Mr Arvind Kejriwal of India Against Corruption (IAC) has to be complimented for drawing the attention of the public to the alleged wrong-doings of Mr Robert Vadra, the husband of Ms Priyanka Gandhi and the son-in-law of Mrs Sonia Gandhi, the Congress President. By doing so, he has shown that in the fight against corruption, there cannot and should not be any sacred cow.
At the same time, all right-thinking people of this country have to be concerned over some of his political tactics in order to give himself size and shape as one of the future political leaders of India determined to give the country a clean administration and corruption-free governance.
It is clear he is a man with political ambitions and a political agenda, who imagines himself as the Moses of India leading the people of this country to their Promised Land. How intensely he pursues his political ambitions and agenda would be evident from the fact that in pursuit of his agenda, he decided to break even with Anna Hazare, his mentor, but for whom many of us would not have heard of Mr Kejriwal and his hangers-on. He used Anna as a ladder to climb to public prominence and then kicked the ladder away.
Simultaneously with his campaign against corruption in high places in which he enjoys considerable public support, he has launched a campaign for contesting the next elections to the Delhi Assembly. He has every right to do so and one wishes him well in his efforts to seek political pastures.
At the same time, any well-informed person will be worried over some of the tactics adopted by him and his hangers-on in Delhi to seek public support. One would have expected them to draw up an alternative programme of development and corruption-free administration and place it before the people for approval.
Instead of doing so, he has embarked on a highly dramatic and high profile agitation to instigate people not to pay their electricity bills on the ground that the electricity charges are unfriendly to the poor. He and his hangers-on have also been unilaterally restoring the power connections of poor people cut off by the Administration for non-payment of Bills.
His tactics disturbingly remind one of the tactics adopted by the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and other Kashmiri separatists, at the instigation of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), from 1989 onwards. These organisations instigated the Kashmiris not to pay their electricity and water charges on the grounds that the rates were exorbitant and that the Government in Srinagar, which allegedly did not represent the people, had no authority to collect these charges. Millions of rupees worth of utility charges remained unpaid and uncollected.
The separatist elements, whether in J&K or in the North-East, and the Maoists in Central India will be carefully watching the tactics adopted by Mr Kejriwal and his hangers-on. If tomorrow they do a copy-cat of Mr Kejriwal and appeal to the people not to pay their charges, what will happen to this country? There will be fiscal anarchy.
While supporting Mr Kejriwal’s campaign against corruption, the public has to be cautious about his inflated political aspirations and his tendency to see himself as ten-feet tall. An over-ambitious political aspirant, however well-intentioned, can prove destabilising for the country.
Mr Kejriwal is a Moses in a hurry. He should be brought down to earth.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies.