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Kejriwal effect


The BJP’s BC Khanduri almost pulled off a victory by introducing last minute ‘pro-people’ legislation during the assembly elections. This included a Kejriwal inspired Lokayukta Act. He may not have won, but the Congress was prevented from getting a majority. The present Chief Minister, Harish Rawat, is leaving no stone unturned (and every narrow alley unexplored) in the effort to exhibit his concern for the plight of the ‘aam aadmi’. After the crowds at Anna Hazare’s protests, and AAP’s victory in Delhi, the vote-catching merits of public-centric issues have suddenly dawned on mainstream politicians. Call it the Kejriwal effect!
Kejriwal and his comrades have succeeded in changing the idiom of democratic debate. His resort to symbolism, which has long distance impact quite disproportionate to the actual effort put in, has establishment analysts quite flummoxed. They condemn his disregard for conventions and constitutionality. “How dare he defile the office of Chief Minister by staging dharnas and violating section 144?” Kejriwal has described this reaction, rightly, as ‘culture shock’, which indeed it is. For a person who draws his power and justification from the people – not a fairy Godmother in some party High Command – his focus is naturally on meeting their aspirations.
His latest shenanigan has been to order registration of cases against Mukesh Ambani, Petroleum Minister V Moily and Murli Deora for ‘fixing’ gas prices. Once again, there has been uproar, with Kejriwal’s temerity in targeting senior politicians being questioned. Was he expected to ignore issues brought to his notice merely for this reason? Are investigations only to be ordered against the powerless and petty offenders?
There is speculation on how long the Congress will continue support to his government in the face of its senior functionaries being targeted – one day it’s Sheila Dixit, the next Moily! The problem for the Congress is the larger picture. If it withdraws support, the BJP could form the government – a most unpalatable result. In the case of assembly dissolution, there is little hope of its returning to power in Delhi. It will either be a sympathy wave for Kejriwal, or a straight BJP victory. If the support is withdrawn right now, it will be possible for the EC to hold the assembly polls along with those to the Lok Sabha. This could lead to losing even the odd LS seat the Congress might still have hopes of getting in the state!
Kejriwal comes out a winner, either way, so he has no compunction in twisting the knife as much as he can. He probably has an inkling of the groundswell of support AAP politics has in many parts of the country. The effort is to use the time he has to push through a participatory agenda that empowers the common man. The strategy of ‘targeted’ AAP candidates against ‘corrupt’ politicians throughout the country could also prove dangerously effective if the right candidates are found.
The longer AAP politics remains centre-stage, the more contemporary will the political debate become. There will be no space in it for recalling dynastic glory, or raising issues distant from the common man’s existence. Not only will the voter have to be accorded respect – instead of being treated as the target of a five-year confidence trick – he will have to be given credit for intelligence. The succession of unshaven men, representing mediocrity aspiring for handouts, that exhort people to vote Congress in the recently unleashed advertising blitzkrieg, are doing exactly the opposite. India’s youth do not identify with losers, or the barely articulate central figure in the campaign. Certainly not when there is a living, breathing Kejriwal in their midst!