As Delhi heads for the crucial civic polls, the name Arvind Kejriwal evokes no special anticipation, no excitement. That could be a measure of the great fall of the man. It was certainly not the case a few years ago.
Man of the masses, anti-corruption crusader, the middle class’s beacon light of hope, revolutionary – there was a time when such epithets sat easy on him. That was around four years ago. No one minded if he claimed to be an anarchist and at times actually behaved like one. People indulged him when he took on politicians with language that cleared belonged to the street – impolite, raw and meant to hurt. The protective public sentiment went like this: they deserved it and here’s finally a man who says it as it should be.
He was the new; the personification of the change everyone secretly wished. A dry cough and a muffler— both enhanced and completed his persona. They all needed a leader who not only was one of them but also behaved like them. As many as 67 out of 70 Assembly seats in Delhi for his party was an affirmation of the appreciation for him among the public. He was the first to halt the Narendra Modi wave post the 2014 general election, no easy job. In a half-state where the government does not control much, he indeed was special.
Now, he is merely one of those boring and loud politicians of Delhi who are always around but hardly register on your mind or evoke any passion. Street corners are no more agog with discussion on him or his Aam Aadmi Party as people prepare to vote in 272 wards. Autorickshaw-drivers, the biggest support group of Kejriwal, carry no picture of ‘broom’ on their vehicles. The talk is of whether the Congress would fare better this time or the BJP would repeat the Modi magic of Uttar Pradesh instead.
“Yes, we get water free and power comes cheap, but it’s not like the Assembly election anymore,” says the regular autowallah. “Kuchh farak nahi dikhta (nothing is different). Kejriwal hone na hone ka kuchh pata nahi chalta (We don’t feel whether Kejriwal is there or not),” he adds. The indifference in his attitude to Kejriwal is reflected in the voices of his friends at the stand. It is obvious that the chief minister has not done enough to retain the goodwill he enjoyed once. Disconnect is perhaps the word that best describes the new equation. It is the same disconnect Kejriwal spoke eloquently about during the anti-corruption movement and won adulation for.
The other parties forget people who vote for them once they come to power, he never stopped reminding everyone then. He stands accused of the same now. It hasn’t helped that he has so far been largely a non-resident chief minister.
It is possible he misread the massive mandate. He construed his victory as a popular vote against Narendra Modi and assumed he was the natural opposite pole to the latter. He concluded that his political success would depend on maintaining that position. This explains his persistent acidic attack on the prime minister and his policies over the last two years. But then that is not what the people of Delhi wanted. They sought a break from the cynical politics of the Congress and the BJP and a new brand of politics that is sensitive to the common man. But more of cynical politics is what they have got from the AAP.
The fall for Kejriwal has been big and the result in the MCD polls may confirm that. The citizens of the capital-state may need to begin the long search for a new face for epithets.
Published Date: Apr 12, 2017 16:29 PM | Updated Date: Apr 12, 2017 16:33 PM