By Sanjay Jha
First Published in November 2011
( ArvindKejriwal needs a crash course in high-school civics. The Parliament is the will of the people, and it is supreme. Not one single individual, but the collective voice of India).
Nitish Kumar, the affable Chief Minister of Bihar , normally an imperturbable fellow, seemed mighty indignant. “Who needs a certificate from ArvindKejriwal for my state’s LokAyukta Bill?”. Incidentally, a few days ago at Tehelka’sThinkFest in Goa, Kejriwal’s hubris had reached epic proportions. He said with prodigious child-like glee suitably smothered under a deceptive countenance ; “People say I am arrogant”. He feigned astonishment. Truth is, he wanted us to know exactly that.
When I first saw Kejriwal talk in normal decibel tones on small windows of TV channels years ago, I was extremely impressed with the Ramon Magsaysay award winner’s reasoned arguments, unassuming demeanor and sincere convictions. His immaculately plastered black hair accentuated by a bushy thick moustache gave him an Adolf Hitler –like avatar. At the ThinkFest , you could sense Kejriwal’s palpable delight at playing deliberately to the gallery with the famous rousing energy associated with his look-alike ; sadly the substance was conspicuously missing. Worse, Kejriwal was downright disingenuous on the Lok Pal Bill itself. It is only an investigative body, he thundered .ShekharSingh , his co-panelist from NCPRI promptly corrected him, “also prosecutor and judge”. Kejriwal did not protest.
That Kejriwal has little respect for parliamentary institutions was also apparent in his stout defense of campaigning against the Congress candidate in the Hisar by-polls. “We did not get any letter from the Congress party promising that the Lok Pal Bill will be passed by the winter session ”. After that Ram Lila carnival in August which unfortunately compelled a historic one-off parliamentary session to pass an appeasement deal ,MrArvindKejriwal , ladies and gentlemen, wanted another letter of assurance ! If that’s not a fastidious mind-set with a warped sense of self-importance, what is??? Poor ShekharSingh . He sat nonplussed , dazed perhaps, his poker face displaying nothingness. Several well-heeled in the audience, well-fed from a sumptuous meal at The Grand Hyatt cheered.
But Kejriwal despite his labored façade could barely disguise his visceral anti-Congressism. Creating much ballyhoo by adopting rabble-rouser methods has been his forte, he promptly made caustic comments on the Congress High Command , given the occasion, most unwarranted perhaps , but trite populism can earn you cheap clapping points. It did. The crowd post a leisurely lunch needed this jingoistic single-act diversion, perhaps. There is nothing Kejriwal said that he has not parroted before.
Anti-corruption legislation rightfully has an ecumenical approbation from all Indians , but Team Anna’s political opportunism has made it into a self-righteous football, where anyone who supports the Jan Lok Pal Bill believes he is the personification of virtue. The others are scurrilous scumbags. Even the BJP portends piousness despite a sordid trail of misadventures. “ We support Anna” chant the saffron-brigade in a rhythmic chorus. Kejriwal& Co smile in tandem. But simultaneously deny links as a Congress conspiracy.
To Team Anna thus goes the dubious credit of dividing the unanimous resolve of a trusting nation on obliterating corruption. The JantarMantar goodwill has long since vanished. What started with the perceived belief of a true grass-roots social revolution to pressurize government to introduce Lok Pal bill , soon degenerated into a power-play by a small caucus, with a surreptitious political agenda, using corruption as a subterfuge. Obviously, given their limited appeal, they resorted to blatantly exploiting a not-so-reluctant media, and organized cadres of the willing RSS. It was a powerful combination. Admittedly, it worked. But a flaky wishy-washy proposition is at core unsustainable.
What we forget is that the implementation of the RTI Act was a seamless, tranquil business-like affair, minus virulent protestations and perennial abuse of our democratic institutions. There was an air of civility, people co-opted with each other. Since Kejriwal has earned his accolades and awards as an RTI activist, what brought that sudden inexplicable belligerence against the UPA-II which had already drafted the Lok Pal Bill anyway, and which has since demonstrated remarkable commitment of its own volition?
The truth is that Ram Lila was nothing but about the manufacturing of a chimera; this despite the presence of two veteran Supreme Court lawyers and ex-civil servants who knew the parliamentary processes. Team Anna were fully aware of their far-fetched demand ; pass their version of Lok Pal without a single amendment in 14 days! It was an outrageous , outlandish expectation mocking, bullying Indian democracy. Team Anna knew there was zero possibility of that happening; so what we all saw for a fortnight was just an uninterrupted, stellar performance; the few concessions obtained were actually cosmetic, yet were paraded as a historic triumphant moment . The GOI certainly blundered too , but India was subjected to a grotesque assortment of characters , including a drunk retired actor who took center-stage to abuse our political systems and national leaders . Team Anna got national visibility using a calculated ruse. It was wrong, unethical.
Kejriwal has mastered the art of media management, buttressed by his crafty orchestrated ploys to maximize air-time. It’s keeping his recently badgered, beleaguered movement on the radar screen. Of course, the media is a great vehicle for news dissemination, but when your entire existence revolves round the whereabouts of an OB van it shows a disturbing self-obsession. It’s also led to Team Anna’s precipitous downfall. The cookie has developed serious cracks; the tumble and the crumble is inevitable.
The highly solipsistic duo of Kejriwal-Kiran Bedi have had some serious allegations leveled against them ; fake travel bills, violating employer codes, delayed accounting for cash donations etc . While they set exacting uncompromising standards for others, they want a different yardstick for themselves. The world saw them practice double-standards with professional ease.
Hazare’s erstwhile blogger RajuParulekar’s damning indictment of Team Anna has obvious legitimacy given his close proximity to Anna , which corroborates what Swami Agnivesh et al have said prior to deserting the team. But Kejriwal looks undeterred, he knows there are enough disaffected elements, and that corruption is reminiscent of the Amitabh BachchanZanjeer cult film , it cuts an emotional chord, its almost cathartic. His thesis seems to be; just let the vituperative outbursts continue, the crowds are both gullible and grieving or both to be repeatedly recaptured. In a country of a billion people and over 100 news channels, when has crowd mobilization ever been a Herculean challenge? Thus, Kejriwal continues with making ludicrous tirades ; “ Hazare’s phone is being tapped by the government”. As if Hazare would have not been followed by a whole horde of camera-men from Ralegan Siddhi to Rajghat where he wanted to stop blogging and start talking ! Give us a break, Arvind!.
Kejriwal has become the master of mumbo-jumbo and double-speak ( this is his quote from an interview in TEHELKA) ; “ We never said we are not political. We have always said that the movement is political but above party politics. It is not electoral politics. It is people’s politics” . Go figure!
It is time Kejriwal stopped masquerading as a mere social do-gooder and at least spared us those excruciating sermons. Instead he should teach his colleagues how to submit correct travel expense vouchers. And considering he was an Income-Tax officer, just how do you return cash to unknown donors??? And he must remember that Indian democracy needs creative, committed , constructive change agents, not home-grown hostile, haranguing, abusive citizens who disrupt its very core.