Jammu & Kashmir CM Omar Abdulah said, "Never underestimate the underdog/ newcomer with a fresh face and message."
Arvind Kejriwal, an IITian and Magsasay Award winner, can hardly be called an underdog. His message, too, is not new. Following his win, he said:
"Who are we? We are the aam admi of this country. We are very ordinary people. But when ordinary people stand up to injustice, they shake up the establishment."
The establishment has been shaken quite a few times before too - whether it was by S.P. Mukherjee, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, Jayaprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai and the Janta Party, V.P.Singh and the Jan Morcha and later Janata Dal, the NDA, and all these in response to the Congress. When the Congress returned, it also shook up what was the prevailing establishment.
If Kejriwal means doing politics differently, then it is too early to accept it. We might rejoice over unknown names when it comes to water, electricity; pamphleteering and house visits also have a feel-good factor.
Rahul Gandhi too has admitted that the AAP used non-traditional people, which was its strength. He should not see too much in it or try to "learn", as he said the Congress should, because there is something called flash-in-the-pan.
Look no further than Bollywood to figure out how many remarkable "debuts" have not had a repeat chance.
Kejriwal further states:
"This is the first time that an election has been fought on the basis of truth and honesty. Till now, we associated politics with crime and corruption. For the first time, people have looked at honest politics and the results show that the masses are fed up with the corrupt politics of BJP, Congress and their likes. If these parties do not change, people will uproot them."
A simpler term is anti-incumbency, although "uprooting" has a nice romanticised ring to it. There is a touch of arrogance to his statement. Those who fought against the Emergency did so for upholding truth. The Bofors kickbacks resulted in the JD win. One may not agree with the politics of some of the parties, but they fought for something.
He is positioning himself as a messiah, and one is not sure whether the "we" is the royal we or he can claim to speak on behalf of us or even for the common man. The common man does not recognise corruption because he does not have the means to acquire anything. If a tube well is not installed in a village because some bureaucrat has swallowed up the money, then for the common man it is water that is the issue, not the sahib. He is pragmatic enough to realise that this immediate boss is his connection with the world.
The major parties do have criminals, they are corrupt. Some of the leaders known for their notoriety have been getting reelected. Why does this happen? Where is the intelligence of the public? Where is this victory of democracy that we are hearing about now?
The 'cleanliness' of the AAP has to do with it being new. One splash of mud, and it will be laundry time.
Meanwhile, Anna Hazare has resurfaced as the wise man who showed Kejriwal the way. "Delhi ‘andolan’ has helped AAP,” he said. This might sound opportunistic, but it happens to be true.
Kiran Bedi, another member of the core team of the People's Movement, has said: "Why can't they (BJP and AAP) sit down together and explore an option of a common minimum programme."
Bedi has come out as a clear BJP supporter, but then Anna too was a tacit supporter, and one cannot rule out Kejriwal's own ideological allegiance. The reason he has said he will not ally with any big party is to ensure some time. He will weigh his options carefully for the Lok Sabha elections next year. [Of the 70 seats in Delhi, the BJP got 32 seats, the AAP won 28. 36 seats are required to form the government.]
Those who are running down the quick schemes by the Congress Party, even if they were rushed in time for the elections, they had been in the pipeline. That they were to help the common man ought not to produce sniggers now. After all, the AAP also capitalised on the corruption scandals. It was a case of being at the right place at the right time.
© Farzana Versey
On the common man fallacy in this earlier post: Aam Aadmi in the time of elitism