Wednesday, 22 January 2014

An Insufficient Democracy - The Defense of Arvind Kejriwal

The way people have been swayed over a period of two weeks is nothing short of unbelievable. Around the time of Christmas, AK was still being hailed as a messiah from the heavens, as a savior of the common-man, as the last bastion against corruption - he was almost called the son of God. Today, he is nearly a criminal: he is a fool whose understanding of politics and its nuances is worse than those who sit in their armchairs and spew venom on him.

"Delhi ka CM pagal hai", "He is an anarchist", "He is the Item-Girl of Indian Politics" - I don't think anyone in the recent past has been showered with as many vivid adjectives during such a short period of time. As the anarchist staged a dharna on the roads of Delhi, people fumed and cried foul. During the days preceding AAP's great run to victory, protests identical to this had become synonymous with the name 'Arvind Kejriwal'; they did, by no small measure, influence the outcome of the 2013 elections.

People criticized him even during those days, and they are right to carry on in the same vein for nothing has changed with Arvind Kejriwal. But why are his own supporters up in arms? What has changed now that the very same dharna has become unacceptable? Did the voters of Delhi bring AAP into power hoping that the Aam Aadmi Party would change its colours and become another Congress or a BJP? When you vote for a zealot, you will get a zealot - not a tame country mouse.

"Why did you not stage a dharna when a child was found abandoned in a rubbish heap a few weeks ago? Why are you silent, Kejriwal?" challenged a man who claims to be the Voice of India. Suddenly, the various times AK had not staged dharnas became important to people. Arvind Kejriwal was using these cheap tactics only to further his Lok Sabha ambitions. Everyone had something to say about the wolf in common man's clothing.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - The Man in the Arena, Theodore Roosevelt

When Delhi voted the AAP into an unprecedented second place, I was shocked like many others. Here was a man with absolutely no history in governance, and people had trusted him to go all the way in the capital of the country. Kejriwal, since the beginning, has maintained that his one goal in life is to eradicate corruption. To hand over the reins of a large city to such a man was always a risky prospect - but Democracy allows people to make such choices. And people made that choice when they undertook the risk: corruption had quite clearly leeched its way into their very bones and they took a leap of faith.

Today, Kejriwal defends the same promises that he made. He may be a fool, but he is not a hypocrite. This characteristic of his makes for a strange politician. Democracy doesn't support such men who walk their talk. Democracy is at its best when it does nothing; when people are lulled into a sense of security, they absolutely love their leaders. People may appreciate the talk, but they are averse to actions. In the great average that such a political system creates, a man with ideas stands out like a clown in rainbow clothing.

I am certain that an intelligent man in the CM's chair will not hold protests in Delhi's cold streets if he was able to solve his troubles sitting at home. Clearly unable to effect change from his chair, he came down to the roads in order to utilize the only method he seems to know. Whether this is right or wrong is debatable, but the people who voted him into power shouldn't really have a problem with it. He is, after all, only trying to deliver on his promises.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.
The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest-
-For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men-
-Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man. - Mark Antony, "Julius Caesar" - William Shakespaere 

"But Arvind Kejriwal is an honourable man" - I cannot help but draw parallels. The above speech ended with the words - "Mischief, thou art afoot. Take thou what course thou wilt". When everyone says the same thing again and again, even if it is untrue, it will become fact. 

Dialogue and opinions are an integral part of democracy. Everyone has the right to voice his or her views, but with media shouting its 'news' into peoples' ears, the aam aadmi no longer knows what to do. We must remember that the aam aadmi is one who laughs at Kumar Vishwas' racist and sexist humour; surely, such a man cannot hold his own opinions when he's being pummeled into submission by might of the Voice of India.

Arvind Kejriwal's goal is not in question; if his means to the goal weren't a problem to you before, it shouldn't bother you now. The vigilantes among his comical assembly of politicians have much to learn, but having brought a party into power, it makes sense to give them some time. Perhaps an insensitive haasya-kavi and a reckless Law Minister will go some way in eliminating corruption: two weeks is too small a period to develop opinions about anybody!

Most importantly, let us realize why we praise or criticize anybody. In this market of voices, we develop meaningless opinions in the hope that we get heard.

P.S. Every single person I know wishes for a corruption free India in which they alone can pay a small bribe and get their work done.