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Follow Arvind’s train of thought closely

All the brouhaha about Kejriwal trying to project a particular image of himself is completely uncalled for. Which politician doesn’t try and build his image, asks Manas Chakravarty.

columns Updated: Mar 16, 2014 00:58 IST
Manas Chakravarty
Manas Chakravarty
Hindustan Times
Arvind Kejriwal,Bhagat Singh,Medha Patkar

Avideo clip ….has shown Arvind Kejriwal requesting a television interviewer not to ask him about the corporate sector and turn “all the middle class support against us”…….also seen telling the interviewer to play up a part that will portray him as revolutionary, possibly a reference to Bhagat Singh, whose photograph is shown behind Kejriwal: The Telegraph, New Delhi, March 10

All this brouhaha about Kejriwal trying to project a particular image of himself is completely uncalled for. Which politician doesn’t try and build his image? In fact, congratulations are due to Kejriwal on successfully crafting a great public image. Consider, for example, the terrific job he did in Mumbai recently, with the train ride from Andheri to Churchgate smartly underlining his aam aadmi credentials.

Taking a train from Andheri station was a stroke of genius. Start a few stations further south, say from Bandra and it wouldn’t have been all that aam. Start from Borivli further north, and it would have been a bit too aam. Andheri is slap bang in the middle, which makes it just right.

The timing too was absolutely right — trains that start from Andheri around 11 am are quite empty, the morning rush hour is over and you can cultivate your aam aadmi persona in relative comfort. It would be stupid, of course, to really travel like an aam Mumbaikar, which would mean catching a Virar local bound for Churchgate during the rush hour. Apart from being crammed in a compartment with people standing on your feet, a couple of elbows in your stomach, a paunch pressing against your back and a smelly armpit in your face, you run the risk of falling off the train. In fact, the trains are so crowded that aam aadmis fall off them regularly every week. That Kejriwal refused to travel like that shows strong common sense, apart from admirable statesman-like prudence.

Best of all, Kejriwal bagged a window seat. Only an aam Mumbaikar can appreciate the beauty and attractiveness of a window seat in a local train. Glorious are the fights that we have waged over them and bitter have been the heartbreaks when dastardly rascals have beaten us to it. To us Mumbaikars, a window seat is truly aspirational, a goal to be cherished. And here was Kejriwal, sitting in a window seat, clearly telling us that if an aam aadmi like him could get one, so could we. How motivating!

When India’s teeming millions in the villages and small towns saw him sitting there on TV, the thought that went through their minds was: “Oh, goody! I too can come to Mumbai and realise my life-long ambition of commuting to work sitting in a window seat.” It was a truly inspiring message. It would have been even better if Kejriwal was flanked by Medha Patkar, who would bring in the anti-capitalist aam votes, and Meera Sanyal, who would scoop up the pro-capitalist middle-class votes.

It would be best, though, to remove that picture of Bhagat Singh. In a letter to young political workers in February 1931, Singh said, “The state, the government machinery is just a weapon in the hands of the ruling class to further and safeguard its interest. We want to snatch and handle it to utilise it for the consummation of our ideal, ie., social reconstruction on a new, ie, Marxist, basis.” The middle classes are unlikely to like that.

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint

The views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: Mar 16, 2014 00:55 IST