Millennium Post

Kejriwal’s 15 minutes of fame

Arvind Kejriwal is the man of the moment. His party’s success in the Delhi assembly election has catapulted him, at least to some sections of media and analysts in Delhi, to the same level as Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. Delhi-centric as the policies of Congress are Rahul Gandhi has even promised to emulate what the fledgling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) did in the election. Meanwhile so overwhelming is the support for Kejriwal is that any attempt to bring his success back from the dizzy highs will attract strictures. Kejriwal is enjoying what Andy Warhol called 15 minutes of fame.

Without grudging his 15 minutes under the arc light if one attempts to look beyond, the AAP success does not look that formidable. The municipality-sized state of Delhi is driven by hype. More so with substantial migrant workers and young people the hype works here better than any other state. The homogeneity of a large section of population of Delhi offers a fertile ground for political parties. In fact the shift in the character of the population was seen from the 1998 state assembly election onwards. BJP, for instance, lost out since its major support base of traders and persons displaced from Pakistan turned minority due to deluge of migrants settling in Delhi from many other parts of the country. The election results of three state assembly elections since 1998 illustrate this phenomenon.

With Kejriwal breaking into the scene the equation changed. For the last nearly three years Kejriwal could create a position for himself. First the Jan Lokpal movement and then taking up the cudgels against large corporations like DLF, Reliance and also persons like Robert Vadera he managed to prepare his pitch. In his efforts Kejriwal had the support of media till one of the large corporate houses served notices on media against carrying such news items. But by then Kejriwal had arrived.
The other clever move of Kejriwal and his friends was to take up issues, which his target support base had been looking for. Water charges, electricity cost, resettlement of colonies had all been critical issues for the migrant workers who outnumbered white-collar migrants in several constituencies. Reconnecting illegal electricity lines won him many admirers. Delhi is a place where lawlessness is not much frowned upon.

While touching the daily lives of people through such activities Kejriwal did not lose any opportunity to take up issues hapless migrants suffer. Rape cases, child molestations which police attempt to suppress came to the fore due to team Kejriwal’s efforts. The ordinary daily income earners received a new helpline in Kejriwal and his political party. While the groundwork was well laid out, from the launch onwards AAP kept on arranging campaign meetings. The banner on the auto-rickshaws was an innovative idea. Even before the elections were announced Kejriwal and his AAP were ready to challenge Congress and BJP. Media that has been extoling him today did not care much of the intelligent campaign and successful delivery of key messages then.

But like all good things even the 15 minutes of fame for Kejriwal looks wobbling. If AAP goes by the media assessment of spreading itself thin to other cities of the country it will deviate from its carefully planned campaign strategy in Delhi that brought it success. Issues in other cities are not similar to Delhi’s. Migrants to cities like Kolkata, Bangalore or Hyderabad are not exactly daily wage earners coming from far away corners of Bengal, Bihar or Bangladesh. Barring Mumbai there is little similarity with Delhi. Also, there are strong state governments controlling all these cities. Mamata Banerjee, for example, is no Sheila Dikshit. Mamata knows street politics better than former bureaucrat turned activist Arvind Kejriwal or lawyer Prashant Bhushan. Same is with Jayalalitha. Shiv Sena is active in Mumbai. None of these cities offer space to AAP on a platter.

The thought that AAP may emerge as the third force in 2014 general election is a wishful one. Media may write off the likes of Nitish Kumar, Lalu Yadav, Mayawati but on ground all of them have nurtured their support base.

Coming back to using its electoral success AAP is caught in a catch22 situation. It has won support from Congress to form the government. To buy time Kejriwal has placed his 18-point demands before Congress and surprisingly before BJP which did not offer him support. Here Kejriwal is deviating from the rules of coalition governments. He may at the most negotiate and arrive at a common minimum programme before forming the government. Instead of asking for support on all the issues is preposterous. This gives the impression that Kejriwal is running away from responsibility.

The other ridiculous stand of Kejriwal is on Jan Lokpal bill, about to be passed by the House. He cannot claim to have deeper understanding of the administrative system than the combined wisdom of the select committee of Rajya Sabha. Secondly one may not have everything one desires in the first go. Once the Lokpal is enacted subsequent governments with their fresh wisdom might amend the same and fine-tune the Act. This is the way all democracies work. Kejriwal is not the one from Mars or some other solar system that he can impose his whims on all.

The recent behaviour of Kejriwal leads to either or both of two conclusions. He must be naïve and too arrogant not to work in the system as per the constitutional provisions and practices arising out of the 60 long years of Indian democracy. Or he is scared since he knows well that the election promises of AAP cannot be implemented and he will be discredited. Hence he has been hiding behind the fig leaf of full majority. By seeking a repoll in Delhi Kejriwal is trying to postpone his predicament.

The author is a communication consultant
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