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The anomalous rise of Mr Kejriwal

Published Apr 18, 2017 01:38am


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YOU would have thought that water alone has the anomalous property of expanding when frozen. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal displays a very nearly similar propensity. He ‘expands’ where others would retreat. The more the media mocks and berates him on behalf of its paymasters, and tries to put Kejriwal in the deep freeze, the fierier he comes out. In this regard he is somewhat like Donald Trump, but the similarity ends here.

Unlike the flashy billionaire who loves the good things of life, Kejriwal is a middle-class family man, happy with his vegetarian meal and cough syrup. As the US president seeks to discard the pro-poor healthcare and moves to auction away public spaces of learning and education, Kejriwal veers closer to the old-fashioned economics that harks back to India’s early quest to become a welfare state. Unlike most of his competitors Kejriwal revels in his hostility to crony capitalism, which he believes has stunted India’s growth.

He was likened to Pakistan’s Imran Khan initially. That was unintelligent. If anything, Imran veers closer to the BJP’s politics of riding religious identity. Would he be able to say, for example, “I will never use religion to win an election even if I have to lose a 100 times”? That’s what Kejriwal said publicly when the BJP won Uttar Pradesh in a polarised election.

Some events more readily set him apart from his rivals. When mobs attacked Muslims in BJP-ruled Haryana, Kejriwal dispatched a fact-finding team to the neighbouring state. In 2015, Haryana Chief Minister M.L. Khattar reportedly asked Muslims to leave the country unless they gave up eating beef, a claim he later denied. “Khattar sahib should resign … His statement is not only unfortunate, but shameful,” Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party said. He set up a special investigation team to revisit the Sikh massacre of 1984, which has not attained a satisfactory closure. When Hindutva mobs vandalised churches in Delhi, it was the AAP that led the face-off with the communalists. I’m not sure if any of these events could be associated with the studiously pro-clergy Imran Khan. Recently, Kejriwal was associated with a Jain monk who walks naked, and it’s his business to do that. But the AAP leader has not used religion to canvass support or to attack his opponents. The imam of Jama Masjid, known for meddling in Muslim communalism, offered support to Kejriwal, which he tersely refused.

Unlike the flashy Trump, Kejriwal is a middle-class family man, happy with his vegetarian meal and cough syrup.

The more Kejriwal’s rivals throw muck at him, the cleaner he looks. How many times has the Delhi Police picked up his MLAs for this or that alleged crime only to be rapped on the knuckles by the courts? By a quirk of logic, the Delhi government has no control on the city’s police who fall under federal supervision. Even the chief minister’s offices were not spared from being raided by the agencies. They only got frustration to show for their heavily publicised efforts.

Sample a report in The Hindustan Times last month: “The Delhi Police arrested 13 MLAs of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party in the last two years on charges ranging from rape, extortion, cheating, forgery to rioting. For most of these offences bail is hard to come by, but all the 13 lawmakers are out on bail. In fact, two have been cleared of all charges.”

The anomalous rise of Kejriwal persists with its perverse logic. In 2013, according to The Hindu, the Congress government moved to probe alleged foreign funding to Kejriwal’s party. The following day, the daily donation to the AAP increased six-fold. Kejriwal thanked the BJP and the Congress for the windfall. Like Jerry Mouse thumbing his nose at his quarry, he said: “We are grateful to the BJP and the Congress for raising questions on our funds.”

I have met Kejriwal once for five seconds at a public event where I thought of giving him a book on corporate corruption. He may never have needed it actually, because it turned out that he knew more than the book could reveal. I am told he is allergic to leftists, which is not strange since the left has vainly put up candidates against him. But then, what is a former Maoist doing in his cabinet? There must be some meeting of the minds. It could be much more than that.

Initially, I tended to agree with those who were unsparing in their criticism of Arvind Kejriwal. They were supporters of Congress or the left and believed that he was some kind of an agent for the BJP, if not the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He very nearly was. His early mascot was dubious — a former army truck driver who was projected as a Gandhian activist against corruption, a strange Gandhian though who prescribed public flogging for tipplers.

Easily the single-most important factor shoring up Kejriwal’s pronounced secularism is Ashish Khetan. This journalist-turned-politician carried out the most damaging exposés on Hindutva fanaticism in Gujarat during Prime Minister Modi’s tenure as the state’s chief minister. Khetan’s eerie video interview — a sting operation — with a self-confessed hater of Muslims could only be subverted as evidence of crime and complicity if the state’s key pillars looked the other way.

Last week, the Modi government through the lieutenant governor shut down the AAP party office in Delhi claiming it did not have official clearances. The timing was notable. Elections are scheduled next week to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, currently ruled by the BJP. “A victory in the municipality will fulfil Mr Modi’s dreams for India”, says the radio jingle. Kejriwal was the first to stall the Modi juggernaut in Delhi. In response, the prime minister, that for the first time in Delhi municipality’s history, has staked his reputation to defeat Kejriwal. But in Kejriwal’s case when he loses, he wins.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2017


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (51) Closed

Aj Apr 18, 2017 02:14am

It's an inaccurate assessment of the political situation and fortunes of kejriwal and AAP. The biggest story not reported has been his inefficient governance of Delhi which has resulted in significant losses elsewhere. Not having control of the police is one thing, not being able to govern effectively is entirely another. Indias democracy should be given more credit here. When Kejriwal loses - he loses period.

mango person Apr 18, 2017 04:18am

An Indian voter, specially in cities, are quite informed. People thought Mr AK as an alternative to BJP/Congress/third front. This led to his meteoric rise.

But as they say, it's easy to reach the top, difficult to stay there.

Mr AK is struggling today. He has managed to alienate most of his supporters from his actions and flawed policies (EVMs are working just fine). Let's see the mood of Delhi in MCD elections. I have a pretty good idea what's in store for him.

Jamil Soomro, NEW YORK CITY Apr 18, 2017 04:24am

A bold article by Mr.Jawed Naqvi.If anyone who has so far not heard of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal will finally know him inside out after reading this article.The Writer has touched upon the sensitive issue of Sikh Riots of 1984 with no satisfactory closure so far. I liked the Writer's expression,"Kejriwal is a middle- class family man,happy with his vegetarian meal and cough syrup".

Raj Apr 18, 2017 07:52am

old one....look at the AK now, he is nowhere

Rocky Apr 18, 2017 08:22am

Kejriwal may be the most honest politician but he has not been able to show much positive results because, he keeps on picking fights with everybody, the police, the governor, Modi etc. Secondly, he has much bigger ambitions than being content wit being Delhi CM. He spends enormous amount of time in convassing for AAP candidates in other states. As a result, his Delhibadministration suffers.

Desh bandhu Chopra Apr 18, 2017 08:30am

An objective piece. Well done, Dawn.

Sachin Apr 18, 2017 08:56am

The rise of Kejariwal was based on promises that had no basis nor he had work experience to back it up. His rise was based on finding faults in others and promising heaven, which hoi polloi gobbled. His tenure has proven that he is also as incapable and duplicitous as other parties.

ABCD Apr 18, 2017 09:14am

Pakistan and India are different countries, India is still secular and thus both have right approaches for power.

sanjeev Apr 18, 2017 09:15am

When he loses, he wins ? We wish him many more such 'wins' . When people like him lose, people of India win. We can do away with his 'nautanki'. It was entertaining initially, but now it has outlived its shelf-life.

SID Apr 18, 2017 09:25am

When Kejriwal separated Anna Hazare & formed political outfit, his motto was change the way politics is done in India for last 50 years . Now-a -days when AAP supporters argue Kejriwal achievement & failure , they change their goal post . Now its holier than thou .

AAP didn't formed to make less corruption or less religious based politics. It stood for " absolutely no corruption, no religion & no caste based politics." Sadly their principle is getting diluted day by day.

furykk Apr 18, 2017 09:27am

Kejriwal is a novice and no better than Nawaj Sharif caught up in so many scandals including a Rs 100 cr bill on personal advertisement charged on the people of India and the revealing Shunglu Commitee Report. This article posts a very one sided picture. Being a novice in politics Kejriwal has made a mockery of himself and the system.

He has expanded like hell in the recent time due to which > 80% of his party men are crooks, industrialist with money who want to enter politics etc. Scandals on which they have been caught includes sex tapes (available online), video confessions etc.

COncept behind Kejriwal was great but running a political party needs more than good will and dedication. POlitical parties are made over decades and it will take a lot of time for Kejriwal to evolve.

Magotras Apr 18, 2017 09:34am

But he is set to loose in MCD elections.

Sajjad Ali Apr 18, 2017 09:42am

In India he is known as "Kujliwala' because of constant itching in his backside. Now screwed by Indian courts for using public money for party advertisement and his lawyer fees, corruption, rape. fake degree of his ministers - Kujliwala is struggling for his existence. Lost in all elections, his game is over.

wellwisher Apr 18, 2017 10:06am

During Sonia/MMS regime, corruption increased manifold. Kejriwal positioned himself against corruption and won big.But he did not tackle corruption and now is on losing wicket

ss Apr 18, 2017 10:27am

Well written. I really wish AAP wins the MCD and Delhi state election again.

Rajat Apr 18, 2017 10:34am

@Aj " Indias democracy should be given more credit here" Of course , after all , the people of India rejected Vajpayee and voted for Sonia and Dr.MMS twice ! They even made B grade movie actors MP's & CM's. No one can dispute the intelligence of the Indian voter . Their intelligence has been evident for the last 7 decades. And they are directly responsible for the wonderful state of our Nation today . Look at the condition of our municipal corporations - Varanasi Municipal corporation has been in BJP's control since the early 90's and yet the city is a giant garbage dump. The PM himself said as much when he campaigned there in 2014. But as you said - All credit to Indian democracy .

Kris Apr 18, 2017 10:37am

I was a supporter of Kejriwal during the 2014 elections. However he has turned out to be huge disappointment.

Like all politicians, he excels in giving away other peoples money. He also loves to see his face on TV a lot. Lastly, he is a 24/7 politician throwing unsubstantiated allegations at one and all. Politics before election is one thing. But once you get elected, you need to switch to governing. Due to high pollution, Delhi is a gas chamber these days. But this man is going around campaigning non-stop.

AT Apr 18, 2017 10:41am

A very good article. He indeed has shown within a very short span of time that it is possible for good people to enter politics, to start a political party and to take on the mighty. The IIT educated gentleman could have easily sat on a cushy job but he decided to take on the muk of Indian politics. Hats off to him and hats off to his brand of politics - Clean, honest and secular....May he keep growing and achieve many more milestones for time to come.

Gee Apr 18, 2017 10:43am

Good old 'The Dawn' has spoken the truth again, well balanced article.

R.Kannan Apr 18, 2017 10:44am

Kejriwal has disappointed many who supported him initially. He has been making excuses for his failures. the Delhi government enjoys a huge budget ( on per capita basis)because the rest of India is suffering but the AAP government has failed to improve conditions. his party is being regularly exposed for corrupt practices. The failure of AAP to win significant vote share in Punjab and Goa reflects the common man's disillusionment.

Biswas Amardeep Apr 18, 2017 11:46am

Kejriwal should be made President of India in the coming election.

prabha Apr 18, 2017 11:48am

@Rocky Most honest politician?????? !!!!! how can you say that???

Manish Apr 18, 2017 12:36pm

Kejriwal and AAP has SUCCESSFULLY done the biggest Proof-of-Concept that you can WIN elections with clean money and volunteer power. AAP government has done amazing work for the poor people with razor sharp focus on HEALTH, EDUCATION, ELECTRICITY & WATER.

AAP is able to demonstrate that WELFARE does not necessarily mean huge dent in government coffers. Delhi is probably only state which has Budget SURPLUS and not DEFICIT in-spite of peanuts from central government. Their Mohalla Clinic is nothing short of revolutionary in primary healthcare. He has indeed hitting hard WATER Tanker Mafia, Education Mafia, Power Mafia. The central government has done all it can to harass its MLAs and hits officers and in spite of that AAP give under AK has achieved great deal.

AAP is going through its growth pangs and it be for sure be a strong pan Indian political force in 10 years. - Jai Hind !!

Li-En-Ja Apr 18, 2017 12:39pm

Kejriwal proved he is not different from any other corrupt politician. He proved he is good at theatrics than running an administration. I have serious objection to the writer’s assessment “Kejriwal is a middle- class family man,happy with his vegetarian meal and cough syrup”. His middle class vegetarian meal served from five star Taj Hotel is too costly which are being paid by the public money and available in the public domain. Legal fees of million dollar for his personal matters which are recommended for payment from government exchequers does not qualify him as a Clean Politician. Voters will soon show him his right place.

sky Apr 18, 2017 12:42pm

No mention of Anna Hazare, under whose umbrella Kejriwal has raised to prominence. This & Anna's current take on Kejriwal will cover an important plot of the story.

Meelu Apr 18, 2017 01:18pm

Mr Modi has put his repute in stake to defeat AAP. Let see whom stakes shall shake, apparently dreams of modi are not going to materialise in given circumstances. Imran Khan has no guts to bear such tactical force on PTI if implied in similar manner as being applied on AAP.

SD Apr 18, 2017 01:19pm

People of Delhi gave him chance ,Delhi voters are considers most Educated and smart voters in India, After rejecting congress they gave preference to him instead of BJP. because in National Parliament election, s all the elected Members are from BJP, municipality is in BJP control , but just Last week result of one vacant show BJP and congress are gaining again , Kajriwal, candidate not able to save security deposit mean he does not get minimum votes required by candidate

SD Apr 18, 2017 01:28pm

Writer has to first under stand, now in India voter does not vote for Cast,Religion,or locality , so these all analysis are seem to useless in today Scenario, if you analyse Indian election from last 3-4 years, People voting in favour of development and honest candidates , Now most proffered are UN-Married peoples at present their 12-13 chief ministers are un-married

Baldev Singh Apr 18, 2017 01:48pm

I voted for AAP of Arvind Kejriwal in Punjab Assembly elections 2017. He could not gain majority to form Govt. Never mind but I know he is far best and honest leader at present in India !

TechScribe Apr 18, 2017 02:45pm

The author is missing a lot of points. Kejriwal won the elections on an anti-corruption agenda and the promise of good governance. But he misused government funds to promote himself and his party. He is also misusing public funds to fight a defamation case filed on him by Finance minister Arun Jaitley. The people who voted him to power are repenting their decision. The bypolls in Delhi and his party's performance in Punjab and Goa are a reflection of his and his party's dwindling popularity. BTW, Kejriwal didn't stall the Modi juggernaut in India. The only time Kejriwal faced Modi in an election, he lost miserably.

Harmony-1© Apr 18, 2017 03:24pm

"For most of these offences bail is hard to come by, but all the 13 lawmakers are out on bail".

Not much different to us then. Typical third world nations!

CHAUDHURY Apr 18, 2017 03:53pm

Mr. AK does just the opposite of what he preaches. If he deems as secular, he'll definitely run to religious leaders for support.

desi dimag Apr 18, 2017 04:20pm

Kejariwal should learn how to run a state from UP CM Yogi. Being an IITian and IRS officer doesn't mean you are a genious.

Iftikhar Husain Apr 18, 2017 04:54pm

The extreme right wing government of Mr Modi is trying hard to make his government in Delhi fail but people have seen this man works and help to improve the lives of poor in the city.

Irad Apr 18, 2017 05:19pm

Kejriwal would have been ideal opposition leader, keeping the govt of the day on its toes. But Unfortunately, with no experience, he was catopulated to become the CM of Delhi, with little actual power. Instead of showing political skills to manage the daily arising crisis, he played the role of anarchist and a compulsive desire to be seen in the media. Now, the chips are down and more skeletons are tumbling out of his party's cupboard.

Mskdhev Apr 18, 2017 06:18pm

Great article about the great son Kejriwal, mother India rarely gives birth.

sri Apr 18, 2017 06:22pm

Badly researched article because the church attacks he is talking about was not political or religious. It was vandalism by some drunks and this was never mentioned again in the media.In kejri's own words he idescribes himself as an anarchist. He should work from outside the government.

Raman Apr 18, 2017 06:34pm

What we also know is that famous saying....steep rise is always followed deep fall! I am no AK fan as author but I reckon that he is in the same mold as Bengal CM Mamta Banerjee. The both are reckless in their deeds.

nikhil Apr 18, 2017 06:39pm

The election will prove what Kejriwal is He has done all the things opposite of what he said Naqvi though being in Delhi probably does not venture out of his home except going to five star hotels and pseudo secularist parties He is way away from the present and does not make any sense

Rp Apr 18, 2017 09:41pm

Your first article sir, that I could read all the way through and enjoy rather than being disgusted as I have often been while going through some of your other articles. Again, it is a very well researched and articulated piece of your writing.

mendon Apr 18, 2017 09:41pm

We all supported him once upon a time, but he proved to be worse than the existing politicians. Now he hardly has any support, may loose badly in next elections for Delhi

Varadaraj Apr 19, 2017 06:19am

At least he looks like darling to some .

Raj patel Apr 19, 2017 06:34am

@Iftikhar Husain In which world you are living ? last week his candidate lost deposit in MLA election vacated by his party man to contest Panjab election and BJP won with thumping majority.

Desh bandhu Chopra Apr 19, 2017 06:36am

@Sachin Has he indulged in any kind of money-making exercise like leaders of our old conventional parties. Whenever he has come acrosscorruption by his ministers he has taken prompt action. What more do you want? He is the only hope to end corruption. Modi has been making it difficult for him to give a sensible rule to the common man.

CURIOS DESI Apr 19, 2017 07:11am

His pro people policies such as investing in education and healthcare is need of the hour. India's burgeoning young population is facing a dark period of joblessness. Unless considerable investment is made in field of education, healthcare and ease of doing business, economy is inevitably heading towards if not it is already in recession. For a developing country that is a very scary scenario. Unfortunately India at center lack the will to implement sweeping changes in education and health-care. Fight against corruption has become an empty rhetoric that took an epic proportion when demonetization was implemented. Instead center must be looking at implementing citzen's charter bill, lokpal appointment, fixing the RTI etc. Hopefully people can look beyond caste and religion and vote for AAP not only in this coming MCD election but even in other states.

Vikas Apr 19, 2017 08:04am

Delhi govt. is doing fantastic jobs by providing all required medicines free of cost in dispensaries, running Aam Admi Clinic, running Aam Admi Canteen, improving frequency of Metro, providing water to water-less delhi, providing electricity 24 hours, digitilized revenue records, made govt. offices cashless, improved night shelters, improved quality of education in govt. schools, reduced taxes in budget, made DJB profit making body, resolved 75,000 cases of VAT, increased tax collection from 20,000 cr. per year to 38,000 cr. per year, provided houses to slum dwellers, increased minimum wages, doubled salary of contract teachers, started e-ration cards, provided full ration to all and much more.

vijay,salem Apr 19, 2017 08:41am

@Jamil Soomro, NEW YORK CITY "I liked the Writer's expression,"Kejriwal is a middle- class family man,happy with his vegetarian meal and cough syrup" .Many Indian corrupt politicians who are billionaires are having only simple food habits.That does not make them great.

D.R. Sharma Apr 19, 2017 09:34am

Kejriwal's image has been sullied by powerful BJP media team and the bootlicking journos. TV channels mostly owned by politicians or industrialists close to them play mischievous role in denegrading him and blocking his developmental steps esp in health, education and corruption elimination. Sadly gullible viewers who even dont have any connect with Delhi or Kejriwal form opinion on the basis of such disinformation. If India wants to free itself of well-entrenched corrupt and criminal political system dominated by BJP and Cong, AAP or AAP-like party is a must in I dian politics. Idol worshipping of individuals like Modi Modi will gave to be stopped and leaders should be assessed on the basis of their actual performance in governance.

NE Apr 19, 2017 12:17pm

This piece is glaring example of how media can be so far from ground reality. If this article came two years back, it would have been apt. But now, after Kejriwal lost Punjab, got zero seats in Goa and lost election deposits in 39 of 40 seats there, lost deposit in Delhi bypoll where he was the winner with 47% votes two years back, this article speaks about 'rise' of Kejriwal.

K B Kale Apr 19, 2017 06:23pm

One must note that Kejriwal won Delhi because the votes of Congress went to AAP! BJP's vote share remained the same in both Delhi assembly elections, they had won one seat less than needed for absolute majority in the earlier election but refused to form a govt! Kejriwal took Congress in a coalition but it was a fiasco! Kejriwal will not win again in any Delhi election. He lost badly in all assembly elections. Particularly shocking was what happened in Punjab. Then he started blaming the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)! Kejriwal is the most useless fellow in our country!

Ajay Apr 19, 2017 10:20pm

@K B Kale I fully agree with last line of your comment.