Analysis

Kejriwal: A Political Pawn

Clearly, activist Arvind Kejriwal’s primary agenda is securing an entry into politics. This was revealed earlier this month when he promised a Lokpal bill within 10 days of being elected. Kejriwal said that he will announce the name of his party on November 26.  

Interestingly, his party’s vision document also refers to the uplift of Muslims. But so far, Kejriwal has not clarified his stand on whether he favours reservation for Muslims, politically, socially and in other sectors. Accepting that his primary agenda is corruption, Kejriwal needs to elaborate on what does he really define corruption as? Shouldn’t the biased approach held against Muslims at most levels be understood as a corrupt attitude? What does Kejriwal say on this? If he prefers keeping silent on this aspect, why so?  

Kejriwal has definitely succeeded in capturing media’s attention by targeting political bigwigs on corruption-issues. He has gone a little further by challenging Congress High Command, Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to a public debate on corruption. Though the Congress has dismissed Kejriwal’s demand for debate, the party members have begun aggressively reacting against this activist’s charges.

The Congress is trying to turn tables against Kejriwal by questioning the source of funds he receives for his activities, particularly the NGOs  run by him. Taking offence to Kejriwal’s attempts to “maliciously defame” her by using derogatory remarks against her, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has sent him a legal notice of civil and criminal defamation.

 The message is clear. However appealing Kejriwal’s anti-corruption drive may be, the political ride ahead for him is a bumpy one. When Anna Hazare was in the forefront in this anti-corruption campaign, the reaction of Congress was totally different. Even when Hazare asked the Prime Minister to step down, the Congress did not lash out at him.

The political scene has changed dramatically since Hazare has stepped into the background. Though reports have circulated of there being major differences between Hazare and Kejriwal, the former has tried playing these down by saying that their aim is the same, which is their drive against corruption. The same isn’t true of other members of the anti-corruption drive. This was reflected at a press conference held earlier this month by Kejriwal. He was accused by Annie Kohlie and several others of using India Against Corruption (IAC) forum for his “personal” gains. She also posed the questions as to whether he was acting as a “revolutionary” or as a politician and why was he not answering questions asked by others. Dazed at her outburst, Kejriwal left the press conference without answering her questions.

 Ironically, though Kejriwal was awarded Ramon Magsaysay Award for Eminent Leadership in 2006, at this stage, it isn’t clear whether his anti-corruption drive is headed in the right direction or not. Kejriwal certainly has the right to clear his doubts and raise questions on corruption allegedly indulged in by Robert Vadra (Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law), Union Minister Salman Khurshid’s family trust and BJP leader Nitish Gadkari. This step has proved fairly costly for Kejriwal with Congress leader Digvijay Singh charging him with “irregularities” while he served as an Indian Revenue officer. Kejriwal has also been cornered for being fairly selective in levying corruption charges against only a few and not targeting several politicians who have a tarnished image.  

Despite these limitations, Kejriwal has succeeded politically to a degree. He has moved out of Anna’s political-shadow, from where he began his political career. Allegations against political bigwigs, raking one major controversy after another, have helped Kejriwal gain substantial publicity. But before he could move further, Kejriwal is facing strong opposition from several members of anti-corruption drive and from Congress leaders.

 So far, Kejriwal has succeeded only in attracting attention to his anti-corruption political agenda. Considering that Hazare’s anti-Congress campaign failed to hold people’s attention for very long, one is bound to speculate on whether Kejriwal will meet the same fate. While Hazare’s drive attracted the support of a few million Indians at the ground level, that of Kejriwal barely exceeds a few thousands. Hazare had a certain mass-base, while Kejriwal’s support is limited to an urban, middle-class crowd.

Without doubt, Kejriwal has succeeded in attracting media’s attention. But so have those who have reacted strongly against him, including Congress leaders. Kejriwal’s success may not have reached this stage, if he did not enjoy the support of certain major rivals of Congress party, particularly the BJP.

 This raises the question, whether the underlying fear of losing support of his key patrons has restrained Kejriwal from being vocal about his plans regarding Muslims’ development? As of now, his political agenda is totally different. His political task is to prepare the stage for his politics, which he is engaged in at present.

Kejriwal is playing the role of a political pawn. Thus, however high and lofty Kejriwal’s personal political ambitions may be, he is not likely to be supported for too long by his present political patrons.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 November 2012 on page no. 11

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