It is impossible to take on the might of a byzantine state which has surrendered national interests to crony capitalism, and is pervasive in corruption, undemocratic and unscrupulous, disdainful and insensate to constitutional morality and people-centric governance, and frighteningly turning more and more autocratic and fascist with every passing day.
It is in this calamitous context the work of Arvind Kejriwal and team has to be understood. It is idiocy to dismiss it as expression of political ambition. Even if it is political ambition instead of speculating it may become power hungry it ought to be encouraged; for India is badly in need of young, well-informed, upright, upfront and no-nonsense politicians committed to cleansing its political Augean Stables.
Central to understanding and appreciating the Kejriwal team’s work are three important issues.
One is why there has been such a furious eruption of corruption and other evils as its concomitants and corollaries since the UPA came to power. Prime minister Manmohan Singh’s refrain of coalition dharma to retain its corrupt alliance partner DMK was hogwash. If it had any logic Singh should have resigned immediately after the Coal scam broke out, and among others Salman Khurshid should have gone after the Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust scam surfaced. As Singh and Khurshid are top among the dramatis personae of the Congress and Congress is the principal partner of the UPA coalition the coalition dharma, if any, is more binding on them than other alliance partners.
Two, though the anti-corruption movement led by Team Anna (of which Kejriwal was a central player) and the countrywide groundswell to it with active involvement of the youth for getting the Jan Lokpal bill passed was an important national event. UPA’s political manipulations and skullduggeries which killed the bill (see my article The Lokpal’s last gasp, DNA, January 2, 2012) clearly showed that in the reckless Congress powerplay Gandhian rituals of confrontation are ineffective.
The obvious alternatives to this are the ways and works of the Subramanian Swamys and the Kejriwals. What they do may not always succeed; but as their work points the needle of suspicion it is for discerning citizens to help them take their work to its logical end. For instance, until Swamy came out with the expose on the National Herald on the prima donna of the Congress and her son, the prime minister on internship, the whole nation believed that here is a widow of a former PM who attained martyrdom serving the nation; she owns no house, no vehicles (that the Centre provides both and a lot more in abundance is a different issue) and hardly any property, serves the nation selflessly as though to fulfil the mission of her husband.
When Kejriwal first announced his plans to travel to Salman Khurshid’s turf, Farrukhabad, his warning, “let him go; but we will see how he comes back”, was hooliganism at its worst.
Despite being the union law minister Khurshid was a law unto himself by violating the model code of conduct, trying to bully the election commissioner in the context of the UP elections, and playing the communal card with separate quota for Muslims. But much against public indignation Manmohan turned the villain into a hero as external affairs minister.
Kejriwal’s latest take on black money stashed in Swiss banks and “the modus operandi” for transfer of undisclosed funds, has been predictably received with mixed reactions. The manner in which the TV channels discussed it was more as nitpicking, of style and not substance than expression of alarm, concern and public indignation against the government.
Three, as the Kejriwals switch from one issue to another, given the short news life of the earlier issues the government gets ample opportunity to push them to the backburner. In ensuring sustained action to follow up egregiousness of a public nature by the government and individuals media should provide longer life to such issues. But the era of sustained investigative journalism as The Indian Express introduced long ago at the time of its proprietor Ramnath Goenka (and with the tireless work of Arun Shourie as editor) who brought down political heavyweights like Gujarat chief minister Solanki and Maharashtra chief minister Antulay is long lost.
Since the print and electronic media have of late been working more for profit and greed their diminished and rather distorted role in investigative journalism has to have substitutes. It is only the Swamys and Kejriwals who can be so though their work may sometimes be Sisyphean; more so, as the CAG Vinod Rai rightly said recently the government’s brazenness in decision making is appalling.
The author is a sociologist and commentator on public affairs firstname.lastname@example.org