The rise & rise of Arvind Kejriwal

Published: December 26, 2013
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The writer is a journalist in Delhi whose work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor and The New York Times. He tweets @DilliDurAst

The writer is a journalist in Delhi whose work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor and The New York Times. He tweets @DilliDurAst

Arvind Kejriwal is the new Sachin Tendulkar. You throw him the most difficult googly and he sweeps it to add runs for his century. In 2011, he started a national anti-corruption movement with the specific aim of setting up an anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal. The movement’s public face and leader was Anna Hazare, a respected social leader, who like Gandhi, believes in fasting for politics. The critics said Anna is just a puppet and it’s Kejriwal’s movement, and that such sophistry showed Kejriwal (who takes oath as chief minister of Delhi tomorrow) had sinister motives.

Kejriwal’s critics said that fasting unto death was a blackmail strategy not suited to a democracy. Kejriwal can’t have a Lokpal just because he wants it. His popular support is just media hype. If he really wants a Lokpal, why doesn’t he form a political party and contest elections?

Kejriwal’s critics said he was supported by the RSS and the BJP, that he is a BJP stooge, that the Lokpal movement was a right-wing conspiracy to remove pristine, super-secular, people-loving, chosen-by-god Congress party from power.

Every such googly, Kejriwal has replied with a sixer. He formed a political party. Anna didn’t like the idea and left. The more right-wing elements left with Anna. The BJP became an enemy as much as the Congress. The critics said his party could barely win a seat or two in the Delhi state elections. It won 28 of 70 and is forming a government this week. It is doing so with outside support from the Congress — but we thought he was a BJP stooge!

The critics said he was exposing only the Congress corruption and not the BJP corruption, so he took on the sitting BJP President, Nitin Gadkari, accusing him of a scam. Gadkari was forced to resign.

The critics said Kejriwal can’t hit where it hurts: what about corporate corruption, asked the left. What about the Gandhi family, asked the right. Kejriwal took on the holy cows of India, the Ambani empire and the Gandhi family.

The critics said it was impossible to win an election without becoming corrupt, because elections needed big money. Kejriwal showed that if people believed in your movement, they would donate. He contested an election on white money and won. Raising money from the public also raised the voter’s sense of participation and enthusiasm in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The critics said it was a middle class movement and did not take everybody along. Where are the Dalits? Where are the Muslims? The AAP got the broom as the election symbol. The middle-class critics laughed and the Dalit Valmiki community, whose caste profession is cleaning, said they would wholeheartedly support the AAP.

The critics said we don’t need a Lokpal because corruption is who we are, what we are. An anti-corruption agenda is vigilantism, authoritarianism and fascism. These critics were, back then, not worrying about the rise of Narendra Modi, but Kejriwal was producing endless derision in them. Today, the Congress and the BJP both want to appropriate the anti-corruption agenda. They have passed the Lokpal law, which may not be the best law but, at least, it can be said that Kejriwal managed to put enough public pressure on the Congress and the BJP that he got the Lokpal.

The critics said that Kejriwal is a BJP conspiracy but today, his party prevented the BJP from coming to power in Delhi. BJP critics say Kejriwal is a Congress conspiracy and look, he’s now breaking bread with the Congress. So, Kejriwal asked for a public response to whether he should form government with unconditional and outside support from the Congress. The response was an overwhelming yes. Kejriwal said he’ll open the files to estimate Congress corruption. The Congress is still supporting him. Because he’s the new cool guy in town everybody wants to be friends with. Suddenly, good is cool.

The critics try to label the AAP as left or right, secular or communal. Kejriwal defies labels as they distract from his governance agenda. The critics are now hoping that Kejriwal won’t be able to keep his tall promises about water and electricity. I am also sceptical. But we’re dealing with an unstoppable master-blaster here.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Mohd tarekh
    Dec 26, 2013 - 11:56PM

    firstly,This article has nothing to do with pakistan..nor will pakistanis understand what actually is it all about..Its about how democracy work..the corrupts are kicked out irrespective of their caste or religion..and secular and progressive people rule…..but it will take 100 years for pakistan to even undertand this theory..so,implemeting aside by some sane person is a distant dream

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  • Arindom
    Dec 27, 2013 - 12:04AM

    Go! Go! Man! We’re with you, Kejriwal !! Expose Sonia’s dirty laundry and the BJP’s filthy-rich closet friends!

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  • lol
    Dec 27, 2013 - 12:40AM

    what has this to do with pakistan…. sometimes i really think ET posts such articles merely to attract indian readers……. and gain more popularity ……
    and then pakis complain about indians being here…………brainless…!!!

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  • Parvez
    Dec 27, 2013 - 12:43AM

    So Kejriwal / AAP will form the government in the city-state of Delhi. In the over all picture of the coming elections, but how important is that ?? .
    As an observer it seems that the importance is more symbolic because an unknown has stood up and challenged the ‘ old order ‘ but that’s a win situation for the ‘ system ‘…….and the system has been put in place by the ‘ old order ‘. So possibly its like a correction taking place on the stock exchange, when the bulls have over done it and then the bears step in to restore sense.

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  • vande mataram
    Dec 27, 2013 - 12:48AM

    why all RSS/BJP hater suddenly started to praise AAP , is their another method to stop modi ………… as far as AAP , most important thing is that they havent done anything or it is not first time this thing happen in india , remember AGP & TDP , for me AAP lacks national vision they have no thought about CVB , article 370 , support naxal , support separtisms , & most important their economic formula they hate private companies & for every question their answer is jan lokpal………………. hope they will review their economic agenda if not , AAP not only demolish delhi economy but as well as their future we want parties like AAP no more congress in india ………………. as far as BJP hope they will not loose their development agenda….

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  • proudindian_bpl
    Dec 27, 2013 - 1:49AM

    wait for some months then we know arvind is sachin or jogindar sharma

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  • water bottle
    Dec 27, 2013 - 7:33AM

    so far so good.

    But the obvious question is, will power corrupt this party?

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  • Arzoo
    Dec 27, 2013 - 11:57AM

    @Mohd tarekh &@lol: If you would care to look at the Newspaper’s name, it says: “Express Tribune with the International New York Times.” As such it carries news pertaining to Pakistan and other countries. India being our closest neighbor and also our mother country; its’ news and issues are mutually of interest to the people. You may not be familiar with the concept of an International Newspaper, but I think we are fortunate to have one.

    On a side note, I am delighted to see the ascendancy of Arvind Kejriwal to Chief Minister of Delhi. It’s a testimony to India’s democracy’s vibrancy and efficacy. Congratulations to him and the Indian public.

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  • Rakib
    Dec 27, 2013 - 1:41PM

    @Parvez:
    You are quite insightful. AAP can act as an agent of change & an influence on other parties & hopefully in the short run at least all parties will compete to clean up their act. Theoretically, Indian Polity shall benefit qualitatively.

    Anna Hazare’s (supported by Kejariwal) was a Movement. But, AAP is a Party. Voters fed up with Congress & BJP (though the latter was first choice) have preferred AAP. May be they are convinced that hope will triumph over experience. One prays that after few years it won’t degenerate into yet another jingbang gathering of scamster, carpetbagger & profligate. There is something else going for AAP. Contrary to what its opponents are gleefully waiting for, the party may not fail completely in keeping some of the promises made. And even if it does fail in the short run people will forgive all its acts of omission, its failures to meet promises. Voters forgive honest blunders of the honest. For a while. There shan’t be a second chance though. That’s what happened to Navnirman Movement which became Janta Party in late 1970s. Public indulged it with love for few years & then the signs of degeneration were there & that was the end.

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  • Parvez
    Dec 27, 2013 - 2:01PM

    @Rakib: You have nicely elaborated on what was going on in my mind. If anything the AAP can be termed a ‘ good thing ‘ in the present but the future…….is the future.

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  • powvow
    Dec 27, 2013 - 3:44PM

    Looks like all these secularists and writers desperate for an alternative to Modi are in premature celebration mode.
    Kejriwal is no doubt an upright/honest guy… But the below practical difficulties may stunt the AAP
    1. There have been reports of fist-fights and differences amongst his followers in AAP offices in Delhi.. He lacks the charishma or control of Congress-type High Command, to hold together his flock.
    2. Lack of viable economic policy. Resorting to populist measures.
    3. Lacks skill to navigate the firmly trenched bureacracy… Anybody who goes against them is not going to survive in Delhi.
    4. Fickle middle-class as his supporters.. Compare this to the dyed-in-the-wool supporter of any other political party, the upwardly mobile middle-class wants everything quick and fast, without any sacrifices… This class will be the first one to dump him, once he strutters down the line..
    5. BJP/Modi on the upswing…

    The first point is the most vital one. There’s no organisation of AAP as such and spreading out in India may not be any easy task.

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  • Dec 27, 2013 - 7:15PM

    Good luck Mr. Kejriwal.Hope he and his team will deliver to the people of Delhi.Recommend

  • Dec 27, 2013 - 7:16PM

    @lol: everyone wants to be famous in the town so what the dawn and ET all are same.Recommend

  • Arzoo
    Dec 27, 2013 - 7:39PM

    @powvow: Your support for the status-quo parties, and allergy towards AAP, is symptomatic of inertia and apathy towards the miserable conditions in which a vast majority of people live in India. Corruption not only siphons off much needed resources which could be effectively used to improve these lives, it keeps those politicians in power who are useless to contribute towards progress and development. The success of AAP will go a long way towards forcing the mainstream parties to reconsider their patronage and encouragement of corruption.

    Also, your perceived apprehension of Modi’s success on the part of secularists and minorities is much overblown. I believe that India’s democratic credentials are strong enough to resist any potential high-handedness from Narendra Modi. I support Modi’s ascendancy for the same reason I support AAP’s success: Modi has a track record of successful development in Gujarat, and development and corruption seldom goes hand in hand. Recommend

  • Gratgy
    Dec 27, 2013 - 9:43PM

    “Give a man power and you will reveal his true character”.Lincoln

    Let us hope Kejriwal and AAP do not disappoint us.

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  • sabi
    Dec 28, 2013 - 2:33AM

    Kejriwal may hit sixes to his critics but would be extremely difficult for him to even contain deadly bowling of -over expectations which is about to commence.He is hardly a favourite.

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  • Gp65
    Dec 29, 2013 - 12:09AM

    @Rakib:
    Voters preferred AAP to BJP? Really? I thought AAP got 28 seats and BJP got 32?

    All credit to Kejriwal for an unambiguous answer to Kapil Sibal’s taunt of unelected and unelectables. The fact that people voted against Congress corruption forced them o finally pass the LokPal Bill. But the notion that vote for Kejriwal was a vote against Congress and BJP is certainly not obvious based on the actual voting pattern in the recent state elections.

    @Parvez – Insightful comment. India has many parties that rule at state level but have been unale to make a mark nationally. It would be surprising if AAP were able to do so in the immediate forthcoming elections.

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  • Rakib
    Dec 29, 2013 - 9:43AM

    @Gp65:
    If you notice I had implied in paranthesis that BJP was first preference of the voter. These are not merely pro-BJP voters but anti-Congrtess voters too & the second lot would have been happy with AAP so long as Congress was kept out. In the subsequent feedback that AAP sought from the people on whether they should form govt with external support(Congress particularly) the overwhelming response was positive.People wanted Kejariwal even if he had to keep company with congress. The BJP candidate did not attract such popularity. Any case, anybody-good, bad or ugly-that keeps BJP out of as many places as possible & Muslim-hater Modi from power, has my support. Beyond that, Que sera sera.

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  • Abc
    Dec 31, 2013 - 2:46AM

    @lol:
    Possibly they are trying to tell Pakistani people what they need to do to get a better nation.Also there is something called world news,if you don’t know then let me tell you this section of world news includes news from other countries

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  • Abc
    Dec 31, 2013 - 2:49AM

    @Gp65:
    If BJP was preferred more than AAP then why did it refused to form Govt. even when AAP was ready to remain absent from Delhi assembly so that BJP is able to win trust vote?

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