In defense of Kejriwal

Arun Shourie had written a book in 1983 – Mrs. Gandhi’s Second Reign. The first paragraph of the book is extracted here:

In May 1979, it turns out, Air Marshal J. Zaheer, Director General Civil Aviation, wrote to the Secretary, Civil Aviation, and informed him that Sanjay was violating air safety regulations, that this put his life as well as the lives of others in danger and that, as it was difficult to issue written orders in his case, would the Secretary please request the Minister for Civil Aviation to take the matter up with Mrs. Gandhi? The Secretary seems to have talked to the Minister. He, like everyone else, was then busy with the assembly elections and did not get around to talking to Mrs. Gandhi for a while. When the file was ultimately shown to Sanjay, he reacted characteristically. Within hours Air Marshal J. Zaheer was asked to proceed on leave. G.R. Katpalia, Deputy Director General, Civil Aviation, who used to be dutifully in attendance on several of Sanjay’s flights, was asked to take charge.

The above paragraph shows a nature that’s inherent in certain type of people. Again to use Shourie’s own words – “Conventional leaders who grew up in the system took its obstacles to be real. He saw them as mere cobwebs that could be brushed aside. But not all limits as mere obstacles. Brakes enable one to drive a car faster. Thus what gives him strength – the gall to disregard limits – what enabled him to rise so swiftly, also led him to destroy and mutilate much that is valuable.”  Every single word said above is equally true of Arvind Kejriwal. There have been a few articles recently comparing Modi to an autocratic Indira Gandhi. The more I read contemporary articles about Indira Gandhi & Sanjay Gandhi, the more I am convinced Sonia is a modern day Indira, not the Durga that we remember post 1971 but what Shourie calls “The Papier-mache Durga” in the 1980’s. But more about that later. First, the similarity between Sanjay Gandhi and Kejriwal.

Shourie goes on to reason that two factors affect the effectiveness of – to borrow a popular phrase – Krantikari.  First, people are frustrated not by the problem but by the “complex of arrangements and attitudes which had arranged the problem to grow so large.” The solution cannot be by wishing away the problem by waving a wand but is in unlearning the negatives learned in the past through a struggle to change. What took us centuries to learn would take at least decades to unlearn. Second, people are convinced that they are powerless, and this feeling of helplessness debilitates people most. This can be changed only by allowing people to change – rulers, institutions and this repeatedly.

But this is a slow process. We are used to reading history of 1000 years in few pages in our school history text book. But as we grow up, we expect change – no, make that Krantikari – to happen within few days or even hours. Raj Mohan Gandhi recently made a comparison – the storming of BJP head quarters by AAP worker’s with Chauri Chaura. My initial reaction was that Chauri Chaura was an aberration – a violent incident in an essentially Non-Violent movement – that set freedom movement back by a few years. But few days later I realize that the comparison is relevant even if Freudian. Again to quote Shourie on Sanjay:

Soon after the victory (U.P. State Assembly)  of which Sanjay was rightly hailed as the architect, the new MLAs in U.P. solved their accommodation worries in the most predictable manner possible; they stormed into the MLAs’ hostel and just broke open the locks with shots from their revolvers.

They are the young men in our tomorrows, the lumpen of all classes…

The action of these newly elected MLAs of U.P. in 1980’s are not much different from what AAP  MLAs did (Rakhi Birla, Somnath Bharati with the Judiciary) or what Ashutosh Gupta did when he stormed the Bastile, OK, not Bastile but the BJP office. This as Rajmohan Gandhi rightly observed was their Chauri Chaura moment. Not the Champaran, Kheda, Bardoli or even the Long March.

As Shourie says “Sanjay Gandhi did not create them. He became their focus. Even without a single, exclusive focus, they shall count. For they are everywhere. Ever seen Raj Narain’s volunteers? Or the Shiv Sena’s or the DMK’s?” The same words hold true in the context of Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party workers. Kejriwal did not create them. They existed in their rebellious state even without him. He became their focus because he was there at the right time mouthing the right words. A more sinister leader would have brought the system to a complete stand still – like the Arab Spring or the Tienanmen Square. A less Krantikari leader would not have survived as the focus and would have been replaced by someone more *Kejriwal* than Kejriwal himself.

While the word “Lumpen elements” might look highly judgmental what has to be acknowledged is that a law abiding, prim and proper citizen is not going to come on the roads and shout slogans. It is the more volatile, reactionaries among the people who will step into the streets and throw stones, real orimaginary  at the Government. To lead this group, a Kejriwal has to be a Krantikari.

The Media also has a major role to play in this situation. They have given so much mileage to AAP and has blown up the expectation of the people without any sense of applying breaks to these expectations. A break is not to just stop a vehicle, to bring it to a stand still but the main purpose of brakes is to steer a vehicle at comfortable speeds so that the vehicle reaches its destination safe and sound. Media has abdicated its duty to be a *Brake* but has been guilty of adding high octane fuel to the fire burning in people disillusioned by the system.


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