Arvind Kejrewal, the social activist turned politician who is acquiring the center stage of the political scene seems to be the voice of the nation. The way he has stormed into the limelight, making one allegation after the other, reminds of the days of the Thelka dot com, when its video exposes shocked the audience. He also reminds of the heydays of Dr Subramaniam Swamy, who too hogged limelight in a similar fashion.
The Delhi centric media that sets the agenda of the nation has a role to play in inflating the profile of Arvind Kejrewal. Just like some politician who have become over night milliners, Kejrewal too has become an overnight public figure, courtesy electronic media flashing his allegations with aplomb.
Kejrewal’s claim to fame is that he is a graduate from IIT, Khargpur. He cleared the UPSC examination and joined the Indian revenue service. His passion for social service woke up after twenty years when he became eligible for voluntary retirement. He left IRS and worked for Mission of Charities, the organization founded by Mother Teresa. He then took up the RTI issue and joined the NGO, ‘India against Corruption,’ besides running his own Parivarthan/Public Cause Research Foundation. However, his real claim to fame was when he became the core group member of Anna Hazare’s team.
It is still not clear, what prompted the split between Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejrewal, as none have clarified their positions. The answer to this question is on every one’s lips each time one sees Kejrewal on the TV. Some one has to ask him, why the Gandhian chose to disassociate him as the entire nation is keen to know the exact reasons of the famous breakup.
Whatever may be reasons, the fact remains that Arvind Kejrewal has emerged from the ashes of Anna Hazre’s anti corruption movement. Cashing upon the popularity of the Gandhi leader, Kejrewal leapfrogged to political centre stage and within no time became a larger than life size figure.
His growing stature has made some call him a Gandhian, others a revolutionary, and some a role model politician. But what exactly is Arvind Kejrewal?
The life of Gandhiji is known to every Indian. His journey from South Africa to the Champaran indigo movement, the salt stayagrah, and many other such causes are well documented. Gandhiji has set a high example of public service and none can match up to his stature. If anyone may like to be called a Gandhian, there is a huge grind that one has to go through to get that batch. Does Kejrewal deserve that?
Arvind Kejrewal, has just led one agitation, that is against the high electricity bills in Delhi. A job earlier Madanlal Kurna, used to do, to keep his Pakistani Punjabi refugees in good humor. With such pedigree can Kejrewal, be called a Gandhian. It would be very bitter pill to sallow if some one brackets him under that category. He is definitely not a Gandhian, by any chance.
Can Kejrewal, be called a revolutionary? Subhas Bose, Chandershekar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru, are some of the revolutionaries that we all are familiar with. These revolutionaries embraced death for the freedom of our motherland.
Can Kejrewal deserved to be bracketed under the category of such great men. The history of the revolutionaries suggests that, they have chosen gallows to life.
Can Kejrewal, declare that if his allegations are proved wrong, he will shoot himself before the TV cameras and invite the 24×7 news channel to cover it live. It would be stupid to think Kejrewal doing that, so to call him a revolutionary would really be insane.
Since Arvind Kejrewal has left the tag of social activist and likes to be called a politician, the question remains where is his political base? By making allegations against public figures, he claims to have become the leader of the masses but is his claims true.
Seventy percent population that resides in the villages does not even know his name. The urban middle class, that watches him on the TV, see him as entertainer or a politician is something that can be known only after the 2014 elections are over.
Even though media has made Kejrewal, a huge public figure, it’s too early to consider him a politician, and it certainly would be improper to call him a role model politician.
So how do we profile Arvind Kejrewal? The nearest analogy that one can think of is to compare Arvind Kejrewal with Janata Party leader Subraminam Swamy.
The Harvard educated economist and a lawyer, was doing similar activity in the nineties, what Kejrewal is doing at national level. Swamy too rode on the hunchback of the media and had a free run of publicity for long time. It was around 1999, that he went on to rattle the lawyer Ramjethmalani, another freak character on the Indian political scene. Swamy verses Jethmalani war of words was reported almost every day in the media, as Kejrewal vs others is being done now.
Jethmalani’s special comments for Subraminam Swmay still rings in the mind. He writes; “True, democracy must take in its stride even dangerous megalomaniacs like him, but equally the people must know what they are dealing with. This diseased insect cannot be disinfected. He has to be crushed and carefully incinerated. It is not enough to throw him into the gutter. That is his natural habitat. There he will grow and flourish.”
Is Arvind Kejrewal heading similar fate? One has to wait and watch as the drama unfolds. However, there some fundamental questions? Do we need people like Arvind Kejrewal to fix the ills of our democracy or does our democracy have the wherewithal for the systemic correction. If given a choice between Kejrewal and democracy, whom shall we choose? The election of 2014 will be crucial for their answers.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org