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Why Kejriwal is more effective than 'faceless' media

Anna Hazare parting ways with Arvind Kejriwal was meant to be the end of the hysteria created by India Against Corruption (IAC) through the Jan Lokpal movement. But Kejriwal's sensational exposes on leading figures in the political establishment have paved the way for a royal comeback. Unlike the previous campaign where he focused on Jan Lokpal as the cure for graft, his current exposes are about exposing the extent of the malaise.

Kejriwal’s approach, which has been termed ‘hit and run’ or ‘name and shame,’ campaigns is primarily aimed at ensuring the high decibel debut of his political outfit, in less than a month.

“We cannot match the resources, manpower and might of the political class. But we know that they are morally hollow. This is where our strength lies. In the current scenario, one needs an unconventional approach to make space for a new political party and our approach has proved to be somewhat effective,” says psephologist and IAC member Yogendya Yadav.

But what is it about the IAC allegations that makes India sit up and take notice?

Haven’t we all been living with corruption for decades now and haven’t media and the civil society exposed corruption on various occasions?  After all, wasn't the media responsible for exposing a number of scams such as Urea Ghotala, Harshad Mehta case, 2-G, Commonwealth Games, and  theAdarsh Society scam?

Kejriwal in his office: Photo by Danish Raza/Firstpost

In fact, the documents relating to all three IAC exposes were available in the public domain and reported in the media before the group took them up. However, when Arvind Keriwal holds the microphone at New Delhi’s constitution club and talks about corruption in the highest echelons, it becomes part of our drawing room discussions.

Dr Manisha Pariyam, political analyst, argues that Kejriwal is more effective because he is more credible. News reports are faceless and they can also be easier to dismiss as part of a political agenda or motives of a media outlet. “While you know the news organisation carrying the article or TV report, you don’t get to see or meet the reporter. But here, you see a group of people willing to take action against the political establishment.”

One criticism of Kejriwal’s approach is that he acts as a muckraker who attacks one personality, and then quickly moves on the next target. Rather than hold a press conference to air charges, critics argue, he should move court with his collected evidence. In an interview to Firstpost, Kejriwal responded to the criticism, saying that his objective was not to move court, but to make sure that citizens were not afraid to talk about the wrong doings of their political leaders.

Dr Yogendra Yadav further argues that it is unfair to expect a private citizen to move court and take each and every matter of alleged corruption to its logical conclusion. “We have provided preliminary evidence against different people. Now, it is for the political parties and institutions concerned to follow it up. How can a private individual ever be expected to provide final, fool proof solutions? And if that were to be the case, the media would have to stop reporting everything in this country,” he says.

It is difficult right now to gauge the longterm effectiveness of Kejrwial’s approach. He has been partially successful in revealing the hidden nexus between political parties, the government and corporate houses. And his message is aimed at all sections of society, from farmers to the urban middle class. As with the RIL case, he is able to connect the dots and tell the big picture story of corruption in an easy-to-understand, persuasive way. He indicates that corruption has shifted from coercive to collusive.

But so far, what is the cumulative outcome of IAC’s exposes, other than the fact that lot of information on corruption in various quarters is now reaching the IAC secretariat?

NK Singh, senior journalist and secretary general of the Broadcast Editors Association, said that Kejriwal’s biggest contribution may be the fact that he is focusing on the long term consequences of the culture of graft.“What he is presenting might appear like disjointed episodes of graft. But it is exactly the opposite. It is a series of corruption that shifts the contours of your collective consciousness. After being exposed to so much graft, you realise that you live in an atmosphere which you would not want to give to your children,” he said.

It's also easy playing the outsider when you are outside the system. The question is whether Kejriwal the politician will be able to sustain the same momentum and anti-establishment fury as Kejriwal the activist.

“Right now, they are in the movement mode. One has to see if they raise all these issues in the assembly and floor of the House,” says Medha Patkar, social activist and former IAC member.

 

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