Kejriwal has my sympathy, not my vote. Yet

Shishir Vinay Bhate
Executive Editor
Box Populi

For a judicious homemaker who’s not aligned to any political ideology, my wife is quite well informed and aware of her democratic rights and duties.
Acutely alert to issues that affect the common Indian, Anju has no-nonsense, down-to-earth solutions to many a complex problem that politicians brazenly avoid tackling.
Her often-politically-incorrect opinion on matters of import is nothing short of astonishingly sagacious.
She, like a million others, reserves unabashed contempt for most politicians. Thus, it was like a punch to the solar plexus, when one fine winter evening she suddenly declared she might join the new political kid on the block, the Aam Aadmi Party, and work to ‘cleanse the system’.
When she sets her mind at doing something, it is imprudent to get in the way; thus, I decided to button my lip and nod wisely.
Knowing she wouldn’t trust a politician, no matter how honest his cronies might profess him to be, until she is entirely persuaded by his argument and intentions, I thought it would be interesting to observe her as she scrutinized AAP.
Anju’s research began. The more she read the more she was convinced that Kejriwal had great ideas: corruption-free society; swaraj; end to division of society on the basis of religion, caste, gender, community, economic status; provision of better amenities; poleaxing of crony capitalism, and justice for all.
Pretty much all you can ask for from a government. Or God.
Kejriwal then stunned all with a jaw-dropping triumph and went on to become Delhi’s chief minister, leaving in his wake many a floundering stalwart and crushed ego. He had blown to smithereens established political wisdom.
The wife was beside herself with glee; she began working out how many hours of volunteer work would she be able to put in, how that would rearrange our lives, et cetera. Even I believed I was inhaling a fresh breath of air.
Arvind Kejriwal is a good man: whip-smart, highly educated, intelligent, modest. He’s ballyhooed as being non-corrupt, self-effacing, even a tad too humble.
His recipe for an ideal state of governance and administration is splendid; his unorthodox, even radical, ideas possess the potential to galvanize the nation into a frenzied mass of activity aimed at liberating the common man from various social, economic, political evils; his unexpected rise as a ‘national’ leader and his phenomenal popularity shook up established political foundations and showed all what ‘people power’ is all about.
He seemed destined for greatness. But the price of greatness is responsibility. And it was here that Kejriwal stumbled.
No one denies that Kejriwal’s intentions are good, but to wit, even the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Presently, the wife’s examination of the man, his party and its promises showed there was a lot left to be desired. He came forth as a bundle of contradictions, a man in a hurry given to shifting goal posts midway through the game, and justifying the moves by playing either the victim or the crusader.
The ‘good intentions’ seemed to be a part of a larger design; he began to fall prey to his ambitions. The Aam Aadmi Party began to stage outrageous events calculated solely to attract publicity, indulge in innuendo without showing responsibility or producing proof, resort to mudslinging, certify people’s honesty or the lack of it, threaten everyone and their brothers-in-law, hide behind the smoke screen of ‘new brand of politics’, display disregard for the law, employ methods that would make the party and its activities the talking point – always preferring the peripheral to the fundamental.
His new brand of politics proclaimed that charges made by AAP were gospel, charges against it were motivated; everyone who supported it was honest, everyone else was either corrupt or communal.
He also carried his inverted snobbery – ‘I am nothing’, ‘I am just an aam aadmi’, etc – a bit too far. He displayed a history of keeping things incomplete – whether it was administration or the assurances he gave – and then blamed his failure on nefarious designs by others.
For someone who wasn’t very athletic as a school kid, Kejriwal does an impressive job at running away: from responsibilities of governance, from taking issues he raises to their logical end, from seeing through the charges he levies, from keeping the promises he made to those who reposed trust in him.
And yet I believe Kejriwal has great ideas, ideas that could transform this nation, deliver it from decades of despondency, and usher in real swaraj.
I commiserate with him and with how things have panned out for him after such a promising start. And I wish him all the success.
But a dharna here or an innuendo there will not spell victory. He needs to start on a clean slate and make the most of the tremendous – albeit dwindling – goodwill he has generated.
Anju had high hopes from AAP, but feels let down. The activist madness that gripped her for a brief moment seems to have abated. But chances of that obsession revisiting her are quite high, only if AAP gets its act together.
If Kejriwal were to abandon the dramatics and symbolism in favour of substance, Anju will vote for him. Even I might follow suit.
But till then, all he can have is our sympathy, not our vote.