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I hope Kejriwal doesn't pull a Mamata

By Divyanshu Dutta Roy : Even in its remarkability, I could not help get a nagging sense of deja vu on this Saturday morning as I saw Arvind Kejriwal take pledge as a humble leader of a sea of humanity in a very important Indian province.


It was just over two years ago -- 30 months and eight days ago to be exact -- that I as a young journalist and an easily-excited individual was watching in almost glee as a certain Mamata Banerjee was swearing in as Chief Minister of my home state West Bengal in similar fashion.

The media frenzy was entertaining. I watched with my mother as news vans of hyper-active local channels with on-roof cameras and flaky satellite connections beamed back occasionally freezing YouTube-like live footage of Banerjee's cavalcade travelling from her meagre Kalighat abode to the imposing red state secretariat Writers' Building.

"Yes, the chief minister has taken a right turn from this road...and she...her black Santro seems to have stopped for a bit - no its moving again," in the voice of a hyperventilating reporter underscored the kind of hype and expectations around this new phenomenon.

Even though unlike Kejriwal, Banerjee was a seasoned politician who had been leading the crusade against the 'tyranny of Communists' in the East Indian state for quite a number of years, the likenesses in their tales are interesting if not uncanny.

Three years ago, Banerjee too was running against a regime that had ruled the state virtually unopposed for over three decades. Undeniably backed only by the larger pie of the state's private media corporations and an ardent band of supporters, she took on the seemingly unassailable Left and docked a landslide victory.

In every sense of the word, the Reds were decimated and just like Delhi, the multiple-time Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, couldn't even win himself a ticket to the state Assembly. Such an egg in the face. The 'common man' had won, Banerjee said and everybody said "Hear! Hear!" It was merry all around.

Fast forward two years into the story and we have the tale of a government barely chugging along under a massive financial debt (which of course, is the fault of the previous administration, says Banerjee), creaking under one inglorious escapade after another with a massive chit fund scam in which a sitting MP of the ruling party is a prime accused, as the cherry on top.

It has been years since Banerjee first pleaded helplessness and said everybody in the world was out to get her. The Congress-led Central government, the former Communist administration, the Maoists in Jungle Mahal - had all formed a united front with the single aim of preventing her from best serving the good people of the state.

Things have not changed much despite a relative political stability.

And this is where I really hope Kejriwal can deliver differently. Propped by a party that has evidently promised support just to save itself a bigger thrashing, Kejriwal is leading a precarious cabinet of just six other ministers each with a bouquet of portfolios and a mountain of expectations.

But, honestly I am not worried about all the things he is supposed and expected to do. No, as a fairly self-determining sort of individual there are few expectations that I have from my government. What I am really worried about though is whether Kejriwal can for once prove the cynics wrong.

I agree, that he won, itself was a fantastic thing - maybe not in terms of effect but definitely in terms of spectacle. But that has been done. Banerjee's story aside, this is not the first or the second time that a wave of swelling anti-incumbency sentiment against an overtly arrogant and misbehaving regime has given rise to a guerrilla-like gang of political contenders who have lodged an unbelievable win.

That has been done and that has been seen. But when was the last time anybody in this country ever elected a government that lived up to the happily ever after?

That is the part of the fairy tale that I want to see. Can a political party be really different? Can a group of supposedly apolitical individuals come together to make good tall promises for however long they are allowed? Or as Harvey Dent would say, can you stay a hero and not live long enough to become the villain? Hmm...Mr Aam Aadmi?

(Divyanshu Dutta Roy is a New Delhi based journalist. The views expressed are his own and not of IBNS)

--IBNS (Posted on 28-12-2013)

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