Deconstructing Kejriwal Part 4

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[Image courtesy Hindu]

[Previous part of the series–Part 3]

One of the principal, if not the principal scourge of the Indian political system is the cynical use of targeted intimidation as a populist political weapon. Deep divisions run without our country with persistent narratives of fear,  historical notions of “hurt”, and generational denial of opportunities. Political parties have realized that the lowest hanging fruit is pandering to this, through violence or the threat of violence. The message is simple. While your elected representatives may not be able to provide basic amenities, they can surely facilitate “revenge” and “maintenance of morality” and “self-confidence” , where the latter is invariably defined by the subjugation of some other group.

There is also an implicit assurance given to the rank and the file , “engage in violence that is aligned with our party’s identification of enemies and we will ensure you do not pay for the legal consequences”. This is why even moderately important perpetrators, identified with the party, are never punished, sometimes not even one (as in 1984), because justice meted out would be seen to be a betrayal of the compact between high-command and cadre. Thus you have the riots of Gujarat, Delhi, J&K, Assam, the anti-“foreigner” agitations in Mumbai and Assam, the politically-directed intimidation of the Communists in Bengal (now they call themselves Trinamool), where the only thing that changes across states and political parties is the scale, never the principle, nor the non-delivery of justice.

One would have thought that if there was any true revolution that AAP and Kejriwal would bring to this country, it would be its ability to move beyond this old way of politics. Arguably it’s a low bar for achievement, but even being able to accomplish that would be quite significant, given the Indian political context.

So how did Kejriwal fare on that count?

Now one can say that in his brief period of office, there were no communal riots in Delhi. How creditable is that? Not much, because in a way, we have moved beyond the days of classical communal riots in urban areas, simply because the proliferation of cell-phone-cameras and news channels makes it impossible for politicians to move with impunity through the streets of a Delhi or an Ahmedabad, carrying weapons and words of hate, without the images being flashed across the nation. In other words, real-time information has killed the communal riot in major cities. But it still has not in other parts of the country, as attested to by the Muzaffarnagar riots, where the media focus is less severe.

I digress.

So coming back to AAP and their Delhi government, let’s repeat. There were no communal riots in those 49 days. That indeed is true. And AAP does not play on the religious divide. That also is true.

However the rhetoric of AAP has never been temperate. When it comes to vaguely-identified “class-enemies” like “politicians” and “bike hue mediawaalon” the vitriol has been as trenchant and as abusive (Yes Mr. Roadies I am looking at you) and as threatening (send all who promoted Modi in media to jail) as the worst of the others. Much of AAP is fuelled by  anger, as this ad brings out.

Every political party claims that their anger is righteous and AAP does so, but it’s still there. The anger.

Why is that a problem?

Read on.

Mr. Somnath Bharti is an extremely popular leader of the AAP and can be found in many pictures, standing right next to Arvind Kejriwal. He was the Law Minister in the Kejriwal government and his actions at Khirki extension, and this I personally know from my FB Wall, are soundly defended by supporters of AAP.

The logic of the defense  is instructive, in that it provides an insight into why Mr. Bharti did what he did and how it taps into this sense of anger.

Let’s repeat the chorus. “African men fight on the roads.” “African men sell drugs”, “African women are selling sex”, which if you look at some of the interviews of Khirki residents comes down to “African women have strange men coming into their apartments at odd hours of the night”, where the assumption is that independent women having multiple partners necessarily implies that they are engaged in prostitution and even if they are not, consensual sexual behavior immediately demands action from the authorities. As supporting evidence of their anti-cultural activities, we are shown traces of fluids in cars, which if I am not wrong, is proof that someone had sex in a parked vehicle, which again if I am not wrong, seems to be an issue important enough to require intervention by the state. There were whispers of a sex “racket” (“Eyes Wide Shut”-type I am guessing) with Chief Minister Kejriwal going on record blaming sex and drug rackets for rape, which is of course patently untrue but something that his core-constituents, angry men, would shake their heads in agreement to, because, as we all know, nothing is more threatening to the fabric of civilization than other people enjoying sex whereas you can’t.

But for now, let’s assume all of the accusations are true. That they are drug-traders. That they are prostitutes. That the police know all of this but are bribed to keep quiet. That controlling drug and sex rackets would reduce rape. If these indeed were true, why did AAP government conduct no raids at GB road, where prostitution activities in Delhi are considered to be historically centered? Surely if the Chief Minister believes in what he said, should he not have his acolytes start with a cleanup from the biggest source of stench? If the aim was to bust drug rackets or control violent African men, why did the honorable minister go to the house of a woman who would at best be an user? Not to mention the fact that a forcefully done drug-test, where police enter a house without probable cause based on the pressure of a mob and a minister, is perhaps as severe a curtailment of civil liberties as one can possibly imagine and would be riddled with holes by any defense attorney, should the intent was prosecution.

The answer is simple. This wasn’t not about busting a drug racket or a sex racket or to clean up Delhi or to prevent rapes. It was to satisfy the  “aam aadmi” that had voted for AAP, to pander to their prejudices, to satisfy their “kya aap gusse mein hai” souls and show “them” (these nefarious “others”) who is the boss. And guess what?

It worked. [Link]

Following last week’s midnight raid led by Delhi’s Law Minister Somnath Bharti at the homes of African nationals accused of drug and sex trafficking at Khirki Extension, the Africans, mainly women, have begun moving out.

Most of the 300 African nationals living in the south Delhi neighbourhood find themselves vulnerable since the raid and have been keeping a low profile, even avoiding the press. Almost 100 of them have left the area so far.

It worked for the AAP.

The Khirki residents love Bharti and AAP. They don’t care that the woman was innocent or that the whole thing was illegal or that  or that Bharti, the Law Minister no less, incessantly shows the law his middle-finger (he did not appear in front of  Delhi’s Woman’s Commision and instead went to a kite-flying ceremony)

On the contrary, that the law does not apply while their concerns are being addressed is precisely what makes them feel that the government cares for them.

This is exactly why communal riots have always been such a good thing politically in India. They allow “hurt” people to vent, to express their emotions, to get back their self-confidence. And not letting the law be applied to rioters and even triggering them, it’s how politicians show they care.

Sure no one got killed at Khirki. But that was just an accident, because as I said it is difficult to do mob-kills in Delhi these days and also I do not believe the schism between Khirki residents and the African immigrants was so deep and violent that there would be murder.

This little hustle-bustle was more on the lines of “This is a decent neighborhood where we live with our sisters and mothers. Stay within moral limits or get out.”

Essentially mohalla gunda-gardi.

And with that being what they wanted, they got exactly that.

In case you have the time, watch Muthalik of Sriram Sene explain the bar incident. What he says should sound chillingly familiar in this context. Local residents complain about drugs and sex that is supposedly happening in the pubs. Local residents complain that the police station does nothing despite repeated complaints because they are on the take. Which leaves Sri Ram Sene to do what needs to be done. Since obviously they do not rule,and hence can’t bring police along, they do the next thing. Get the mob to the pubs. And we know what happens after that.

The thing is that while Muthalik has been the target of much hatred and has been inundated with pink chaddis (and rightfully so), Bharti has not been taken apart (and he deserves to be) nor has been mailed objects like say dildos.  I have a hypothesis as to why but laying that out here would just be a diversion. Maybe sometime later.

Which brings us to Kejriwal. What did he do in response to Mr. Bharti’s adventure? Well he could have done three things.

He could have taken the moral high ground and expelled Bharti. That would have set an example.

He could have stayed silent. This is what politicians often do when they disapprove of a colleague’s action but realize that opposition expressed in public would be not  politically expedient. While Kejriwal claims he is not a politician, (and we all know he is), he could have at least done that.

But no. What he did was totally different. He strongly endorsed what Bharti did and even went on a dharna protesting police inaction. In other words,  the only problem Mr. Kejriwal perceived in the illegal raid was that the police did not support Bharti, that they did not slap their heels, salute and fall in line behind this state-supported excess?

I am sorry but how different is this from every other Indian politician since independence? How does this show a commitment against intimidation or respect for the rule of law? How does this square with the narrative that “Hum tuccha hain naganaya hai” when what you are demanding is that you have the power to set the law as you please?

I remember a comment posted on my FB Wall by an AAP supporter. His comment was “Have you stayed in Khirki Extension? Do you know what the residents want? AAP did what no other government did.”

Sigh.

You see, this line of reasoning stems from a basic misunderstanding of the notion of democracy. Democracy means that people choose their leaders. It does not mean that people directly set policies. If they do, then that becomes majoritarianism, rule by the mob, or what the Greeks called ochlocracy.  The mob does not get to decide who lives and who goes, or what economic policy should be or who is the enemy and who isn’t.  They do not get to decide if they want to form their Islamic Khaliphate where minorities are eviscerated (yes that’s basically the referendum on Kashmir) nor do they get to get to decide if same-gotra marriages should be made illegal (yes that’s what many people in some states of India actually want).

AAP’s core philosophy of “SMS democracy” is based on these questionable interpretation of democracy. Thus, the more successful their model of democracy becomes, the more their actions will mimic the prejudices of their core constituencies and most importantly,  reflect the wish of the mob to make their own laws.

Because, hey, the way they understand it, that’s democracy.

The law, in the Kejriwal narrative, is a construct imposed by the corrupt to rule the innocent. Hence flouting it is an act of bravado. So Bharti is a hero. Kejriwal is a hero. Why? Because he refused to follow the accepted procedures for tabling the Jan Lok Pal and resigned, because as we all know, sab bhrast hai.

And yet, when it suits them, Kejriwal is a stickler for the law, and for audits and for procedures.

So basically the exact same hypocrisy that characterizes all of our political parties. The law is evil when it suits us. The law is sacrosanct when it suits us.

In essence, that’s what Kejriwal is. Another politician. And that’s what AAP is. Just another party.

The revolution they promised.

I am still waiting for that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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38 thoughts on “Deconstructing Kejriwal Part 4

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

  2. these are the thing s we already know, but the way you express them is excellent!!! Modi, then Kejriwal….. Who’s next?? 🙂

  3. All of your articles clearly reflect that a great degree of effort has been put behind in research.
    Your sarcastic tone of text with parallels to popular culture make them even more interesting to read. One word of unsolicited advice though, a good proof reading is in order before you upload them.

  4. First reaction: “holy shit”. This was so good.
    While I had never bought the Bharti-and-Kejriwal stunt you bring up, I had always looked upon them as being nice but misguided, trying to help out in a system they couldn’t understand. But yeah, this was in effect a riot with no blood to clean up. Dammit.

  5. If I recollect correctly, there was violence against North East origin people during Kejriwal’s tenure. So, that makes it two counts of communal violence, not one

  6. well compiled Arnab. The information on ochlocracy was enlightening. As you have rightly put, Mr Kejriwal does seem to be another opportunistic politician. However, my personal (and completely personal) opinion is that he is still many times better than all others in the fray. The billion dollar questions are a) apart from a good and straight thinking human being, is he a good administrator? and b) does he really have a party full of people who are thinking along the same line as him or the others are just what a Congress or a BJP are made of……..

  7. I liked the way you looked at the problem and your assessment of how Indian system works. However, I disagree with some of the conclusion you tried to draw. Given the state of Indian societies, it is hard to bring in a pure form of democracy. Everyone wants to live a peaceful and prosperous life, however, we as a society are not willing to change. We still have the “class” mindset, we still treat our woman as a second grade citizen and we still want others to go and fix the system for us. There is still a deep fog of conservative views that engulf our societies. To get the kind of system we want, we need to change both our social thinking and our political setup. This can not be done in one stroke. We have to do it in steps. First fix the political system by bringing accountability and transparency. And that has to be done within the limitations of our social setup by bringing in set of changes that are generally acceptable to the existing societies. That is what is AAP trying to do and I disagree when people criticize AAP for minor mistakes.

    Changing the political system is a tedious task. There are powerful people that you will go against you. You will be scrutinized for every act of omission and commission and each mistake will be magnified. Still, of the ten things that AAP tries, seven plus end up being good with a possibility to have a large impact on our system.

    So, lets, look at the glass, today it’s half full but if we pour in enough support, we will get it to spill some day !

  8. You are missing the key difference between AAP and others. You are right in the conclusion that AAP is just a political party, but you are falling short. Take some more time to understand why they do what they do, having understood that they think of themselves as a political party.
    They are not just a party. They are using the same techniques that political parties use to subvert them, to challenge them. You wanted a revolutionary party, somehow the talk of AAP led you to dream that this is the thing YOU have been waiting for.
    AAP is the party the people have been waiting for. They will subvert democracy, and all ideologies, not for their help, but for YOU. This was the promise of AAP, always has been.
    AAP represents the greed in all of us, the wish for the system to be unfair but on our side. India against corruption is an ideological shoot off of this same desire in us, we want the government to be non corrupt, not ourselves.
    Somnath Bharti, AK, et al are just crooks amongst us, but OUR crooks. Not different, but much better, if you are an aam aadmi (and who isnt).

  9. Thank you for this. When the Khirki incident happened, I could not believe the cognitive dissonance that certain women around me displayed. They simply refused to see how Bharti and Muthalik were essentially similar. All because Bharti was a member of AAP.

    In fact, Bharthi was worse than Muthalik, because he was an elected representative,was the Law Minister and also earned the CMs approval (and a dharna-in-support) for his actions.

    I get that people gravitate to the AAP because they are itching for an alternative, but this blind support is a manifestation of the something-is-better-than nothing, chalta-hai all over again.

  10. “Democracy means that people choose their leaders. It does not mean that people directly set policies…”.I’m sorry Arnab, you are wrong here (may be not from India’s perspective) but from the true idea of it. It would have been better if you tried to distinguish between democracy and republic. Democracy is mob rule thru an elected representative. Republic is where the individual is a sovereign and only the govt has only delegated authority

  11. Many of us voted for the neo-commies (TMC) during the last WB assembly election. We had seen flashes of good-governance like stress on e-governance, score-carding ministers, decentralization of secretariat activities. But mostly, the new regime is marred with the controversies of uncontrolled hooliganism, nepotism, subjugation, populist decisions that have long term ramifications and general lack of respect for the law of the land.
    Additional history, AAP’s regime transferred a humongous no. of offices from Jal Board, made a joke of electricity tariff, witch-hunted (much like Khaap) women of African origins based on the general (and illogical) sentiments.
    So people basically have two options. On one hand, we have age old parties (both INC/ BJP) with questionable governance abilities and unquestionable corrupted practices. On the other hand, we have parties, who have managed to reach levels of political malfeasance within a very short time after coming to power. Their corruption techniques/ avenues are not yet well-established but would surely come up going by the different reasons that they are in news for.
    With the above and with the risk of sounding cynical, I find all the parties equally disgusting. But considering we have to cast our vote in favor of one of them; I would avoid the AAPtards; for reasons best explained in the above blog.
    Excellent write-up, Greatbong! – but somehow your trademark humor is gone and you look more and more serious with this series. 🙂

    Best Regards,
    Sowmik Sengupta

  12. Even I have come across people who say – “Have you stayed in Khirki Extension? Do you know what the residents want? AAP did what no other government did.”

    Now lets look at another incident (I support or not is different point, its here just for the comparison) – People of Godhra got what they wanted after the burning of the train, didn’t they?
    So, will AAP supporters admire and praise Modi, like they did for Bharati n Kejriwal for the riots or call him “Maut ka Saudagar” (even though Courts have said he was not involved) ?

    @Raj, I am waiting for those 7 elusive achievements which helped the Aam Aadmis of Delhi! Now don’t tell me that they got free water.

    • Sonu, there was a time when Arnab used to give gifts to those who were among the first three to comment. God knows why, but he has stopped it now 🙂

      • Saying I give people stuff to comment is a downright lie and if I might say so disrespectful in the extreme. Just wonder why you have to lie to show hate.

      • C’mon, every keen reader knows its a lie. Not even a lie but a banter to fool newcomers. Just trying to create a legend out of a joke, don’t be a party pooper.

  13. I can’t believe this author and a lot of the commentators above. Typical armchair intelligentsia. The system is rubbish but I can’t be bothered to do anything about it. If someone else does I will then come down on every mistake they make like a ton of bricks (still from the comfort of my armchair) and discount most of the positives with my stick in the mud cynicism. Thankfully, there’s many other people that look a little further than their belly button.

    • That my dear, is the problem with claiming moral high ground all the time!
      Not many would have scrutinized his every move had he not called everyone else corrupt, thieves and agents of XYZ. And only himself and his team are non-corrupt and the only patriots of this country. But then, he wouldn’t have won as many seats as he did in Delhi.

      • Are you then defending people like vadra, khursheed etc? Also, how can you discount facts like aap discloses its funding, attempts to choose clean candidates, and is the only factor that has shaken up the rotten status quo of indian politics. Kejriwal does sound paranoid when he calls a lot of media paid. But, then I happened to find this link on youtube.

        http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=b8N9hjhIR5c

        This sort of honest and balanced discussion never happens on any mainstream English or Hindi channels. And now that the elections are here aap is almost completely blanked out on a lot of media except for news items where eggs or ink was thrown at kejriwal. Makes me think he does have point.

  14. Have anyone noticed in the Satyamev Jayte episode regarding criminalization of Indain politics there was an indirect promotion of AAP. As if all AAP candidates are angel. For one, Jarnal Singh (show thrower to P.C) is AAp candidate from West Delhi. J Singh might have grievance but thats not correct for a aspiring politician. Ravinar of mediacrooks.com have almost daily deconstruction of AK.

  15. Your take is spot-on behind the real motives of Khirki extension, though the romantic fool in me still applauds Bharti at some level. I would also like to add that Kejriwal took no notice/action when allegations of IT crimes were levelled against Bharti. The Khirki episode and subsequent Kejri’s defence of his minister might be wished away by AAP supporters as “it was necessary”, a CM being silent on such IT crime allegations is just similar to other state CMs not taking any corrective action against their ministers, so where is the difference. If indeed someone wants to defend Kejriwal’s silence on Bharti’s past, then I would like to just apply the same defence at a larger scale to what Modi is blamed to have done for Kodnani.

  16. Very interesting observation about the spread of “realtime” media and its effect on reducing mass mob violence in urban India.

    • Why we all commenting like we all gurus? Why we not behave normal being? Yes I is commenting and I is no guru, we is need to use the brains.

  17. Hey! This is my first comment here even though I am a big fan of your blog. Coming to why I am commenting on this post – I was trying to understand Kejriwal and wondering whether I am being unfair to him because of a few of the things you have mentioned in your post (main grouse being how can this guy rule the country when he couldn’t even maturely handle opposition in a small “state” like Delhi) . However, I could not find any article or set of articles about Kejriwal which “deconstruct” his “policies”.

    Your articles have brought about a clear picture in my mind. I think just like Congress has its pseudo-secularism, AAP also has Pseudo- – you maybe able to supply the word. Though I understand that this is just your opinion with incidents used as evidences, my views seem to match with your opinion (more or less). I think AAP can be summarized as a dream for a person who wants real life to be like Rang De Basanti where you can shoot the corrupt politicians/vigilantes mete out justice irrespective of the laws while touting themselves as martyrs for the nation.

  18. GB – I have to say I am a bit disappointed at the time and effort you have spent on AAP and Kejriwal – for while he makes for an easy target (and of course with friends like his, who needs enemies), yet in the bigger picture the AAP is a non starter. Your comments are useful if Kejriwal uses them as a guide line on how not to do things and keep his eyes on the big picture as well has keeping his own people in line (and making sure everyone is aware of the law). Hopefully now that Kejriwal has shown it can be done, maybe we will get other non-politicos from out of the system to get into the act to offer a genuine choice. But I really do wonder how long before the clean hands are seduced into dipping into the public trough.

    I wish you had written more on the choice really between 2 contenders – one that seems to have given up the fight and other waiting for the coronation. It is tragic that the whole political system has thrown up these 2 – why could not Cong get some one like chidambaram as its candidate? Do you really think Rahul will serve time as opposition leader waiting for the next election? I have heard some apt nicknames for 2 contenders – RaGa is Pappu and NaMo is Feku! A more uncharitable apellation is Chutiya for one (well intentioned fool) and shaana- kawwa for the other!!

  19. In my school days I learnt a couple of Hindi wisecracks(muhavare or kahavate). While watching Kejriwal I could recollect this one:
    Aadhi chhor saari ko dhaave, aadhi mile na saari paave… (One who goes after complete thing while leaving the half he has already got, does get neither half nor complete)

    Watching him blame others felt like a total contradiction of “Is hamam mein sab nange hain aur ek nanga doosare nange ko kya nanga kahega”. We did not need a Kejriwal to tell how corrupt the system is or how corrupt the politicians are. Anyone who goes to pay his bills in a government for the first time, understands the whole story at that very moment. But he still kept reminding everyone “See that man is corrupt, see the other one is also corrupt” as if we did not know. He did it just to fulfill his motive of projecting himself as a saint. In India the easier way of becoming a saint is accusing others for the problems of your community. You just need to choose “your community”. Mr Jinnah created a community out of Muslims, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav added Yadav’s to the mix. Ms (or Mrs?) Mayavati inherited from Babasaheb Ambedkar (yes Him, refer to Gandhi vs Ambedkar to get more insight on this) and Kanshiram. Kejriwal has nothing else left so he created his own community of corruption struck “Tuchchha Aam Aadmi”. But they all had the common thread of ‘Blaming others’. Anyone who blames others for this corruption in India is lying on your face. Corruption is as much a problem created and enjoyed by our own society as casteism, reagionlism, communalism or for that matter even a sati of dowry custom.
    It is easier to befool people in believing that you are the holiest by blaming others than being a real saint and such holy souls don’t get created in just a couple of years.

  20. Wonder why people treat AAP candidates with shoes, slaps or inks.

    Someone could very well just play the song “Baby doll” from Ragini MMS 2. Job done, I think.

  21. Without getting in to the subject of if i agree with your opinion on AAP and Kejri i would like to congratulate you on the article, very well written with great depth, research and facts. Shows the effort put in,

  22. Another gem of an analysis GB. So, so agree with you on the comparison between the minister in AK cabinet and the scoundrel down south. Just amazing to see the amount of effort you would have put in to research on this article, and come up with a gem. Gives me inspiration to put a similar effort in my own posts. Hats off!

  23. After going through your “deconstruction” I was reminded of this short story.
    A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.

    A faithful Christian man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”

    The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”

    As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”

    The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”

    The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop.

    A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, “Grab my hand and I will pull you up!” But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”

    Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned.

    When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”

    And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”

    So dear friends,I’m getting out of the flood……you can wait for Godot that might be coming your way…..lol.

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