Is Arvind Kejriwal's honeymoon period getting over? After the three mega exposes (the last one more of a damp squib though), the barrel of the gun has somehow got turned towards the India Against Corruption (IAC) itself as corruption charges were levelled against Prashant Bhushan, Anjali Damania and Mayank Gandhi, three of its members. Kejriwal immediately declared that they will be probed by eminent judges and if found guilty, will be asked to resign from the IAC so that the latter maintains its 'clean image' in the public mind.
Will this see the beginning of the end of Kejriwal? Under all probability, yes. Here is a man who tried to presume politics to be a one-dimensional game and vigorously attacked the system in a Quixotic fashion. It was quite surprising that Kejriwal, despite known to be a meritorious person, assumed things to be too simple and 'externalised' the problem of corruption.
He went on broadening his circle of play against corruption (again a term much easier to utter than actually understanding it), but the game gradually went out of his control and it will be difficult to say how long will this crusade actually survive. Kejriwal certainly proved that he could do a Sehwag by creating a frenzy on the field but never had it in him to go the way of a more perseverant Tendulkar by building the blocks.
Kejriwal's drawbacks will do him in
Kejriwal's biggest mistake was that he formally announced to enter politics and set up a political party. Wearing caps saying 'Mein hoon aam admi' before waging a battle against corruption is too much of a hollow symbolism. It somehow projects that IAC seeks more publicity than actual remedy to the problem of corruption. The IAC would have done better had it remained a pressure group, which it actually is, instead of entering a more complex power politics.
The second mistake was that soon after announcing a formal entry into politics, Kejriwal and his team started targetting individuals across the political spectrum. He chased politicians and non-politicians as well as the ruling and opposition parties. It was a conducive strategy for a political party, which is yet to be named, to make a special debut by attacking powerful and well-placed individuals in the society. The political class was taken aback at one point of time, something which was undoubtedly a rare success of Kejriwal, but yet they could breath easy for this man was immature enough to kill his own growth prospects.
This brings us to his third drawback. The IAC looked to be in a hurry which again proves that despite calling himself a politician, Arvind Kejriwal has not learnt the basic lesson of politics, i.e., to have patience. Kejriwal's statement 'all political parties are same' will undoubtedly find many sympathisers but at the same time, this is not the language of a smart politician.
The Congress leaders' poor communication skills gave Kejriwal and the crusaders an advantage but it was squandered once the latter decided to open war on another front by attacking the BJP. That was not necessary at this point but it looked Kejriwal was in a hurry to show that he is committed to a sense of justice. Not a politically smart thinking, I must say.
The claims and counter-claims on who is whose B-team just complicated the plot and the current chaos are bound to divert Kejriwals' focus from the core issue of corruption, if it is at all. The allegations brought by former IPS officer YP Singh and then the declaration to call for an internal Lokpal will not only push the movement off track, but can also hamper its credibility. A section of the media and intellectual minds have already begun to ask the justification of a self-employed Lokpal by the IAC. It looks self-contradictory for the IAC had accused the government of adopting the same strategy to probe its own people.
The moment Kejriwal and his men begin to lose faith of the media, the movement against corruption will find support to survive. The movement has mainly banked on the two Ms, namely, the media and the middle-class with the former 'M' acting as a bridge between Kejriwal and the latter 'M'.
Just reading out documents in high-profile press conferences hoping that the media and the teeming middle-class will punish the guilty soon looks a juvenile strategy. Kejriwal has only showed an anarchist trend by repeatedly making such a move. If he is not confident about the country's institutions, then there is no point in exposing the 'big guns' for he can not convict and punish them in private courts. And if there is really no end to the story, then why write it? Over-dependence on the media is the fourth drawback of IAC's movement.
If it really wants to deliver, it has to go to the grassroots. Neither primetime revolutions every evening nor deluge of sympathy on Facebook and Twitter can curb corruption. But then again, Kejriwals are the darling rebels of the middle-class and for this class, 'superficiality' is a popular term.
Defining Jantar Mantar as India's Tahrir Square is a pathetic oversimplification of the issues in hand. The corrupt political class in India is not an undemocratic and homogenous entity, which can be thrown out as a whole. Hence, the war against corruption is a much difficult mission in a free and democratic country.
The only remedy lies in grassroots and institutional reforms
How do we challenge our own elected representatives who have a legitimate basis and yet take advantage of a highly heterogenous, fragmented and weak state system?
Even if we find all corrupt political leaders proved guilty and sent to the jail, what's next? Will Kejriwal then declare himself the new 'king of India', something on the lines of a feudal African state and appoint his own 'clean people' to run the country? Such a situation will be dreadful, even in myth. There can be no way apart from initiating institutional reforms at every level --- lower, middle and top, if we want to overhaul the system. And that demands an effort much more difficult than giving sound-bytes.
Anna Hazare had started his movement with an aim for institutional reform, which still made sense despite other weaknesses. But the way Kejriwal has transformed the ideas into a 'target individuals' movement clearly shows that politics and meritocracy do not necessarily compliment each other.
Mahatma Gandhi did not have a media to back him up and nor did he have a conducive democratic ambiance to wage his battle but still he had rocked all for his method was right. He had evolved as a politician from below and mobilised the masses throughout his life to ensure that each of his political experience succeeds on the ground.
Hazare, as a Gandhian, also followed that strategy till when he agitated for Jan Lokpal. He aims to kickstart his movement by touring the country from Jan 2013 to canvass mass support.
Kejriwal, on the other hand, chose to confine himself in the elite circles even while uttering that he is committed to the aam admi. Robert Vadra might be a prized catch for Kejriwal but it was only a Sehwag-like impact. But to have a Tendulkar-like legacy, sky is the limit for Kejriwal and his IAC.