Deconstructing Kejriwal Part 2

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[Please read Part 1 first]

Sociologists have a name for it.

It’s called The Alok Nath syndrome.

In it someone creates an image which ends up being so over-the-top in its absoluteness that it becomes impossible for any human being to live up to it in reality. In Alok Nath’s case, that image as we all know is of the living embodiment of  Bharatiya Sanskriti.   If any minor deviation from the ideal is ever discovered,  like lingering hand a bit too much on the shoulder of a “Jagatjanani” not your “Bhagyawan” or missing an aarti for Aarti or wanting to do a Kanya-grahan more than a Kanya-daan, it will not be excused as merely “being human” like it would be for everyone else, but considered a cardinal sin, only because it runs against the grain of the very standards Alok Nath claims he sets for himself, and by extension, expects of the world.

Arvind Kejriwal suffers from the Alok Nath syndrome. He is obligated to maintain the halo of the stubbornly incorruptible and absolutely selfless and supremely reluctant politician. For that is his USP. Without that, he will lose the devoted and the donors and the voices that sing his hymns. Yet the more he stays in the public spotlight, the more he is seen to fall from his own lofty perch, while still remaining entirely unforgiving of infractions done by others.  The more that happens, the more he gets criticized by those that have not bought into his cult. And the more his bhakts scream “Why do you attack our krantikaari, you paid agents of [insert industrial house here] and Modi”?

Kejriwal says he will not join politics. He does. Kejriwal says he will not take support from Congress or any other party, even going on to say, that Congress and BJP should form the government because they are all corrupt and do opportunistic “settings”. Then he goes on to do exactly that with the Congress, of course not because he is opportunistic and wants power, but because people in an SMS poll told him to do so and he had to obey the mandate of the aam aadmi (even though, as per the popular mandate as expressed in the elections, he was heading the second most popular party, not the first)

He fulminates against the old style of politics but then does exactly that, promising arbitrary cuts in electricity rates without doing an audit first, effectively buying votes from the middle-class. He talks about ending the culture of entitlement for politicians, which seems like a promise to end privileges, but which ends up becoming “We will not carry red baatis”. He says he does not want a plush bunglow, and when allocated one says he didn’t ask for it before it is revealed he did ask for it. Kejriwal gets Z category security, which he says he gets despite his greatest of protests, like Menaka seducing Vishwamitra. The media is corrupt and paid, repeats the man, but then has no compunctions in drawing its senior leaders  from the ranks of the self-same media. The media must be like watchdogs on politicians and should not collude with them is his message, but then when it comes to himself, he goes “Krantikaari, Bahoot ki Krantikaari” telling an extremely eager-to-please media person how his interview should “come off as”, so as to not antagonize his “vote bank”. We all know that the way corrupt politicians keep bureaucrats in line is by transfering them and giving punishment postings (Ashok Khemka having been subject to a ridiculous forty-four times in his career) and I am sure Kejriwal would agree, except that he says that the reason he and his wife were never transferred out of Delhi was because they were, “honest and competent” officers. Again how that squares with what is known to be reality and with AAP’s own absolutist narrative of Delhi’s culture of dishonesty and turpitude is never really made clear.

Then we come to the AAP transparency system which I believe exists so that people know who it is that pays AAP’s bills. Kejriwal talks about keeping his donor list public for all, but when I look at the list, I do not understand how it enforces transparency. One see names that cannot be real names. And while one can argue that AAP is keeping full records of transactions through receipts, how does an independent “aam aadmi” (like me for instance) find out that the same person (say someone called Adnambani) has not donated 5 crores, with Rs 5000 every few hours, under different names or through different dummies? [For those who have seen Breaking Bad, you know exactly what I am talking about] What about AAP internally? Do they allow same bank account to continuously donate? Do they enforce a maximum donation that one bank account can pay? If they do, how do they enforce that? AAP may claim that if the government wants, they can trace the electronic transfers. But I thought their message was “transparency to the common people” and that the government is corrupted, populated as it is by evil men. What if the government does find any herapheri? What would AAP do then? Possibly will call it a conspiracy anyways.   Also, given that the AAP itself never tires of repeating how “big industrialists” have subverted the system, why should we suddenly consider that there are no benaami accounts and the trail of electronic transactions is beyond reproach, just because it suits the AAP’s narrative in this case?

Finally, while there may be arguments for the soundness of their system (and I haven’t seen any), what is the argument for the completeness i.e. what is the proof that AAP accepts donations only through those “white” channels and that no cash is being taken anywhere and no cheques are being made to the personal accounts of any of the AAP leaders and that no quid-pro-quo arrangements are entered into with AAP leaders?

This is not to say AAP is corrupt or that a proof for completeness can ever be given, but it just goes to show that their system offers no significant transparency over and above from what other parties provide.

Now here is the thing. It is perfectly fine to want to have a big bunglow or to have a nice sarkari vehicle or to have a posse that clears the hoi polloi from your path or to avoid the aam aadmi in a private jet provided by a sympathetic media house. That’s why people go into politics.  They want the power. They want the perks. If we allow managers their perks, and bankers their perks, why not politicians? After all we should not be like Manoj Kumar, to turn our noses up at evil doctors who ask for fees. What one expects from the political class is a certain standard of efficiency and a certain standard of honesty (in that they will not be looting the nation of millions of dollars) and a certain standard of fairness (in that they will not let their supporters run amok on those that are not their supporters), not that politicians should have to  embrace poverty and public transport and the general life of the common man . Doesn’t happen in most places of the world, will definitely not happen in India.

It is also perfectly fine once you embrace the game of thrones to wheel and deal and sleep with the devil .In democracies, realpolitik means that are no permanent enemies, alliances are formed opportunistically, backs have to be scrubbed, flip-flops are inevitable , media is manipulated, stunts designed for television have to be cynically synthesized for some “may I hebb your attention pliss”  and money is needed, often from people who don’t want their names known.  Among AAP’s many pivots, none perhaps been as egregious as its attempt to get close to the Congress, because realistically it’s only chance of getting to the Center is an alliance with the Congress. Hence, despite the bluster against Vadra, the Chief Minister’s candidate of AAP for Haryana was announced to be an ex-advisor to Rahul Gandhi (now with him being a Lok Sabha candidate from the area, I don’t know what’s the status of that) and despite the genesis of the party from a movement against corruption (it was called Indians Against Corruption, if I recall) Kejriwal now says that communalism is a bigger target than corruption, which is to be parsed very simply as “Our primary enemy is BJP”, while Congress is now officially a frenemy. 

 This kind of bait-and-switch and opportunism is all part and parcel of the political game and every party engages in it, and mature people should be able to accept that.

These things become problems only when you try to enforce the Alok Nath image for yourself. It’s then that you have painted yourself into a corner. On one hand, the ideal must be maintained to keep up the pretense of “revolution” and “super-honesty” and yet, for the sake of being in the game, sleazy realpolitik has to be continuously engaged in,that runs counter to this very ideal.

 This deliberate dissonance between what they say and what they do then has become the fundamental dishonesty behind Kejriwal’s politics. For those uninitiated into the cult of Kejri, I believes this dishonesty forms one of the biggest barriers in accepting his whole idea of honesty-based politics without a derisive smirk. 

And it needn’t be. If AAP could just accept it is another party and a not a movement or revolution , with none of the shows of Hangalian honesty and Manoj Kumarish patriotism and the “tucchya naganya” self-deprecation, and just promise good governance, decent policy and equal treatment of all citizens while pragmatically playing the game that everyone else plays without the “I am better than you”  song-and-dance, that honesty itself would make it a more compelling political choice, at least for me.

But alas they don’t. Because then they would lose the base of dittoheads.

One can say, and many do, that “yeh to sab theek hai” but the reason we love Kejriwal, is that unlike the other parties, he and his gang have not stolen crores of rupees or been responsible for communal riots or have pulled down religious structures. Given the nature of our politics, the bar is set pretty low for acceptance and even though Kejriwal has not exactly covered himself with glory,  his band of urbane and educated fellow travelers, are at least not the criminals and the history-sheeters and the shamelessly corrupt that the others field for years on end.

This seems like a fair point to make. In the next post, I shall take a closer look at it.

[Next: Deconstructing Kejriwal Part 3]

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29 thoughts on “Deconstructing Kejriwal Part 2

  1. Pingback: Deconstructing Kejriwal Part 2 | India Policy Watch

  2. Pingback: Deconstructing Kejriwal Part 1 | Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind

  3. Good posts on deconstructing Modi and now Kejriwal. Enjoying every bit of the analysis although it gives me a headache thinking about the whole situation. Kudos to you for thinking through the political scenario and laying it out for us.

    Sorry for wielding my Grammar Nazi baton but the post has a typo in “For those uninitiated into the cult of Kejri, I believes this dishonesty form one of the biggest barriers in…” It should be “For those uninitiated into the cult of Kejri, I believe this dishonesty forms one of the biggest barriers in…”.

  4. I am noticing that the Kejri cult in India is wilting and shrinking faster than the Aap zombies outside India. For some reason the NRI Aap zombies are still wearing their “Bahut hi krantikari” Che Guevara like attitude longer than their Indian counterparts.

  5. very balanced
    would like to mention, some of my overseas friend have donated thousands of dollars to AAP
    i wouldn’t mind AAP or kejriwal but Modi is too good
    i guess he would follow model of other little asian countries like Taiwan and encourage capitalism
    and other big problems like communalism, regionalism, casteism should resolve over the time as people become more aware and get busy in process of making money
    Internet will play a key part in spreading awareness
    Coming back to Kejriwal, he is losing credibility now
    People are skeptical about lot of claims he is making
    for e.g. farmers in Gujarat are in bad shape
    I m from Gujarat and I know for the fact that farmers are one of biggest beneficiaries of Modi era. Some of my relatives are farmers back home and they are now in better position than ever before.

  6. Kejri is needed for Dharna. Because when congress was looting the nation …BJP was busy resolving infighing issues. Had BJP gone on dharna then..we would not have need Kejri Now. Kejri has survived so far without having political background.

    My family has 6 voting members. 4 will vote for BJP and 2 for AAP. We want modi for PM but also need Kejri to make noise when Yeddyurappa and Gadkari gets out of modi’s control.

  7. You are over-analyzing Kejriwal. He is simply the kid who shouts ‘look, the emperor wears no clothes’. He exposed how the congress and BJP were locked in an unholy alliance. (The result – Modi rose, took over the leadership of BJP and broke the informal alliance) Whether it is price-rigging by discoms/reliance or corruption in media, Kejriwal is the guy who keeps breaking the conspiracy of silence and keeps pointing his finger at the elephant in the room.

    Every country that desires to progress to a higher level needs such a kid..a kid willing to call the bluff of those pretending there are no problems. Talking about the elephant in the room is the first step towards addressing the issues. As a result of Kejriwal, India is finally addressing issues that were covered under the carpet.

    Post 2014 elections, things won’t be the same for the new govt. The fear of a rabble-rousing Kejriwal exploiting every minor misdeed to expand his cult would keep the new PM on his toes. We are unlikely to witness the kind of misadventures (from Enron to Coal scam) that the past governments reveled in. India needs Kejriwal, if not as an administrator, at least as a disruptor of cozy alliances created by those in power to keep out those who are not.

  8. Nice post, Just echoes so many of my thoughts ( just way more eloquently ). I am tempted to go on rampage and try to make article go viral :-)

    As for your last paragraph, Credit should be given where it is due . But if you look closely at all of the AAP’s candidate even that myth will be busted

  9. You are over-analyzing Kejriwal. He is simply the kid who shouts ‘look, the emperor wears no clothes’.
    >>Unfortunately he himself doesn’t wear clothes and wants to be the emperor too.

    He exposed how the congress and BJP were locked in an unholy alliance. (The result – Modi rose, took over the leadership of BJP and broke the informal alliance)
    >>This hapenned way before Delhi elections. Jantar Mantar was Anna power all the way. Nobody knew tuccha aadmi then.

    Whether it is price-rigging by discoms/reliance or corruption in media, Kejriwal is the guy who keeps breaking the conspiracy of silence and keeps pointing his finger at the elephant in the room.
    >> He has done nothing different than the socialist governments we have had in the past. Hand out freebies. Target one party, then target the other while he himself is above all suspicion and any dirt in his house has an innocent explanation that we all need to patiently listen to and believe. Anything else and you are an agent of xx.

    Every country that desires to progress to a higher level needs such a kid..a kid willing to call the bluff of those pretending there are no problems. Talking about the elephant in the room is the first step towards addressing the issues. As a result of Kejriwal, India is finally addressing issues that were covered under the carpet.
    >>They were never covered under the carpet. Who unearthed the Coal scam, the CAG scam, Vadra’s dealings? – the media not Mr. Showman who acts as if the earth did not exist before his dropping by.

    Post 2014 elections, things won’t be the same for the new govt. The fear of a rabble-rousing Kejriwal exploiting every minor misdeed to expand his cult would keep the new PM on his toes. We are unlikely to witness the kind of misadventures (from Enron to Coal scam) that the past governments reveled in. India needs Kejriwal, if not as an administrator, at least as a disruptor of cozy alliances created by those in power to keep out those who are not.
    >> Another cozy fallacy. What did he do to Shiela Dikshit? Zilch. What did he do when the situation demanded patience and hard work and proving himself over the long term? Run away by doing some theatrics. What did he do when not in power and not given the mandate? Cite some BS excuse about SMS polling and elect himself leader.
    I will Sir, tell you what Mr. Showman a.k.a Salesperson is – he is the SRK of political advertisements (remember SRK smoothly moving on from Omega to Tag Heur and the trite interviews – I have always wanted a Tag Heur since childhood). He is a cynical person who does not see redemption for the nation and hence for himself. He is a sorry excuse for middle class and lower middle class hope. IF the Indian electorate has any common sense they will give this Congress ‘front’ the treatment it deserves on election day. 0 seats.

  10. Not exactly deconstructing, it seems you already have a vision for kejriwal and building a case for it.
    I expected more, I wanted you to say things I think :)
    Since I am here to type things I want to say irrespective of your thinking process, Let me do that. But honestly, I find my theory more consistent than yours (not too different, but not the same anyway)
    Think about this: Kejriwal is a politicians politician. He wants to play the same dirty politics with the politicians, similar reasoning, similar distractions etc which were used by politicians to fool the mango people. He is still the same guy who wants to do good things, but chose an extremely dark/rebellious path. You got to accept, this path is way cooler and kejriwal would be an inspiration to many if this is true (my idea is much cooler) :)
    I think AAP has not really thought through how to deal with their legacy image of people riding high horses. Other politicans were pretty clear on this, so they pushed them here. AAP was now pushed to brink, and they had to deal with their legacy of activism fast. They embraced it in a tight situation, and so started the dissonance. Ideally, we want the good guys, and we want the rebellious politicans politician as well. Both did not gel together. One more guy could have been the advani to vajpayee of kejriwal, but times up.

    I hope they will find their advani soon.

  11. “I will Sir, tell you what Mr. Showman a.k.a Salesperson is – he is the SRK of political advertisements (remember SRK smoothly moving on from Omega to Tag Heur and the trite interviews – I have always wanted a Tag Heur since childhood). He is a cynical person who does not see redemption for the nation and hence for himself. He is a sorry excuse for middle class and lower middle class hope.”

    Not SRK, he is Arnab Goswami of Indian politics. Loud, obnoxious, self-righteous, frequently wrong, unwilling to listen to any other opinion except his own, extremely judgemental..and as a result of all these qualities, generates high TRPs.

  12. ” … just promise good governance, decent policy and equal treatment of all citizens”

    Too late for the above, with the resignation after 49 days after treating the constitution as if it were a petty inconvenience, there went good governance.
    The lights went out for decent policy, after the shenanigans with the electricity rates and the announcement that electricity bills need not be paid in a certain period.
    As for equal treatment of all citizens, the raid on the Ugandans, even though they weren’t citizens, pretty much showed where that was heading.

    The only achievement I give them solid credit for is the way they campaigned and came into power. Pretty much turned the old calculus of caste, community, money and muscle power on its head. Unfortunately, the lack of understanding what rule of law is very much a part of them as the Indian Aam Aadmi.

  13. Yes, Kejriwal now finds himself in a corner because he cannot govern based on his activist/revolutionary ideas. But without these ideas, there would not have been this phenomenal, quick rise to power. He would have been a nobody and this post would not be necessary. A fine catch 22 situation, this! A text book case of creating expectations that you cannot match; in fact no one can match these expectations as @greatbong has pointed out. So, Kejriwal as a successful ruler does not seem possible.

    He would be great as a permanent opposition leader, but he would not find that permanency exciting. :-) Also, the funds and the excitement would stop flowing in a while, leading to a slow death. The greatest downside of this drama is that, after being disillusioned by a hope misplaced, the Indian middle class will find it difficult to trust others who promise change. I fear that it will be back to the old ways of politics, soon :-(

  14. Back in December, when the Delhi Assembly elections were in the news, many young friends of mine used to go into bouts of orgasmic euphoria at the prospect of AAP forming a government in Delhi state. To them AAP and its bunch of ‘holier than thou’ “non-leaders” were going to bring El-Dorado in the bylanes of old Hastinapur.
    When I would mention the fact, that I have been following the activities of many of these “non-leaders” since 2002-2003, and that these “non-leaders” were nothing but a heady mix of fanatical anti-nationals, anarchists, ultra-Marxists, and wannabe politicians; these young friends would lose their temper and question my understanding of sub-continental politics to no end. Some were so naive as to even believe that AAP was out to fight all the bad that Congress has heaped upon India in the last 6 decades, and would constantly remind me of the slogan “Vidhan sabha mein Kejriwal, Lok Sabha mein Modi”.
    When pointed out, that AAP was nothing but a vehicle for Congress to divide the anti-incumbency vote from shifting en-masse to BJP, they would just not believe it. All they would say is “don’t worry, Arvind sir will help Narendra Modi clean up politics”, ie after their Arvind sir has cleaned up Delhi state politics.
    Now just 3 months later, I hope they are following the news as eagerly as before and are analyzing the gradual and steady transformation of Kejriwal and AAP from being the “paradigm shifting revolutionaries” that sent them into euphoria, to Congress’ B team whose sole goal is to stop NDA from reaching 272 seats.
    Feel vindicated in a sad way, while I sit back enjoy the spectacle.

  15. GB, you do a great job of setting the context. For example, I distinctly remember your ‘The Flotilla Incident’ post, simply because it wasn’t as much about the incident as it was about the context.

    But in trying to do that – striving to build a storyline that makes sense to you, in assigning motives, in confining participants to rigid plot lines created in retrospect – it is possible that you may perhaps be getting a bit carried away. I say that because you started off with ‘Say you are one of the urbania that wants to become a … Prime Minister.’ For completeness, you also need to consider and plod along the alternative hypothesis that Kejriwal did not start off with those ambitions. What if he is merely human, facing uncertainties and fear, just like you and I, but on a much bigger scale. What if he started off with the sincerest of intentions and now, the game is getting more complicated for him to handle; as it probably would for anyone in his place. What would his “royale with cheese” kind of discussions be along this journey ? Or would there have been a situation where, AK, sitting on a bridge, says, “sach mein kood jaayenge” and YY in Saif Ali Khan style, retorts, “oye, to maine gotiya pakad rakkhi hain kya teri …” ? Now, that would be something worth ‘deconstructing’ wouldn’t it ?

  16. Wow! Completely agree with the analysis.He makes many valid points, but I wish he would just drop the pretense and admit that they are just another political party.

    It is very likely that Kejriwal’s attempt at creating, and trying to live up to a certain fantastical image, will be his undoing. In fact, this can be a problem for Modi also. I, for one believe, Modi has the capacity to deliver. But his image is now of a leader who can change the fortunes of the country – and that could be his undoing.

  17. What if Congress high command has evidence from Kejriwal’s IRS days that could be put to use after he has served the purpose of stopping Modi, but before he becomes too big to challenge Congress?

    For example such evidence could be a very small corruption or incompetence or oversight during his/ his wife’s tenure in Delhi IT. Even a small doubt could be enough to dent Kejri’s holy-than-thou image that he has created for himself.

    May be his misgivings might have been in connivance with Congress, which could be the reason he and his wife got to be in Delhi for so long.

    I am suspicious because so far nothing +ve/ -ve has come out of Kejri’s Income Tax days. He could be honest, but Delhi IT and all clean ?? – c’mon are you f’in kidding me !

    I may be overestimating here, but if Congress has been able to pull out such a neat trick they deserve a standing ovation!!

  18. GB:”Finally, while there may be arguments for the soundness of their system (and I haven’t seen any), what is the argument for the completeness i.e. what is the proof that AAP accepts donations only through those “white” channels and that no cash is being taken anywhere and no cheques are being made to the personal accounts of any of the AAP leaders and that no quid-pro-quo arrangements are entered into with AAP leaders?

    This is not to say AAP is corrupt or that a proof for completeness can ever be given, but it just goes to show that their system offers no significant transparency over and above from what other parties provide.”

    What do you propose as a standard of transparency then?
    Agreed that as Aloknath aka Raja Harishchandra, the aap should be subjected to different standards but I can not imagine one unless Ram is asking Sita to go over Agnipariksha.
    So what is the Agnipariksha?

    I am sure as a prof you are subjected to such problems before..
    If there is no way to prove one way over the other, where should be the earliest effort spent? In the proof or the way to decide that proof first?

    Could you clarify?
    Thank you,
    -Apurbo

    • I should clarify “if there is no obvious/apparent way” instead of “there is no way”..
      Hope you won’t pick on me on that..
      Thanks

  19. Truly Kejriwal is the only politician in india who is his own biggest enemy. If he would just stop contradicting himself every 2 days and not try to bend his policies to populist will, he might have a chance.

  20. Good article Arnab ! The analysis of Kejriwal and AAP is astute and rational . Its very true – if they do away with their holier than thou image and just function as a normal party , without their hypocritical pretences, they would lose their mojo amongst their blind followers.And if they keep up this Alok Nathish halo image , then sooner or later the bluff’s going to be called ! Such is the level of the Catch 22 situation that has now engulfed them, that they are themselves submerged in an ocean of uncertainty. Am not sure which is the lesser devil then- UPA, BJP or AAP! ,

  21. Pingback: Deconstructing Kejriwal Part 3 | Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind

  22. I find this Autorewind Kejriwal just obnoxious. Not because of how he conducts his politics or how he always has questions but no answers, but because I just cannot see any evidence that he actually believes his harangues. Now either he does believe his meadow muffins in which case he is too stupid to be given a listen, or he does not, in which case he is too hypocritical to be given a listen either. The savvy politician– whether a Bill Clinton or a Tony Blair, may well practice such hypocrisy, but is artfully unctuous, whereas our precocious boy prince manages to be hypocritical and grating at the same time.

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