Welcome Mr. Kejriwal, To The Murky World Of Indian Politics!

Reading the vision document (Quest For Swaraj: From Subject hood to Citizenship) from Arvind Kejriwal and his team, it’s a nice feeling you get. You suddenly begin to envision an India wrapped in idealism – a country free of corruption, where the common man – the aam aadmi – does not have to pay token sums, to officials in power, for his LPG connection, for his driving license or for getting the name changed on his ration card. The big ticket corruption has been consciously left out here for these small things are the ones which affect a man on a day-to-day basis, and this struggle for minimum basic needs is the first goal towards cleaning up the system.

The vision of the as-yet unnamed party doesn’t end there.

There is talk of free education, which they say would be better than the private education being offered; there is talk of bringing in electoral reforms, which they say is aimed at minimizing the role of money and muscle power; there is talk about healthcare, where they propose a free and complete healthcare system; and there is talk about full employment, which according to them should be the responsibility of a state.

Again, just as I mentioned in the beginning of this article, it’s all nice, in fact it’s overwhelming to even imagine an India where the above mentioned things would be in place. Where the culture of “lal-bhatti” which has come to symbolize power and position would no longer exist. Where the elected representatives, who are otherwise inaccessible due to a wall of gun-carrying-cats, suddenly become accessible when their walls do not exist anymore (all of these are part of their vision document).

And somehow this document, just like the anti-corruption movement in its initial stages (whose torchbearer was Kejriwal himself), does capture the imagination of the average Indian who wants to see a political alternative, who needs something concrete to deviate from the “sab neta chor hai”  (every politician is a thief) mentality, and who wants to see a party built to serve the public –to be the “public-servants” in every sense of the term.

Having said and read all the “nice” parts which are enough and more to transform India, the question really boils down to how “The Kejriwal Party” will achieve this.

How is it that a team which has already fallen apart before it has even tasted its first success is going to achieve this humongous task of cleaning up such a rotten political system?

Will Kejriwal and his crew be able to succeed where many others in the past have failed?

How will they implement this idealistic vision, and how far can this team of social activists be entrusted with the job of running this country?

In fact, the questions are aplenty, and Kejriwal and his crew will need to answer these and more before promising to clean the system in a fortnight if voted to power.

Nevertheless, all these questions aside, there is no denying that they seem to stem from good intentions, they seem like they want to be the change they want to see; and in a country which has seen numerous Raja’s and Kalmadi’s and Karunanidhi’s and Mayawati’s and Shibu Soren’s – frankly, what can go worse?

It won’t be easy, in an electoral system which is controlled by sleaze, money and muscle power, which gives little room for any new entrants like Kejriwal and his team, who have none of the above, and in which personal integrity or honesty is never an added merit when it comes to winning elections – Dr. Manmohan Singh lost the Lok Sabha election he contested in 1999 – there is very little anyone can bet on Kejriwal and his team.

Moreover, with things like caste and community playing a big role in deciding the outcome of elections – which sadly hasn’t changed or for that matter isn’t even showing any signs of change- it will be increasingly difficult for the unnamed party to create a space for themselves.

And winning elections aside, even then it will not be an easy road for Kejriwal and his team. They are no longer a bunch of social activists shouting slogans against established institutions on the streets; they have signalled their intention to enter the Indian polity, which means that they are no longer a single agenda group against corruption but someone, who will have to make their stand clear on the problems facing this great land and on foreign and economic policy.

For now, there isn’t much that they can hope for in the short term. There is little time after November (which is when they will officially launch the party) for the assembly elections in Delhi, which are due next year and they can probably hope for some urban seats. But of course, we shouldn’t be surprised if they do not achieve even that, for the stark realities of the Indian electoral system are much more than just exciting the average middleclass Indian who is in front of the television.

Having said that, it was always going to take a brave move to enter Indian politics seeking a change and now, with them having done it, I think we should welcome it. Whether they ultimately deliver on whatever they have said or not, I hope they do not end up sounding or acting like the parties which they have been riled up about all along, and I sincerely hope that they do not run out of steam in their quest for that change all of us, us Indians, have been longing for.

Welcome once again Mr. Kejriwal, to the murky world of Indian politics!

Vijay Menon

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