Kejriwal, Kejriwal, Kejriwal—yes, the Putsch—we may officially call it that –is complete, and maybe the Dissident Duo’s outreach on April 14th will be a damp squib. Only Kejriwal’s `yes men’ will remain in AAP. Though not exactly `Night of the Long Knives’ (1933), when Hitler had the Brown Shirts massacred ( those who had propelled him into power), there has been another kind of murder—the murder of independent thought. Kejriwal held the mace firmly and swatted the opposition like one would a mosquito.
But Kejriwal’s Caesarian capture of the Supremo title in a “ jo jeeta voh sikandar” style brings Civil Society to a moment of deep introspection and self questioning—is Indian leadership ready for critical thinking and evaluation? Have we matured to actually stomach criticism from our own ranks?
To be able to carry everyone with you was quintessentially Vajpayee; it required maturity and self-confidence and the recognition that no man can rule alone, or through clones. But take the BJP Conclave—founding fathers were missing? Or for that matter the reason why Congress leadership feels rudderless.
Then how do we move forward as a nation from being patron- driven to merit driven? How will we compete in this fast moving world economy? Grandiose polices alone cannot deliver targets if `competition’ is stifled or policies are implemented by a substandard category of professionals/organizations fattened on a culture of patronage. Just look at any awards. We institute them to create an environment of aspiration and achievement, and then dilute their meaning so that the curiosity with which one looks forward to a Booker or Nobel—is missing. Take the list of Rajya Sabha MP’s, Padma Awards or even the Tagore fellowships given out for substandard scholarship to wives, friends mistresses and cronies.
Dissent is a genuine part of democracy, but cronyism and sycophancy make up the ruling elite today in most institutions.
So was democratic thought just a convenient tool to yoke off British rule and we now show ourselves to be, as before, simply feudal in mindset. Look at Rajasthan–erstwhile `Princes of Rajputana’ rule the roost, the royal suffix `HH’ that the Mahatma and Indira Gandhi rid the nation of, back into our society with aplomb. Within the Congress too a royalty exists. It is this what Rahul Gandhi was trying to root out for which he was shunned. The message given was hierarchies are sacrosanct, cannot be tampered with. (Some will argue he too is quintessentially that.)
Bhushan Yadav duo too asked some inconvenient questions—on financial methodology and personality projections. No one says their motives were/are ideal—but the questions raised of `achhe aadmi’ and `saaf niyat’ are very relevant. The issue here is not that Kejriwal is wrong, or Bhushan/Yadav right, but whether Kejriwal can stomach another man sharing space for decision-making.
No one can doubt that IAC was a genuine people’s movement (Anna, Bedi, et al) but maybe the AAP that is evolving from it, minus its base of critics, will cease to be the tsunami Civil Society hoped for. Instead becoming just a parking ground for political wannabe’s who do not find space in the big-ticket parties for either reasons of `identity’ or `opportunity’. As a nation, most sadly agree, it does not pay for our citizens to hold up standards for civilized thought and ideas. Nor ones that germinate into the seeds of movements symbolized by slogans like `Liberty Equality Fraternity’. Or bring them to the forefront of discourse, be it politics, art or social change.
Unless we rise above this and accept that critical evaluation and thinking as an essential part of democratic life the nation cannot rise to the heights that we profess to wish to. Without the ability for healthy self critique we cannot occupy a hallowed seat in the comity of nations that forge ahead on the grit of meritocracy.
The Mahatama’s ability to galvanise a whole nation inspires every politician’s dream. Now it is the turn of Modi to re invent the Mahatma’s rhetoric and reap the rewards. (Certainly no one can argue with the logic of a Swatch Bharat.) But Gandhi becoming a popular catchword for reasons other than what he stood for– a false inclusiveness, to wean hardcore Gandhians away from the Congress–is to not truly understand him.
The Mahatma ‘s drive was more than external it was of motives and intent. Each action of his was based on introspection for common good. Again and again he questioned his motives and `niyat’.
“India of my dreams – I shall work for an India in which the poorest shall feel that is their country, in whose making they have an effective voice, an India in which there shall be no high class and low class of people; an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony.”
Just as AAP stood for reminding the ruling Congress the principles on which its own founding fathers and how small the men who rule it now had become, so another rookie outfit could be born out of the ashes of IAC to challenge AAP. Beware Kehriwal, for malafide intent always breeds the seeds of discontent. You compromise in the system and the system corrupts you.
As the drive towards the Bihar and UP Elections progresses, for Voters and Civil Society it will be most important to remember: are we voting to usher in a Naya Daur? Will there be fresh faces fielded to bring Parliament esteem? Or will it be as before—the hell with `criteria’ it’s `winnability’ at any cost?