Millennium Post

Kejriwal, the lonely Batman

It isn’t only theatrics – staging dharnas, proposing an assembly session in the Ramlila grounds – which characterise Arvind Kejriwal’s politics. Another, even more significant aspect is a simple, yet highly effective mode of propaganda. It is to identify a group of ‘villains’ in the ruling fraternity and tar them with a black brush with no concern for the veracity of the charges.

The Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) latest targets are the Congress, the BJP and Mukesh Ambani. The last is a new addition. He wasn’t there earlier although, if Kejriwal is to be believed, the industrialist is an old sinner. But, emboldened by the belief that his latest gambit – resignation as the Delhi chief minister – has strengthened his political position, Kejriwal has now decided to include more alleged culprits into the circle of infamy drawn by him. Hence, his naming of the DMK, the AIADMK and others in a television interview.

This ploy of posing as the deliverer from all forms of evil is not new in politics. The Nazis made great headway for a time by branding Jews as crooks and the Russian communists had similar success in the early stages of their 70-year reign in the former Soviet Union by pitting themselves against the despicable bourgeoisie.

Kejriwal, therefore, is not the first to bank on the gullibility of the aam aadmi by claiming that all will be well if only a certain group of felons and charlatans are removed. His advantage is that his accusations ring true because his opponents in the political field today have lost much of their credibility because of their distance from the common people via the so-called lal batti culture and their perceived dishonesty.

Amitabh Bachchan’s description of politics as a cesspool during his brief foray into the field is generally accepted as the truth. Kejriwal’s USP (unique selling point) is that he is seen to be serious about cleansing the system. What helps him to reach out to a wide audience is his single-minded focus on corruption, his uncluttered vocabulary and the successful projection of an honest demeanour by adopting a self-deprecatory stance.

Even if sections of the middle class and the media have begun to suspect that Kejriwal may well be a con artist with the attributes of a canny politician and remarkable acting talent, he still remains something of a messiah for the subalterns. It is just possible that his fear that he may be exposed as a pretender which made him quit in a hurry, for he was obviously looking to create a situation where his continuance in office will become untenable.

The confrontationist tactics – calling the Lt. Governor a Congress agent, trying to push through a bill whose constitutionality was in doubt, the decision to hold an open-air assembly session despite the fiasco of the janata durbar – all pointed to a game plan aimed to opening up an exit route.

For the present, his tricks have succeeded. The taxi driver, the vegetable seller and others who have to keep the police happy have been impressed by his assertion to lay down his life while fighting corruption and the willingness to face legal proceedings over the Ambani affair – ‘I can even go to jail for the country’ – equating imprisonment for the offence of defamation with incarceration for the love of country. But, Kejriwal’s troubles may be just beginning – and they do not only relate to his holding on to the apartment in Lutyens Delhi even after relinquishing office. As his purported list of adversaries shows, he has seemingly taken on more enemies than he can handle. These include virtually the entire political class and also the business establishment.

Having chewed more than he can swallow, he is entering the political field for the general election with not a single ally. This is a unique situation, for it is customary in Indian politics to form alliances.
Even parties which are dominant in their own states, like the Trinamool Congress or Biju Janata Dal, look for friends when they step outside. Hence, the urge for setting up a non-Congress, non-BJP Third Front. From present indications, however, the AAP is likely to fight all alone not only in Delhi, but also at the national level. But, it has no alternative, for its holier-than-thou attitude precludes the possibility of a tie-up with another party lest such an arrangement should suggest that the AAP’s new friend, too, is holier than the rest.

This snooty self-righteousness can work in a dictatorship, as in China, or in a racially and religiously homogeneous country like Switzerland, whose popular referendums are a model for the AAP even if they rule out the construction of mosques or the entry of  immigrants.

But, it can hardly work in a large and diverse country, which has ‘islands of California in a sea of sub-Saharan Africa’, according to economists Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze. Any party, no matter how moralistic, will have to work in tandem with others to implement social and economic remedies and not imitate the lonely Batman fighting evil in Gotham.

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