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From Sharing Stage With Anna Hazare To ‘Arrested’ For Corruption: How Arvind Kejriwal’s Journey Comes Full Circle

Amidst the protests and the speculations on the party’s next move, there is a buzz around the state that recalls how the face of anti-corruption has allegedly been dragged into it.

(Photo by K Asif/The India Today Group via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA -AUGUST 19: Team Anna memeber Arvind Kejriwal speaks also seen Veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi on Friday. (Photo by K Asif/The India Today Group via Getty Images)
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In November, 2012, following the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare, a bespectacled muffler-clad man in a Monte Carlo sweater--a typical middle-class Indian--came up with an idea. The idea was to launch a political party that would fight against corruption. In the following year, 2013, the IIT graduate became the Chief Minister of Delhi.

Twelve years later, the journey reached a full circle with the Enforcement Directorate arresting Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for his alleged role in the liquor scam on March 21. The name of the CM though was not there in the ED’s primary chargesheet as an accused, the investigative agency mentioned his name in a release following the arrest of BRS leader K Kavitha.

Coming just before the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, the arrest of Kejriwal has enormous political significance. While the AAP top brass came on the streets and senior party leader Atishi announced that he would continue to be the CM of the state, the protests in front of the Delhi CM’s house gradually became intense. Delhi Minister Somnath Bharti talking to the national media had said, “The country no more has any democracy. We will see the end of it.”

Amidst the protests and the speculations on the party’s next move, there is a buzz around the state that recalls how the face of anti-corruption has allegedly been dragged into it. Ramesh, a 40 years-old auto driver- a hard-core AAP supporter, says, “People used to make memes about Kejriwal that he even plays Temple run (a popular game) without slippers! And look what they have done to him!”

Hope No Kejriwal Comes Out Of My Movement Again: Anna Hazare
Hope No Kejriwal Comes Out Of My Movement Again: Anna Hazare
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The anti-corruption movement under the leadership of Gandhian Anna Hazare against the UPA II government following the alleged role of its minister and DMK leader A Raja -who recently got acquitted- for 2G scam brought Kejriwal to the limelight. While the demands of constituting Lokpal- an ombudsman body that the Hazare-led protestors demanded from Jantar Mantar- was gradually accepted, the political formation was not expected.

However, within months, Kejriwal came up with Aam Admi Party (AAP) with the symbol of broom to wipe out the corruption from Indian politics. Gandhian Hazare who also organized movement to force the government to pass the Right to Information Act (RTI) in 2006 and shot to fame due to his economic and administrative model of Ralegaon Siddhi village, nevertheless, didn’t join the party. The social activist rather tried to avoid comments in 2013 and said, “Whatever is good, let him do it... He will do whatever is right.”

But in 2022, addressing a letter to Kejriwal, Hazare said- in reference to the liquor scam- that he is ‘drunk on power’. Referring to the book titled Swaraj that Kejriwal wrote in 2012, Hazare said, “You wrote several idealistic things in the book. I had high hopes from you then, but it seems that after entering politics and becoming the chief minister, you forgot that ideology.”

The immediate response of the CM was, however, not introspective. Rather, he clearly said that the oppositions were making the Gandhian activist a scapegoat to attack him. Targeting the BJP government, the Delhi CM responded, “Whenever they say something and the people don’t listen to them, they bring someone forward. During the Punjab elections, they said Kejriwal is a terrorist. When people started laughing at them, they brought Kumar Vishwas forward and made him say it. Now they are saying there is a scam in the excise policy, the CBI has not found anything and has given an informal clean chit. The people are not listening to them, so they are now firing from Anna Hazare’s shoulder. This is politics.”

Interestingly, Kejriwal came out of the Hazare-led movement and made an image of anti-corruption crusader. A senior political analyst withholding his name, says, “His videos of roaming around the city and slamming the bureaucrats for taking bribes or other favours or calling out their dereliction of duty made him popular. But gradually, the liquor scam spoilt it.”

Delhi CM during his tenure several times called the BJP’s anti-corruption clamour ‘nautanki’ and said that his party could deliver so many welfare schemes only because it’s strong position against corruption. In 2014, media even started calling him ‘anti-corruption Chief Minister’. However, the blows started coming as senior activists and leaders like Prashant Bhushan, Shanti Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav left the organization consecutively accusing Kerjiwal of having dictatorial tendency. But still the corruption charges couldn’t touch him until the revelations of alleged liquor scam.

While it is a matter of fact that Congress prior to its alliance with the party created ruckus against Kejriwal, his arrest by ED has brought in the INDIA bloc members together. Congress leadership has made it very clear that they consider such arrest undemocratic. Congress leader and MCD councilor Ariba Khan, says, “The BJP government is using the central agencies to arrest the opposition Chief Ministers and it is totally undemocratic. We stand by our alliance partner.” However, Khan doesn’t forget to mention that it was Kejriwal who pushed for PMLA under which he has been arrested. “When there was our government, he pushed for such a law where the political leaders charged under corruption would never be able to come out of the jail,” says Khan.

Although the Supreme Court on Friday granted Kejriwal interim bail until June 1 and asked him to surrender the next day, will his arrest have an impact in the ongoing elections? Will there be a sympathy factor in his favour? Will it strengthen the INDIA bloc? The coming days will reveal.

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