India’s national capital Delhi has a great reputation of being a city of professional gossip-mongers. Here, every political utterance and action is under minute scrutiny. People build several conspiracy theories. Though rarely vindicated, these theories, nonetheless, make political analysts like us to think. At the moment, there are many such conspiracy-theories centering Arvind Kejriwal. Let me deal with some of them.
What is Kejriwal up to? His “India Against Corruption” (IAC) has been converted into a political party and he promises to contest the forthcoming assembly elections in Delhi. He continues to be a crusader against corruption, his latest targets being Robert Vadra (better known as Priyanka Gandhi’s husband, and hence a member of the country’s so-called first family—the Gandhi family), Union Law Minister Slaman Khurshid and BJP President Nitin Gadkari. By attacking both the Congress and BJP, his supporters claim to be even-handed. But neither the Congress nor the BJP seems to be impressed. The Congress accuses IAC of being the B-team of the BJP, and a section of the BJP thinks that he is essentially a Congressman.
The fact that he has been attacked by the spokespersons of both the Congress and BJP should, under normal circumstances, mean that he is on the right path. But circumstances now are not normal and Kejriwal’s actions have raised some questions. A man claiming to be even-handed should not be selective in finding targets. He has targeted Robert Vadra for the latter’s unscrupulous land-deals in Haryana but left out Rahul Gandhi, who, too, bought land in the same state at prices much below the official rates. “Special treatment” to Rahul Gandhi by the Congress-led Haryana government has been brought to the notice by a former chief minister of the state, Omprakash Chautala. This selective targeting is all the more dubious given the intensity of the political gossips in the national capital that Vadra is not liked by anybody in the Gandhi family and that includes Priyanka Gandhi! Going by the gossips, Kejriwal has provided a good excuse to the Congress and its supreme leader Sonia Gandhi to foil Robert Vadra’s political ambitions that he had revealed during the last assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Few days back, Kejriwal gave an interview to a leading business daily. He suggested that India’s ablest Prime Minister so far has been Rajiv Gandhi, who, in his opinion, understood India the best. That he respected the Gandhi family became all the more evident from the revelation by the Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh the other day that Kejriwal once had written a letter to Sonia Gandhi, requesting her to make him a member of her National Advisory Board. That Sonia could not accommodate him was a different matter. In any case, it is an open secret in Delhi that Kejriwal is one of the best friends of Sandeep Dikshit, the MP and son of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. It is this friendship that has given rise to the speculation that by making a party and deciding to contest the next assembly elections in Delhi, Kejriwal has made the task of Shiela Dikshit much easier to win for the third successive time early next year and set a record; because, the anti-Congress space in the Delhi polity will be sharply divided between the IAC and BJP.
Of course, all these are political gossips and, hence, not definite indications that Kejriwal is essentially a friend of Congress. His diatribe against the Law Minister Salman Khurshid and the latter’s unmistakable threat on the IAC leader’s life (highly unbecoming on the part of a union cabinet minister) is certainly not a pro-Congress act. And then, there are allegations from the Congress-camp that Kejriwal’s team seems to be closer to a faction within the BJP that wants to make Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi India’s next Prime Minister. After all, Kejriwal’s latest exposure of Gadkari, highly unconvincing though, stemmed from a new member of the IAC-team, a lady with strong RSS connection. Her grudge was that Gadkari did not help her to save acres of her farm land that are to be surrendered for an irrigation project. The lady now says that Gadkar has benefited by the ruling Congress-NCP alliance in Maharashtra.
Predictably, the Congress spokesmen are highlighting the theory(again a speculation bereft of any concrete proof) that Kejriwal’s latest attack on Gadkari is to pave the way for Narendra Modi to emerge as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate by weakening Gadkari and all those who now defend him, including Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jeitley. What lends credence to this theory is the wellknown fact that many in the top-establishment of the BJP do not see eye-to-eye with Modi and will not mind the Gujarat chief minister being humiliated in the forthcoming assembly polls. In fact, such is the anti-Modi hysteria that prevails in Delhi-based BJP circles that there are speculations of Modi, like Yeddyurappa in Karnataka, leaving the BJP out of disgust to form his own party and then joining hands with similar regional leaders not inclined to align with the Congress—such as Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu, Jagan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, Naveen Patnaik in Odisha , Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh and Raj Thakre in Maharashtra—to form what is called a “Federal Front” and presenting a concrete alternative to both the Congress and BJP in the next general elections. It is said that Vasundara Raje in Rajasthan may also join this Front of Modi and Yeddyurappa. It is in this context that one comes across the hearsay that Kejriwal’s IAC may lend a helping hand to this new Front.
However, as I have said the outset, all the above scenarios are conspiracy theories. I find them interesting and amusing. But I am more concerned with the alternative that Kejriwal’s IAC provides than the faults and corruption it discovers. Exposing corruption, no doubt, is important; but more important is to devise or work for a system that will not be conducive to corruption. I would like to know what visions or blueprints for governance that Kajriwal’s party has. The Jan-Lokpal bill, as I had argued once in this column, will give rise to anarchy and further the scope for corruption by creating a monstrous body of 33 lakh “super employees” of the Lok Pal (to be sustained by the already over-bureaucratised State) who will have power at the slightest pretext to undo every developmental work in the name of stopping corruption. This enormous power to the Lok Pal will give its own officials a lot of opportunities to be corrupt themselves; for a price they can always overlook various acts of omission and commission.
The best way to eradicate poverty is to go to the roots of the problem. And that problem is essentially the present electoral system where success is dependent on identity politics on the one hand and the entrenched politician-criminal-business- bureaucratic nexus on the other. Thus, the key is to bring out electoral reforms. Unfortunately, Kejriwal does not inspire much confidence on this front. He has not said anything so far how to set right India’s dysfunctional politics that is making our polity increasingly less and less representative (growth of political dynasties everywhere, caste and community-centred politics, and sky-touching electoral expenditures through ill-gotten money).
By Prakash Nanda