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Millennium Post

Mango people in a banana republic

Earlier this year, when the Gandhi son-in-law Robert Vadra named the Aam Aadmi Party as a bunch of ‘mango people in a banana republic’, little did he, or for that matter the political pundits and media observers, know that the top banana in the shock department would go on to become the youngest chief minister in the history of our national capital. Well, Arvind Kejriwal, the 45-year-old former mechanical engineer from IIT-Kharagpur and an ex-officer with Indian Revenue Service, has reconfigured the mechanics of Indian democratic politics, as it were, with its ‘participatory, activist, citizen-driven’ thrust. Not only did Kejriwal break the Delhi deadlock, as the hung assembly came to be known as in the uncertain interim period, he also managed to obtain a second verdict, as it were, with his seeking a referendum on whether or not the AAP, with 28 MLAs in its kitty, should form a government in the Capital, since that would mean being propped up by its sworn enemy and political opposition, the Congress. The former tax official turned anti-corruption crusader has, in a way, changed the game altogether, giving India’s politics of cult and hero worship a rude jolt that can be felt in the highest echelons of entrenched political dynasties. Kejriwal is not just the new chief minister of Delhi; he’s also the upstart, the electoral novice who challenged the Goliath in Sheila Dikshit and well, gave the thrice-victorious almost invincible matriarch the defeat of her lifetime. In fact, Kejriwal’s life chart is one that is peppered with slow and steady smaller battles aimed at crumbling the fortress of feudal politics that is practised at every step of operation, from party dispensations to governmental structures and rungs in the ladder of bureaucracy.

Truly, the mango people, the aam aadmi whom Kejriwal not just represents, but embodies, has wrested power from a thin layer of convent-educated Lutyens elite of the national capital. And Arvind Kejriwal, despite the split from Anna Hazare over his latter-day political career, forming and sweeping AAP to power, quibbling over manifestos and drafting (undoable?) promises, is nevertheless, the man, who is, in fact, the biggest threat to the corporate-friendly, governance-oriented, technocratic hardliner, Narendra Modi. Not only does Kejriwal and the meteoric rise of AAP form the feasible alternative to Modi’s narrative of no-nonsense strong government – it is also the more humane and approachable format of participatory democratic politics, which, the cult of Modi is almost trying to trample underfoot. The AAP’s symbol, the broom, represents not just self-cleansing, but also a kind of magical white witchcraft of intense transformation at the ground-level, an informed, bottom-up politics sustained by not an impenetrable bureaucracy, but, instead a transparent, connected and open system of governance that involves the civil society at every step. Kejriwal personifies not only the promise of the possible, the good in people’s politics, but also symbolises the real power that could be unleashed by the wheels of democracy, which can shape the collective from a nebulous mass of uninformed and uncertain political orientation and next-to-nothing participation, to a knowledge-driven instrument that can topple regimes and bring about a bloodless coup, as it were. In fact, in the larger context of world revolutions springboarded by the Arab Spring of 2011, the Kejriwal episode is also the India’s share in the pie of global civilian uprisings, where a clear demand of an end to the rotten edifice of political corruption was made, and perhaps the channel to take it to the next level found.
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