If Arvind Kejriwal’s politics is going to be about protesting against electricity tariff hikes and hitting the streets over diesel prices, he should stay away from forming a political party. There are so many political parties doing that already and we know they are being hypocritical about the hikes. No one wants Kejriwal to start off as a hypocrite.
Indian politics needs fresh ideas. It needs leaders who think original, behave original and have the courage to speak the truth. It requires followers who are intelligent and ask questions, not professional tyre burners and slogan shouters. There’s a need to wean people away from intellectual slavishness to parties while discussing politics. If Kejriwal cannot promise a new brand of politics and a new political discourse he is a waste of time.
When Kejriwal made clear his intention to enter politics, he inspired hope. His Lokpal idea was mostly foolish and the way he went about it was disgusting but still he was acceptable since he had an idea to offer and his intentions did not look spurious. He proved to the world, albeit for a short time, that the power of the people could be bigger than the combined might of the political class. The middle class loved him since he spoke their language, voiced their insecurities and concerns.
He is an educated man with a bright record as civil society activist. And most his comrades in the anti-corruption crusade are people with impeccable backgrounds. He inspired trust. That’s the reason when Kejriwal decided he was going to enter politics and be part of the system to change it, it was welcomed. He was going to be the change Indian politics needed, that was the general feeling. However, there are clear indications now that he is going to be no different from other political parties.
In his present avatar, how is he different from a Mamata Banerjee or the Left or any other party demanding a rollback of diesel prices or the electricity tariff hike in Delhi? Being populist is the shortest cut to establishing oneself as a politician, but being populist for the sake of it all the time is irresponsible too. All the parties are being irresponsible. One expected Kejriwal to be different. But he seems to be in an undue hurry to make his mark as a politician.
So far we haven’t heard anything original from him on the economy or other areas. He is yet to come up with any constructive idea for nation-building. His followers — presumably educated and thus more aware than their counterparts in other parties — look no different from Congress thugs in Odisha lighting bonfires on the street.
His ‘civil disobedience movement’ in Delhi asking people not to pay electricity bills is a parody of the original movement as was the series of fasts Team Anna, of which he was one the most prominent leaders till recently, indulged in during their Lokpal fight. The followers of Kejriwal, if they are allowed to, must question what this is all about. He would win more appreciation if he insists on a CAG audit of discoms, known to be the hub of corruption. This will help bring the truth out and reinforce his image as an intelligent activist-politician.
Probably it would suit Kejriwal best if he remained an activist-politician, strictly in that order — an activist first and a politician next. The more he talks about real issues and the more he provides original solutions, the more distinct and respectable as a politician he would be. The country needs good ideas. By following the rest of the herd, Kejriwal runs the risk of losing his own independent identity. He requires to create a specific space for himself if he is serious about politics.
Anna Hazare, a much more mature person, possibly foresaw this eventuality and thus carefully separated himself from Kejriwal’s political adventure. This is the beginning. The latter must plan his moves well.