Reading Arvind Kejriwal’s vision document and listening to his utterances, it would be no exaggeration to say that the transformation is going to be very difficult for him. Wearing ‘I am Arvind’ caps and snarling at the political class is no substitute for a cohesive and workable political agenda. Now that he has his very own political party, the challenge before Mr Kejriwal will be to channel all the energy he awakened with his public protests against the government, particularly its unwillingness to pass the Lokpal Bill, to build a constructive political platform.
There is nothing so far to suggest that he has a clear blueprint for how to do this. One of his most common refrains is that the people will decide on almost every issue. Who are these people he refers to? If the people can decide, then we really do not need political representatives? We are still to figure out how on earth the ‘people’ will decide on commodity prices as Kejriwal seems to want. If elected to power, Mr Kejriwal says he will pass the Lokpal Bill in 10 days. Very laudable except that bills are passed after discussion in Parliament and no single party can decide on the timing of any bill being passed. Of course, he speaks of rolling back diesel prices and putting power into the hands of the people and also advocates that inflated electricity bills need not be paid at all. In short, given the party’s plans as of now, it is unlikely that other political parties are likely to be quaking in their boots at the prospect of competition from Kejriwal and Co. Whether one agreed with him or not, Anna Hazare was a big draw in the anti-corruption movement. Without him, Mr Kejriwal’s outfit does not seem to have any USP, let alone a concrete agenda for change.
Pious intentions do not translate into votes. It is commendable that he has stated that his party is against red beacons, official accommodation and other perks of office for elected representatives. These are cosmetic and do not amount to any real change in modes of governance. Perhaps, Mr Kejriwal has jumped the gun. He should have worked much harder to garner support across the country and then come up with a viable political framework which reflected the real concerns of civil society. The first thing that he must do if he wants to be taken seriously is to shed his public disdain for the political class. He is part of it now and to keep voicing the opinions he has about politicians is to score an own goal.