Arvind Kejriwal: A politics of articulated angst (Book Review)
He may be a toddler in Indian politics but Arvind Kejriwal is also its "sole symbol of hope, a true aberration to the existing structures, an outsider who has challenged established parties and ideas of the past". The Congress and the BJP may speak about the young but it took a 74-year-old, Anna Hazare, to capture the imagination of this segment. But it was Kejriwal who, with his realization that only political involvement could make a decisive difference to the battle against corruption, brought about a near revolution in Delhi in the December 2013 assembly election. This book is a meticulous study of the birth and spread of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that presided over Delhi for 49 short days before Kejriwal decided to dump his minority government for the sake of the Jan Lokpal Bill.
This book is as much a comprehensive and critical study of Kejriwal and his AAP as it is about the "audacious aam aadmi" - the hero of today's India. It speaks admiringly of Kejriwal, his ideas, his ideals, his passion, his team and his stubborn determination to take on an entrenched system. But the authors are not into hero worship: they point out when Kejriwal and the AAP floundered. One such occasion was the street protest by Kejriwal, despite being the chief minister of Delhi, an act that didn't earn the appreciation of even some AAP supporters. His sudden resignation earned widespread crticism even from admirers.
The book calls it a naive opinion that the Jan Lokpal is the panacea to all problems of corruption in India. Kejriwal's uncritical support of the auto-rickshaw drivers of Delhi also upset the authors. They also find fault with Kejriwal for assuming that only the government can help in employment creation. But on one critical point the authors give the thumbs up to AAP: yes, it did deliver governance in Delhi. "You could say that in less than one month, he opened the proverbial Pandora's box, lying closed for 67 years."
Is the income tax officer-turned-activist-turned AAP leader an anarchist? "Kejriwal believes that he will not be able to change the system simply by being part of it. The only way forward for him, therefore, is to break the system down." In other words, "Arvind Kejriwal is a politics of articulated angst."
Not having a political past of course helps political entrepreneurs like Kejriwal. But replicating the Delhi experiment nationwide may not be easy. The complexities within AAP are an open secret; but party insiders, the book says, believe this diversity is its strength.
Kejriwal has promised to turn the 2014 election into "a revolution in politics". But party leaders admit they do not know where they stand nationally. AAP may have taken a huge risk by spreading itself too thin in this national electoral battle. But the danger was not doing so and turning back aspirants who wanted to plunge into the AAP surge. Kejriwal is himself fighting a major battle against a political stalwart who is determined to be India's next prime minister. "Over time, we will know whether AAP was another flash in the political pan or if it will have a lasting presence."
(04.05.2014 - The writer is an Executive Editor at IANS. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 04-05-2014)