By Vatsal Khandelwal
The past few months have made this clear- there is no space for dreams and dreamers in Indian Politics. Those who dream are bound to be destroyed and when it comes to Arvind Kejriwal, the destruction of his very idealistic dream of a corruption free India and his newly started political career seems inevitable. While many see in him an aspirant for political power, a man with skewed idealism, a propounder of utopian politics or a harbinger of anarchy, not many see the dreamer in him. Not many people see his dreams and aspirations that don’t serve his vested interests but the interests of this country. At the same time, blaming the bored and exploited political audience of a sixty year old political theatre for defaming Kejriwal is perhaps not the right thing to do since the likes of him have never been allowed to stage their acts. Formerly run as a dictatorial one act play and now by an oligopolistic group of genius actors adept in communalism, pseudo secularism, casteism and of course, corruption, this political theatre doesn’t give any encouragement to a newbie. And a newbie who has learnt the Gandhian art of protest, who challenges, who retorts and who dreams- NO.
This political actor’s dream debut was termed as a mistake since giving a political standing to the popular Jan Lokpal Bill was a direct threat to the corporate, elite political structure, especially in a country where street protests are supposed to rise and rest in a matter of days. Challenging the giants, hoping to sweep away corruption and trying to mix activism with politics were his first few mistakes. Kejriwal should have known that his dreams could only be given a reality check through candle light marches and two day rallies for if it became a political venture, its disastrous offshoots would kill his dreams, render him defenseless and convert populism into grievous displeasure. He didn’t listen to the stereotypical anecdotes we all spend our childhood listening to, of politics being an arena of vested interests where the elite stamps on the aam aadmi and life goes on. He didn’t listen and now he is paying the cost of optimistically believing in the capabilities of a ghastly political market.
His party, in a coalition with the Congress formed the government in Delhi and made all the possible attempts they could to translate dead utopian manifesto motives into bright, happy realities. This stage of Kejriwal’s political career and AAP’s new-firm-in-the-market experience was a stage of multiple disasters. Four unfortunate things-
a) None of us see the good that he tried to do by obtaining outside support from an opposition party- which could just be done politically and not through street protests. When Congress supports the AIADMK having known that the latter is in favor of the LTTE, we do not complain. Coalition Dharma is not to be adopted by Newbies.
b) Kejriwal gave public welfare priority in a pseudo- welfare state like ours and compromised on economic efficiency and government budgetary constraints to provide subsistence goods to the underprivileged. His infant party should have learnt to frame more economically efficient and sound policies in forty nine days (even if the one before it had been purposeless since a decade). He should have also known that these policies would embark upon him the title of a ‘socialist’ despite him repeatedly mentioning that his policies were purely welfare oriented, nothing more and nothing less. Anyway, these days we despise the socialists. Jawaharlal Nehru was one.
c) He wanted the Delhi Police under the control of his government and wrote several letters to the Centre for that. Those letters were either ignored or rejected and the police did not work in synchronization with the policies of their own state government. It was Kejriwal’s mistake that he tried to step beyond his jurisdiction. Public discontent followed when an alleged controversy pertaining to his law minister was heavily exaggerated and digressed to another level by a particular section of the media. Gossip is formally given more priority than facts in the Indian Political Market. Kejriwal should have known.
d) Chief Ministers are supposed to be high handed and should live comfortably inside their ivory towers. Working with and for the people on the field is not their work and political showbiz is what often qualifies them to be ‘good leaders’. Kejriwal did the fourth major mistake of holding a ‘dharna’ on the roads of a posh city desperately striving to be modern, western and developed. No comparisons drawn at all, but when Gandhi did that we didn’t bother to call him an anarchist nor do we clamor about anarchy when politicians are not even polite to furniture while hosting formal parliament debates. Kejriwal should have known that carrying peaceful protests is an abrogation of his public duties. Ignoring the grievances of the people is certainly not; a chief minister should know his limits.
With this, the political theatre gave Kejriwal’s stunts, doses of daily criticism which saturated when he resigned from power voicing his disapproval towards legislative barriers and political obstructions that had come in way of the Lokpal legislation. The audience of the Indian political theatre is very gullible. A dreamer’s dreams are thrashed in front of us and we keep quiet despite knowing that his dreams are ours. We’ve been accustomed to the mischief of party politics, to communal riots, minority appeasement, ideological disarrangement and sectarian, unsustainable policies and we prefer to keep it that way. However, the story of this unfortunate dreamer is not complete yet. The following days shall tell us, whether this era of activist politics would signify the end of political hope or perhaps give rise to a brighter future- the awakening of a strong political anti-thesis and transfer of power in the hands of the people. Till then, lets pay higher petrol prices, bribe the traffic policeman and live happily in a namesake participatory democracy.
Currently doing an undergraduate course at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, I wish to pursue Economics in future, a subject that intrigues and interests me the most. Almost every other issue today highlights the indispensable need for an interdisciplinary approach to academics and I would certainly like to adopt it in my writing style as well. For me, writing is an attempt at learning how opinions and arguments can be phrased in order to give shape to sound analysis. It is this intent of writing on relevant issues, spreading information and learning in the entire process that brings me here.