I must admit that I was a skeptic from the very beginning of anti-corruption politics in India. For all his right intentions, I couldn’t approve of every method adopted by Anna Hazare and his lieutenants. Trashing the whole political class and bureaucracy as filthy corrupt and promoting anarchy as a method to achieve their means was my no means condonable. Their proposed silver bullet for all the ills in India, “Jan Lokpal” was just a reactionary outcome of several high ticket corruption scandals of the then UPA government, not a rational one. Jan Lok Pal in its original form was not pragmatic. Moreover, it could have twisted a dagger into the very heart of our democratic polity, as an all-powerful body with little accountability could have run roughshod over a democratically elected government, terrorizing bureaucracy and thereby jeopardizing governance. Further, despite overwhelming sentiments against corruption in the country, the movement led by Hazare’s lieutenants like Kejriwal and the Bhushans on the platform of “India against corruption”, with Anna as the figurehead was not as popular as it was made out to be. It was the patronizing English media and civil society members impressed by the middle-class sentiments on corruption who made it as big as it looked like.
Enter Arvind Kejriwal, a shrewd man with very high ambitions; he exploited the situation to the hilt, taking full advantage of the prevailing atmosphere of discontent. He effectively backstabbed his mentor, Anna Hazare, by launching a political outfit, AAP to reap dividends from the anti-corruption movement, much against the wishes of the aging Gandhian. He fed the public, disillusioned with politicians, the very words they wanted to hear. And, people desperately wanted to believe him despite their good senses telling them that his gospel was too good to be true. Anointing himself as the new messiah of the nation, he went on a tirade against the entire political class. He crowned himself as the Mr. Perfect and found fault with everyone else; anyone who dared to raise a finger against his anarchist ways was labeled as corrupt. “My way or Highway attitude” became the new norm with active connivance from the sections of civil society and media who papered over his many faults while highlighting his propaganda of anti-corruption and anti-VIP culture crusade.
The 2013 Delhi elections was indeed a watershed movement in Indian politics. An activist party scripted an outstanding début by coming a close second in the assembly polls; their leader, Kejriwal trounced none other than the formidable incumbent CM, Sheila Dixit from New Delhi constituency to lead the fight from the front. Political pundits and media were so stunned that they forgot to discuss anything else on prime time TV; even critical election results from four other states being swept under the carpet. What contributed to this miracle? AAP, of course, had many committed upright leaders; they had committed young volunteers who were highly patriotic and genuinely believed that AAP can usher in a new era of clean politics. Moreover, AAP with its lofty ideology seemed like a fresh sea breeze to a disenchanted general public. Kejriwal even managed to form a government with Congress support; it was quite a sight with the swearing-in ceremony being conducted in open grounds, MLAs arriving in auto rickshaws and metro trains. High sounding sermons on abolishing VIP culture and practicing honest politics were made almost every day. Media readily lapped up whatever the party says and the general public was almost dulled into believing that change has finally arrived.
Alas, they were mistaken; apart from handing out doles and freebies, what happened was empty rhetoric, blatant hypocrisy and high-handedness by AAP leaders. The law minister, Som Nath Bharati who was earlier accused in a spamming case led from the front, even having the audacity to try to summon High Court judges! In the name of vigilantism, he and his goons had no qualms about physically assaulting Nigerian women in Khirki extension on allegations of prostitution and drug peddling. The minister even threatened police officers who refused to follow his illegal diktats in harassing the women. The most striking aspect was that the Chief Minister had the audacity to defend his irresponsible, racist thug of a minister even after the incident turned into a full-blown diplomatic incident. Further, the CM turned drama queen by sitting on Dharna in front of the rail Bhavan against the Center and Delhi Police. And, it didn’t end there, Imagine an incumbent chief minister declaring himself anarchist and threatening to disrupt Republic day celebrations unless his whims and fancies were satisfied!
Anarchy and vigilante mode of justice patronized by AAP went against the very grain of our democracy. The arrogance of AAP leaders was becoming increasingly difficult to put up with. Kejriwal acted like a buffoon more often than not, bringing the dignity of his office to a nadir. AAP exploited the public resentment against corruption for their 30 minutes of fame, with the Delhi CM and his ministers running around like headless chicken. U-turns every other day on policy decisions became the norm. After realizing that his poll promises were untenable, he started running away from his responsibilities; resorting to public farces to divert public attention and then play the victim. Even the 300 pages long evidence against Sheila Dixit, which he repeatedly brandished during poll campaign mysteriously vanished. And, in 49 days he ran away from office citing opposition’s efforts to scuttle Lok Pal bill. But, it was too apparent that Kejriwal was running away from the responsibility of governance. Obviously, he loved protests and anarchy, not governance.
Despite, the misadventures of his short reign, Kejriwal remained the blue-eyed boy of Indian media. Even the sections of the general public were prepared to give him another chance as they made themselves believe that it is just the lack of political maturity; given time, AAP and Kejriwal will transform India, they thought. After all, he, with the help of a pliant media had projected himself as the man with a golden heart, a knight in the shining armor destined to lead India out of the darkness of corruption, nepotism, and VIP culture; and it worked. Now, with his megalomania at its zenith, he threw his hat into the general elections of 2014, contesting against the NDA prime ministerial candidate himself at Varanasi. Pompous claims of an encore of Sheila Dixit upset were made with AAP deciding to contest nationwide. But, the public had enough of Kejriwal “nautanki” and was whipped 7-0 in Delhi as the BJP swept the polls riding on the popularity of Narendra Modi.
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