Arvind Kejriwal vs Kapil Mishra: AAP MLA can return to being an activist, but won't be a modern day politician

Kapil Mishra is now on a fast. He is trying to be the new Arvind Kejriwal — whatever perceived good the Delhi chief minister stood for in the past few years anyway.

He may not have the sort of following that the original Kejriwal had between 2012 and 2015 but the former minister in the Delhi government has struck the right cord with a section of people and also with a section of workers in the Aam Aadmi Party. Mishra would not be able to emerge as the new anti-graft hero unless he was to effectively finish off Kejriwal's self-proclaimed reputation as an anti-corruption crusader. In the past four days, he has not only taken away the moral halo and incorruptible sheen of the AAP convenor, but has also put set him on silent mode.

If Kejriwal claimed that he left the lucrative job of an officer in the Income Tax Department to take a crack at public life, then Mishra can safely claim that he didn't care for the highly-coveted post of a minister to be the people's voice against graft in the corridors of power — whether in his own party or the government.

He came out with a sensational charge that as a minister in the government, he saw Kejriwal take Rs two crore in cash from tainted ministerial colleague Satyendra Jain. In a matter of seconds, he painted Kejriwal as yet another corrupt politician who even took a bribe from his own colleague.

In one single stroke, Mishra positioned himself as a young idealist who cared less for his ministerial position than speaking the "truth", and waged a no-holds barred war against his onetime guru-cum-leader, whom he needed to expose and ensure that he was booked as per the relevant provisions of the law.

File image of Kapil Mishra. PTI

File image of Kapil Mishra. PTI

AAP's politics was of symbolism. Mishra — as founder member of AAP and India Against Corruption, and an activist — had mastered the artful politics of symbolism. He thus first went to Rajghat, drew inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi and vowed in name of the Father of the Nation to make the charge that stunned the nation: Kejriwal is not just making money for himself, but is a nepotist of the highest order who would make his minister swing a seven-acre Rs 50-crore farmhouse land deal for his now deceased brother-in-law SK Bansal. Jain has also been accused of clearing suspected bills worth Rs 10 crore for the same relative of Kejriwal.

It is interesting to note that despite a number of reports and leaks of investigative agency inquiries on hawala and benami land deals against Jain, he continues to be the most trusted minister for Kejriwal. Jain holds seven important portfolios — health, industries, PWD, power, home, transport and urban development. Jain's name figures in all the charges that Mishra has made against Kejriwal. He is trying to convey why Jain remains to be so useful to Kejriwal.

The VK Shunglu Committee report had earlier pointed out how a relative of chief minister was appointed as OSD to Jain in violation of rules. The report was full of details of other instances of nepotism, favouritism and cronyism.

Mishra's style and form in making sensational charges is almost a carbon copy of what used to be the trademark Kejriwal style.

But then there are a few differences: First, unlike Kejriwal, Mishra is not making a charge against someone high and mighty, with whom he has nothing to do — whether in working or within his domain of review. He is making a charge against his own chief minister for something he allegedly witnessed as a minister in the same government. He is making a charge against a person to whom he looked up and with whom he worked closely since the days of the Anna Hazare movement, at India Against Corruption, in AAP and his supreme boss in the Delhi government.

Next, Kejriwal had nothing to lose when he made wild charges against people in high places. Unlike Kejriwal, Mishra had a lot to lose when he made a personal corruption charge against the Delhi chief minister.

Third, unlike Kejriwal, Mishra is not making a charge and moving onto the next thing. Mishra is attempting to pursue his charge, at least as he is being seen for now, to its logical end. He is not just a complainant at the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) of the Delhi government and CBI, but is also willing to be a sarkari gawah (prosecution witness) in the charges he has made against Kejriwal and Jain. That makes this a very different from a casual allegation, which is the norm in politics.

After visiting the CBI office to formally lodge corruption complaints against Kejriwal, Mishra said, "I have registered three complaints. The first is in connection with the Rs 50-crore land deal of Kejriwal's relative. The second is against the cash exchange of Rs two crore between Kejriwal and Jain. And the third is against five AAP leaders who misused funds for foreign trips."

Mishra may be getting the same sort of media attention as Kejriwal used to receive, but his current style of politics or supposed crusader zeal, however, is problematic. He will be neither able to spilt AAP, nor would any other party (the BJP or Congress included) like to invite Mishra — with his outwardly fiercely moralistic independent streak — to its fold. He can be an activist, but again unlike his guru Kejriwal he can't be a modern day politician. He had been a minister for the past years, but failed to learn the tricks of trade in politics, particularly the art of the possible.

Updated Date: May 10, 2017 14:39 PM

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