New Delhi: For the young and sections of the Indian middle class he is a “hero” who has “unmasked” corrupt politicians. But there are many who can’t stand the Magsaysay award-winning activist-turned-politician’s “methods” that have further vitiated the country’s political discourse.
Politicians have reason to hate the 42-year-old Arvind Kejriwal. And he has spared no one.
Since the Oct 2 announcement about forming a political party, his organisation, called India Against Corruption (IAC), has made a splash in the political arena by levelling charges against Congress president Sonia Gandhhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra and Law Minister Salman Khurshid of illegal land deals and fund embezzlement.
But like a canny politician, he knows if he has to make a mark of “being different” he has to target parties left, right and centre.
The politician aspirant’s googly came when he fired a salvo against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Nitin Gadkari, accusing him of grabbing farmers’ land and corruption in collusion with the Nationalist Congress Party’s tainted Ajit Pawar.
But this time his allegation seems to have fallen flat as it missed the target.
He got a taste of his own medicine when a former police officer-turned-activist accused Kejriwal of not naming NCP chief and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar when he highlighted irregularities by Gadkari.
Fingers have also been pointed at his three key aides – Prashant Bhushan, Anjali Damania and Mayank Gandhi – for questionable land deals, forcing the graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology to announce a “lokpal” of three retired judges to probe the charges against the three.
But the 24X7 media coverage of Kejriwal has ensured that he has become a household name.
This time he has been able to capture the imagination of youth, which he could not achieve when he was under the shadow of social activist Anna Hazare.
He has also struck an instant chord with the middle class, when he accused both the Congress and the BJP of being hand in glove and also took up the burning issue of high power tariffs in the capital.
He has clearly mesmerised youth and the middle class who want a change in society, a society that will be free of corruption in high places.
It’s no wonder that IIT and IIM graduates are joining his orgnisation.
“He is very convincing. A lot of IIT/IIM students and professionals come voluntarily to help us,” said Kumar Vishwas, an associate of Kejriwal..
But there are no dearth of skeptics.
“He is exposing the corrupt politicians but I don’t like his methods. It is a known fact that politicians and their kin are corrupt. I think he should talk about the change in the system that could ensure a better society,” 60-year-old Usha Kaushal, a housewife , said.
Eminent lawyer Harish Salve has a similar view.
“There is a lot of audience if you fling dirt around. People listen when you call others “chor” (thief). The media is also to be blamed for showing him 24X7. Aren’t there any other serious issues,” said Salve.
Political leaders of course hate his guts.
“He is an over-ambitious person who is playing into the hands of the BJP. He is untrustworthy,” said Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi.
Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh has also jumped into the fray, questioning Kejriwal on 27 counts.
The Congress calls him the B-team of an anti-Gadkari BJP faction, while the BJP wants to keep him at a distance.
“He has taken up the issues of corruption and probity in public life. But he is yet to name his political party and state his position on ideology and issues of national and regional interest,” said BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman.
A diabetic, Kejriwal’s wife Sunita is an Indian Revenue Service officer and they have two children. Kejriwal was previously in the IRS before he quit a government to take up activism full time to campaign for the Right to Information issue which finally became a law. He also worked in Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.
Kejriwal is going to announce the name of his party Nov 26.
The fact that his one-time mentor, Anna Hazare, has kept silent about Kejriwal’s attempt to catch people’s fancy and to garner future votes, speaks volumes, say his detractors. He parted ways with Hazare, who has now announced a new anti-graft team – minus Kejriwal.
While Kejriwal still wears the Gandhi cap, that was once again made popular by Hazare, it now has the words “Main aam admi hoon (I am the common man)” on it. It earlier had the message – “I am Anna Hazare”.
Activists who worked with him during the Anna movement have called him autocratic, but his IAC members say he has changed.
“Two years ago he was judgmental. Now he listens to others’ point of view and discusses an issue before taking a decision. He has developed inner democracy,” said Vishwas.
Only time will tell whether his method of catching future votes by flinging mud against the political class while offering little solutions to the country’s ills would yield results.
By Kavita Bajeli-Datt and Amit Agnihotri /IANS