Arvind Kejriwal: Bifocal Bluster – Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar Etteth“Driving around in a Wagon-R that stops at red lights doesn’t make a chief minister. Neither does refusing a huge official bungalow after first accepting it. Kejri the crusader could become the animal he loathes the most—Kejri the politician.” – Ravi Shankar Etteth

Arvind KejriwalA commander without a vision is a general without a plan. A general sans perspective leads a campaign without a blueprint. The worst is a leader with a view, but lacking both vision and perspective. Sadly, India’s new Don Quixote tilting at the windmills of corruption, Delhi’s own Arvind Kejriwal—who yearns to be India’s Kejriwal—could prove to be just another power-hungry amateur who believes that soapbox oratory is statesmanship. Perhaps he didn’t expect to win. Now that he has, he is rummaging in the dustbin of history for a vision.

Kejri’s politics is a Xerox version of bygone symbols. All great changemakers possess one grand vision. Mahatma Gandhi’s was Swaraj—a gigantic idea that created a peaceful revolution. Kejri borrowed the phrase, but doesn’t define the enemy since his previous foe is his sleeping partner in governance. Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision was to create the “temples of modern India” to generate enough hydroelectric power to drive nascent industrial production. Kejri’s is to crack down on private power companies to grab the popular vote of Delhi, which has hardly experienced power cuts for a decade. Indira Gandhi’s slogan was Garibi Hatao and the Green Revolution made India self-sufficient in food grains. Kejri’s casuistry is to create a welfare state. Rajiv Gandhi’s dream was to create a modern, tech-driven India for the 21st century. Kejri’s is to use the social media to acquire homemade mandates. V P Singh’s Mandal changed caste politics forever. Narasimha Rao’s vision, executed by Manmohan Singh, opened up the economy and brought in reform. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, modern India’s greatest visionary, tried to build an economically and militarily powerful nation respected for both its liberal global stance and Asian superpower status. Kejri’s is to become a superpower himself. Sonia Gandhi borrowed her perspicacity from Indira to consolidate power through massive subvention India can ill afford. Son Rahul also believes that the poor need a free ride, and not encouragement, to create a competitive next generation. Obviously Kejri agrees with his ideological mentors. The poor, however, do not want subsidies; they want development. Hence, in the Lok Sabha polls, the generation that believes in the development mantra could well scupper Kejri’s national ambitions.

AAP + INCDriving around in a Wagon-R that stops at red lights doesn’t make a chief minister. Neither does refusing a huge official bungalow after first accepting it. Kejri the crusader could become the animal he loathes the most—Kejri the politician. As campaigner, he had damned power companies without even an audit. Coal imports are driving up power production costs. Since 2007, property prices have gone up by 670 per cent, fuel by 190 per cent and essential commodities by 170 per cent. Last year, all states raised power tariffs: Tamil Nadu by 37 per cent, Kerala by 30 per cent and West Bengal by 24 per cent. In Delhi, political imperatives kept the hike down to 5 per cent. It is not facts that fuelled Engine Kejri to victory, but the public perception that the Congress party is corrupt and India needs a change.

What is the change Vision Kejri offers? The end of corruption. Admirable. But how will he do it? By starting an anti-corruption hotline? Who is going to man it? Kejri himself? A call centre? How will the corrupt be prosecuted? Delhi Police doesn’t report to the chief minister; so who will carry out arrests? For a party that hadn’t even thought of getting a flag of its own, it is obvious that Kejri is flying by the seat of his pants. AAP is a contradiction—an elitist party wooing the plebian vote. There is no objective examination of promises and delivery mechanisms—it’s just a high-profile magnet for celebrities like ex-Infosys satrap V. Balakrishnan, singers Remo and Rabbi Shergil, banker Meera Sanyal and Apple India honcho Adarsh Shastri; all privileged rebels in search of a cause. There will be more recruits with chequebooks and passbook. Kejri is also Bollywood’s new Twitter hero. Expect a film soon. – The New Indian Express, 5 January 2014

» Ravi Shankar Etteth is a columnist for The New Indian Express. He can be contacted at