At a time when the common citizen is so burdened by the all-pervasive corruption, there is something satisfying in seeing the high and mighty exposed. Arvind Kejriwal has given us some pretty thrilling moments in that regard and his targets have been impressive. A member of the first dynasty, the president of the national Opposition party and a suave Union minister. In a system that appears to be completely weighed down by the venal, where institutions appear to be debased, there is a natural admiration for someone who has the guts to expose the rot and take on the big fish. The defence of the ruling class has ranged from serious critique of the legal strength of Kejriwal’s charges to conspiracy theories about him being a front for a sinister cause or a general nervous carping: who is he, how could he, how dare he....
This is the mango man who has become a real irritant for the system in New Delhi. In political terms, he may well have inflicted serious damage to the Congress’s already dented image with the Robert Vadra charges and started a debate within the RSS-BJP on how advisable it is to give president Nitin Gadkari a second term in December. Sources in India Against Corruption (IAC) say it has more political targets, but their other big plan is to take on the corporates next: material is being collected on biggies who have interests in oil and natural gas.
In the Kejriwal version of the civil disobedience movement against inflated power bills in Delhi, where he went about restoring connections that had been cut for non-payment, he has already taken on both the Sheila Dixit government and the Reliance-owned BSES. There has also been sharp rhetoric against Anil Ambani. Says advocate Prashant Bhushan, “Arvind has understood that anyone seriously interested in fighting corruption has to take on the corporates. So, analysts missed the woods for the trees when they did not realise this would happen ultimately and kept harping on the RSS presence in the early rallies and the grant given by the Ford Foundation.”
There is an attempt by certain members of the core team to link the movement with people’s struggles across the country; they are establishing contact with the leadership of small parties and movements. Says political scientist Yogendra Yadav, “The idea is that this new party could become the instrument that people’s movements have lacked.” The vision document released by the group on October 2 made an argument for entering the political fray with these words: “Politics is the centrestage of the present system, the stage where the system is made or unmade...someone has to accept the challenge of stepping on this stage.”
And since this group of citizens plans to take the plunge next month, it is also important to examine if it is indeed a mere front of the RSS. Given the current shifts and turns, one can discern a strong move from within to actually distance itself from the legacy visible at the beginning. Of course, certain idioms and symbols have been retained. For instance, Kejriwal and friends try to tap nationalism and repeatedly use slogans such as Bharat Mata ki Jai. “We need to reclaim slogans people identity with,” says Yogendra Yadav. “There is no denying that the RSS tried to infiltrate the movement as they intelligently saw the possibilities within it. But now we have taken a different turn.”
There is, of course, the argument that the movement will ultimately damage the Congress more than the BJP as the ruling party will have to battle the disgust and anti-incumbency at the national level. Kejriwal himself is at pains to say, “For those who feel we are targeting the UPA or are the B-team of the BJP, our aim is to expose the crisis of leadership across the spectrum.” Indeed, documents and papers about scams across the country are being handed over to the group and there is a feeling that individuals who may not have otherwise spoken out or acted in particular cases will be encouraged to do so now.
Ultimately, though, politics should be about something more profound than just damning individuals. It has to be about a transformation that is deeper than the sensational and garners more than the immediate satisfaction from naming and shaming. Which is why trying to take on corporates and reaching out to social movements, several against land acquisition, seem good ideas. The question, however, is: if the energy of the Anna Hazare consciousness came from the basically aspirational middle classes, will it not be in social conflict with the rural poor who seek justice and preservation of jal, jangal, zameen through movements? Would the movement possibly risk trying to be all things to all men? Whatever the answer, the process is certainly worth analysing. Kejriwal himself is brimming with ideas, is open to them, is not ideologically brittle and seems to have the energy which makes for charismatic leadership.
In the short term, the new party may not really be able to take on the big players but could certainly contribute to creating the atmosphere in which a new politics can be played. The national capital, of course, is the main stage and when the assembly elections take place next year, they will be the first the Kejriwal formation will contest. There are also plans to shift to start state-specific campaigns. Which is why Yogendra Yadav says “it is too early to say that the BJP will get the electoral advantage. Who is hurt by corruption changes from state to state.”
In Mumbai, it’s not too difficult to find the IAC office in Andheri East. Commuters in the area respond eagerly to casual inquiries on the street, offering detailed directions to reach the IAC “back office”. Everyone seems to know the way to the one-room office. It’s the reference points that differ. The business executive stepping out of the Skoda showroom that is a landmark to their address on the IAC website offers, “The corruption guys? Down the road on the right.” For the paanwallah busy doling out paans for his customers in his shop across the IAC office, the recall value is simpler, “Anna Hazare office? Just ahead, on the right hand corner.” The Anna-Kejriwal split hasn’t registered in his head yet.
Outside the modest building, children from the neighbourhood point to the back entrance. No boards announce the IAC’s presence here, but large cutouts of Kejriwal do. The five-odd volunteers in the office are clear about where they and the movement is headed. They say 9,000 people have signed up to become volunteers for the movement since the launch of the political party on October 2. They are a mix of young college students, housewives, mid-career executives working in MNCs and small-time businessmen who have filled forms and submitted photographs to become registered members of the movement. Big file folders hold these resumes, each with an attached declaration form filled by the member, confirming he or she will not align with any political party once they sign up with the IAC. Another section restricts members from interacting with media personnel without proper authorisation. The objective, repeated ad nauseam by volunteers in the office, is also stated clearly: Create awareness about the IAC’s mission, stage protests against corruption and search for and motivate honest, enthusiastic volunteers to join the mission.
By their own admission, volunteers recount how it is difficult to rope in people in a city like Mumbai, where there is great curiosity but no great conviction. A senior volunteer admits, “We were holding a protest march at Shivaji Park the other day. There must have been as many as 300 people sitting on the side pavement, looking at us walk past, staging a protest. But only about 12 came forward to join us. The rest just kept sitting and watching.” So what then could be the solution to break this barrier? For one, the volunteers slog over the IAC Mumbai website and the many phone lines that connect the curious to the IAC through its well-advertised helpline stay open 24x7. The group also has an active mobile phone number flashed on its website, a missed call to which ensures that information about the goings-on at the IAC are sent across as regular smses. The number of those availing this facility in the Mumbai region telecom circle has now dwindled to 7 lakh from the 13 lakh last year in December when Anna Hazare was fasting at the Azad Maidan in Mumbai. The group also works hard at organising induction programmes, attracting people with street plays and small rallies. For the regulars, Saturday meetings are held in one of the various 15 zones of Mumbai, where success stories of localised sit-ins are shared, complete with an inspirational lecture by Mayank Gandhi, the face of the movement in Mumbai. The most recent to be organised is on October 20 in Vile Parle.
Haryana and Mumbai are all centres of great corruption. As is Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, the state said to have pioneered the path to crony capitalism of the politician-businessman. Here too there is great curiosity mixed with a sense that what the IAC is doing is sensational stories, not any serious political challenge to the established players. In fact, TDP president Chandrababu Naidu has not even mentioned Vadra or Kejriwal even though he is the midst of a padayatra that focuses mainly on corruption.
Yet, it’s clear that a non-traditional political player has arrived, a demolition man determined to seize the moment and shape the future discourse. His journey is proving to be a fascinating one, creating in the short term ripples which in political parlance can be termed “hawa”. The challenge is to transform this to the long term and have an impact in the states.
Kejriwal and his team are attacking the biggies in every party, and not even sparing institutions like the judiciary
Demolition Mangoes Who’s Who In Team Kejriwal
The 6 Big Questions
By Saba Naqvi with Anuradha Raman and Prarthna Gahilote in Mumbai with Chander Suta Dogra and Madhavi Tata
Arvind Kejriwal rose to prominence as Anna’s right-hand man but soon started drifting as he has a mind of his own and wants to be second fiddle to none (Aam Army, Oct 29). To the extent that he totally separated himself from the parent Anna movement and floated his own political party! Now, however, he too seems to be going the Anna way—unplanned strategies, undefined goals, lack of vision. He is expending all energy and enthusiasm prematurely, and may soon lose the momentum. We all know that most politicians and the very machinery of government is corrupt. We have to move beyond that: figure out how to replace and revamp the present political system, how to remove corruption, how to bring offenders to task, and above all, how to prevent the new system from getting corrupt again. These are the issues Kejriwal has to address if he wants to make a lasting impact. He also has to realise that he needs to rise above witch-hunting and do something concrete.
Sanjay Kapoor, Calcutta
What we need is not another political party but a real mass movement in which the cause, not an individual, is important. As they say, ‘Do not fight with a pig because he’ll first pull you down to its level and then beat you.’ Arvind, beware!
Vijay B. Uniyal, New Delhi
There is nothing like a generically honest or dishonest person. It is only a matter of opportunity. Given a chance, Anjali Damania too could become a corrupt minister.
Prasanta Borpujari, Bangalore
What we need for any movement against corruption to succeed is people with deep personal integrity. Anna Hazare started well, but lost direction somewhere down the line.
Rohan Pandey, Pune
CWG, 2G, Coalgate—all these had given us hope. But finally, it’s Robert Vadra who’ll accelerate the demise of the dynasty. And once the dynasty goes, the Congress will follow suit. It’s only the glue of the dynasty which is holding the Grand Old Party together. Congressmen will be at each other’s throats when that time comes.
Navjeevan Khosla, on e-mail
It was Charles Caleb Colton who said, ‘Corruption is like a ball of snow, when once set a-rolling, it must increase.’ India ranks 87th in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index of 178 countries, and the government seems to be doing nothing. In this scenario, one can only thank Agent Arvind for all his effort in exposing the corrupt across the political spectrum.
Beena Mathur, Pune
Why has Kejriwal been silent on Coalgate? Is it to protect Naveen Jindal? A nationwide movement has been reduced to a mere systematic (and selective) character assassination.
Dinesh Chauksey, Bhopal
Kejriwal is not likely to win an election, leave alone come to power. His ideas of a new kind of politics and system may need years, even decades, and hundreds of Kejriwals to bear fruit. But for now his initiatives may change a few things.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Kejriwal may or may not bring about a revolutionary shift in his favour at the EVMs, yet his courage and fearlessness in standing up to and exposing the corruption of the high and mighty deserves appreciation.
Pramod Srivastava, New Delhi
Apart from accusing politicians of corruption—indeed, he says that the whole political class functions as a family when it comes to it—he must also unveil his vision for a just and corruption-free India.
K.S. Jayatheertha, Bangalore
Kejriwal’s andolan is Delhi-centric and lacks an all-India base, among people, to sustain its momentum. It won’t be long before the Congress’s dirty tricks department finds the right pin to prick Kejriwal’s ballooning influence.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
Kejriwal donning the political mantle was a mistake. Politicians will love to have him on their own turf.
Manish Banerjee, Calcutta
If India was indeed a banana republic, Vadra would’ve been hanged by some despot for his misdemeanours long ago.
M.A. Raipet, Secunderabad
Even before Arvind Kejriwal has named his party, three of his colleagues have been reported to be allegedly involved in illegal land dealings (Aam Army, Oct 29). He says his party would be ‘different’. Once upon a time even the BJP said the same. Look at it today.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
The Anna experiment against corruption seems to have got entangled in ‘who is the greatest’ syndrome.
George Jacob, Kochi
Team Anna - DGP Bedi, Justice Hegde, Gen. Singh, activist Ms.Patkar, et al. are definitely more transparent & honest than Team Kejriwal. Team K has not responded to accusations on their source of funding during thir NGO days .... many foreign funds & the purpose of those donations ..... Once they become more open book & clean the slate as regards their history, they will surely find favour with the public, until then they are part of the present rabble of political parties ............ just another one, nothing special ....
there is nothing like generically honest and dishonest person. it is only a matter of oppertunity. given a chance anjali damania of iac will be a most corrupted minister
Sir, why are certain practices of the people of India, corruption when the govt. practices them? The govt. has to safeguard the interests of the people, whom we call the nation. If we do criticize the leadership, then we actually don't have leadership, where we see reason to criticize. We don't need leadership in those aspects. We are saying, we don't know what is corruption. This is not only what we believe. Unless a Judge tells us, in court, we cannot tell anyone that we are not corrupt, and we don't see a need personally, not to prove it. We are bound to do so, in court, and because we are so bound, we are also bound anywhere, outside the courts of law. We need to prove to everyone, that we are corruption free. It appears, that corruption is seen to be a rampant prevalence, and we find pleasure, when we are not seen as corrupt. Mr. Kejriwal, also seems to want to prove his innocence from corruption, and keenly. This is a bad way for a nation to exist.
It is evident that expose’ of several scams by Arvind Kejriwal and his team allegedly
patronised by the top politicians has already created a negative perception among
the masses regarding both the ruling and opposition parties. Hence the ongoing crusade against such corruption and disclosures about the wrongdoings of the prominent politicians are bound to shatter them publicly regardless of their stout rebuttals as these are likely to dent their forthcoming electoral fortunes. The biggest achievement of the movement is that it does awaken and enlightens all classes of society regarding the alleged corrupt practices among the politicians. Kejriwal may or may not bring revolutionary shift in his favour in the EVMs yet his courage and fearlessness in standing up and exposing the high and mighty deserve great appreciation.
It's not about a culture of a social trend of any period in Indian existence. People cannot see, that if the govt. can print notes, in any number, albiet with serial numbers, then perhaps an Indian can see, that the idea of corruption with currency, is a complicated train of ideas, to arrive at any conclusion. Why? The Indian, having reason, on his side, says that corruption is in effect, the accumulation of currency notes, and using means to unusually accumulate these expressions of currency. The issue is also, that resources are expended unnaturally, for export, of goods. Import is not a bad idea, in moderation, and export should also be. Moderation, is also subjective, and objective, in national economics. India, after all, is a nation of fair proportion.
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