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Is Arvind Kejriwal any different or our expectations too high?

Tuesday, 25 March 2014 - 5:45pm IST | Agency: dna

  • Arvind-Kejriwal

Much as they rant against politicians, the Indian public expects too much of them. They have now set down Arvind Kejriwal as a liar and a fraud after he was found persuading a television interviewer to avoid questions about the corporate sector. Kejriwal feared that his views might anger the middle class. But, this is by no means a one-off case.

While speaking to the public, politicians usually “wimp out”, whatever the ethical aspects of the matter, there is nothing unusual about this. There is no successful politician on earth who has not done that, in one way or the other. Although, it is disputable whether Kejriwal’s economic philosophy is sound but, it is indisputably true that every shrewd politician keeps his sensible views to himself.

If Kejriwal speaks the truth, and nothing but the truth, he would soon cease to be a politician. This is true of politics, not just in India, but across the world. Such is human nature. Such is the nature of politics. The median Indian citizen is touchier than the kings and queens of the past, but he expects his political representatives to wear their heart on their sleeves which is not fair.

Everyone prays for an honest politician to be in power, but if nonsense pleases the voters more than the truth, do we really need an honest politician? A sensible politician knows that a lot of what he says is mindless pap. If such a politician wants to be elected to power, he cannot do so without being strategically silent, without being evasive. He cannot do so without changing the subject too often. Once elected to power, such a cynical politician often breaks his promises because giving people what they want can prove dangerous at times. Most popular policies have disastrous consequences. To stay in power, he will break his promises one by one---as he should.

Though Kejriwal has the reputation of a naïve idealist, what motivates him is self-interest, and not the larger good of the society, or some such noble motive. When a politician claims that he is not wedded to any ideology, what he perhaps means is that in politics, man should “rise above principles”. Kejriwal has as much as said so.

As an upstart, Kejriwal has self-interested reasons to think deeply about how his actions would influence his political prospects. But, if the voters do not care much about the effectiveness of his policy views, he has little incentive to weigh the merits and demerits of his policy views. Not surprisingly, there is near unanimous agreement that Kejriwal knows very little, if anything at all about economics and political philosophy. But, the Delhi legislative assembly elections have proven beyond reasonable doubt that he knows a great deal about electability. 

The political views of Kejriwal are not too unlike to that of other politicians. Virtually no one disagrees with the view that the nation is unbearably corrupt. Almost everyone “knows” that inflation is a horrible visitation over which the politicians have failed to exercise control. As far as we can go back in history, an overwhelming majority of the politicians have made the same observations---to snare the masses. But, what matters is not the diagnosis, but the methods of treatment to the issues. Kejriwal till now seems to be exasperatingly vague about this, because he knows that as long as people have faith in his good intentions, they are likely to think that he probably agrees with them.

In a sense, the overnight success of AAP is enough proof that despite all the pretensions to the contrary, the expectations of the Indian public are way too modest. Virtually no one knows what the Aam Aadmi Party stands for. They have not published their policy statement because they do not have definite economic policy views to begin with. The leaders of the party were too busy stirring up the masses to read and reflect on its policy statement. They jumped into the fray with relish, without thinking long and hard about the issues that would have mattered to the voters in any truly enlightened society.
To put it charitably, they are anti-intellectual political activists seeking a policy. Arvind Kejriwal is the living proof of the wise dictum that politics is not about policy. In a sane world, people would have found this bizarre, but this did not really annoy anyone, expect some gentlemen in the upper levels of the society. What bothers the people in a democratic society is the glimpse of a skeleton in a politician’s closet, though every successful politician has many in his ever-growing collection.

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