Drama, nautanki, theatre, circus are some of the polite words that have been used to describe Arvind Kejriwal's decision to go to jail instead of furnishing a bail bond. Some on the social media – considered a reflection of the urban, educated India's intellectual prowess and verbal etiquettes – have called him names that we hear regularly on our streets.
In an atmosphere where almost everybody has turned into the Queen of Hearts and is shouting 'off with Kejri's head', it is difficult—almost impossible—to justify the AAP leader.
But here is the opening argument. And in keeping with the spirit of the current debate on Kejriwal, this too is filmy.
Magistrate: You have been ordered out of the province on the grounds of disturbing the peace.
Gandhi (defiantly): With respect, I refuse to go.
The magistrate stares. The journalists write. The clerk swallows.
M (sternly): Do you want to go to jail?
Gandhi (not giving him an inch): As you wish.
The clerk lowers his eyes to his pad. The magistrate searches the distant wall, the top of his desk, his twitching hands for an answer.
M (as much sternness as he can muster): All right. I will release you on bail of one hundred rupees until I reach a sentence.
Gandhi: I refuse to pay one hundred rupees.
Again the magistrate stares. And so do the journalists. The magistrate wets his lips –
M: Then I – I will grant release without bail – until I reach a decision.
In case you missed it, these are lines from Richard Attenborough's Gandhi. The place is Motihari, from where the British are trying to order the Mahatma out for taking up the cause of farmers.
Now, Kejriwal is no Gandhi, though some of his acts (theatrics, if you are his critic) are inspired by the great Indian's politics. But the reference to this riveting exchange is just to suggest that there are indeed examples of leaders refusing to pay for their bail, even when walking away free after paying up was the easier option.
On some other day, and that day is behind us, Kejriwal may have been lauded for his stand. But since political narrative is generally written from the point of view of the winner, losers like Kejriwal have to bear the pain of being cast as ambitious clowns.
Kejriwal knows this. But he has no other option but to fight this one last war before his weary forces retire to the barracks and then head home defeated, dejected, never to regroup again.
For unlike other political outfits, which prefer to act, retreat, wait and introspect, Kejriwal's party survives only on non-stop action. His impatient, hyperactive cadres thrive not in peace but on war.
It is in the AAP genes. The AAP was not born in the labour room of a party headquarter; it had come out shrieking and shouting in the middle of Delhi road and Ram Leela Maidan.
Kejriwal has no option but to keep it on the roads, on a maidan, even if his act is termed Ram Leela. For he knows that the ennui of barracks will kill his troops faster than the enemies he is dreaming of defeating.