Arvind Kejriwal in Patna, Naked and Without Broom

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Born in 1968, Arvind Kejriwal must have been six year old when the Bihar student movement led by Jay Prakash Narayan in 1974 catapulted into an all India anti-corruption movement leading to the imposition of national Emergency on June the 25th, 1975. So, he must have learnt about the epoch-making events like the first 1967 Samyukta Vidhayak Dal (non-Congress coalition) governments in states or the great split of the Congress Party in 1969 or the 1974-77 movement either from the history books or the teachers or from members in his family.

At the age of 43, Arvind got national recognition as he became a leading partner in the India against Corruption (IAC) movement led by Anna Hazare. The Anna Movement had some ingredients of the JP’s Total Revolution. Arvind’s picture whispering into the ears of Anna Hazare sitting on fast was flashed around the world. However, Arvind broke away from the movement to form a political party in 2012, contested elections and became the Chief Minister of Delhi briefly in December 2013 and later in February 2015.

The Aam Admi Party that Arvind spearheaded, much to the disillusionment of many of his supporters and sympathizers, began on a number of promises: Setting up of the Lok Pal (an Ombudsman), unearthing of black money, reforms in the party and electoral system to revitalize our democracy etc.

In the beginning, the AAP also tried to imitate the Western model of having interns rather than young party recruits, had them do research on local problems and suggest remedies. It appeared for a while as if the party was the antithesis to the typical run of the mill Indian political parties having youth wings wherein party bosses planted their supporters with the condition they would supply all logistics (muscle, motors and money) to their patrons. In traditional parties, the young recruits were expected to fight factional feuds within the party, were identified as protégé of a particular party leader and were not supposed to have their own political clout. Their fortune was expected to rise or fall with their masters. The AAP under the leadership of a new leader on the horizon promised to give the decaying politics a new lease of life by changing the culture of politics.

Unfortunately, however, the party soon fell into the same rut. It preferred to adopt such short cuts as making false promises to the electorate: subsidized electricity, water, education, housing and many more. Reports of bad behavior started coming in. Some of the top party leaders objected to the questionable methods of raising election funds or recruiting unqualified cadre. Within a short span of time, the party became just another version of any mainstream party.

Organizationally, the party leadership got centralized in one leader who became so authoritarian that he started getting the leading founding members expelled from the party.

Leading luminaries of the party and believers in democratic principles like Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and Anand Kumar demanded that the Chief Minister must not be the Chief of the Party at the same time. Reforms and transparency in the political system promised were all forgotten. Rather than putting the new party on a firm footing and making it appear that this was different from other parties, Arvind Kejriwal became an autocrat. He encouraged his cronies to argue that there was no provision in the party’s constitution whereby the two authorities couldn’t be vested in one person. Ousted, many of Arvind’s colleagues formed another political platform, Swaraj Abhiyan. In power, all the reforms Arvind had promised got reduced to a bureaucratic logjam and a tug of war between him and the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.

Arvind Kejriwal - naked and exposed - having stripped himself of all his pretense went to Bihar last week without a broom. He had boasted of the AAP’s election symbol broom, a Jharoo, to be an instrument that he would be using for cleaning all that was bad with the Indian social, economic and political system. He was there in Patna to speak at a public function organized by the Chief Minister of Bihar. However, it wasn’t hidden from anyone that he was there campaigning for the Lalu-Nitish-Congress trio.

What a low depth in opportunistic politics carried forward by a political personality who belonged to the post-JP movement generation? A member of the upper middle class, educated, technologically savvy and with sufficient experience in public activism, Arvind Kejriwal betrayed the trust of the millions in the country. The younger generation had looked upon him as a role model.

It seemed power or popularity might have gone in his head. He should have realized his victory in Delhi was because of many factors: Voters of Delhi were dissatisfied with both the Congress and the BJP. Finding a third alternative, they voted for the AAP. On top of that, the anger of the BJP cadre at the nomination of Kiran Bedi as the Chief Ministerial candidate added to the AAP’s momentum. The BJP party leaders watched helplessly as their cadre reportedly poured their votes in favor of the AAP.

Now, Arvind’s decision to extend support to the Lalu-Nitish-Congress trio was reportedly taken without apparent approval of any appropriate party body, thus establishing the fact that his party also runs at the whim and fancy of the leader. Not very long ago, when the AAP was on the rise, Nitish had snubbed the party activists in Patna and insisted he would have his own version of the Lok Pal. Mrs. Parveen Amanullah, who gave up a ministerial position in the Nitish government to join the AAP along with others, was also shocked.

Arvind might be calculating that by jumping on to the bandwagon of Nitish, Lalu and the Congress, he would be able to browbeat the BJP in Delhi where the migrant workers from Bihar could be his permanent vote bank. Only the time will tell how the youth would react to Arvind’s political manipulation. He had once promised to maintain equidistance from all discredited parties.

As people of Bihar will move on, leaving Arvind behind as one more betrayer, the new generation will have to mobilize its strength to throw up leadership from within its own ranks that will change the face of Bihar -- not in promises, but in reality.


Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). He has authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India and Canada.

Dr. Prasad administers a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.

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