If you had walked past him on the street even three years ago, you would be forgiven for having mistaken him for a young, committed school teacher from one of India’s smaller towns. Or, for a government employee who quietly does his work at his desk before going home to a content meal with the family and kids.
But last year, this alumni of India’s prestigious IIT, Karagpur, blazed into the country’s radar with an intense, no holds barred collision with the government in the capital city, over its attempt to privatise water supply in the city that is populated by hundreds of thousands of poor, migrant workers and others who can barely keep their body and soul together. Using the Right To Information Act Kejriwal outed the ruling government’s conspiracy that would have water bills shoot up by over 50 per cent.
That was only the beginning but over the year Kejriwal, who lead an NGO, Parivartan (means improvement or change) before he formed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), a party formed by those who believe India desperately needs a change from the old, established parties such as the ruling Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, has now emerged as the proverbial dark horse or, in this case, the knight in shining armour, who can take India into the future, with his promise of a new, corruption free government, with the interest of its public as its sole motive.
That he did it riding on the back of his party, which has a broom as its election symbol, is a telling comment on just how much mess and dirt there is in the Indian political scene jut now.
Last week, Kejriwal did some unbelievable things such as defeating the incumbent three-time chief minister of Delhi and Congress maven, Sheila Dikshit by over 25,000 votes in the just concluded assembly elections. His thumping victory over the lady was a resounding slap on the face of the ruling Congress party, which has been at the centre of any number of unabashedly corrupt controversies in the last few weeks.
Kejriwal’s ascent to the centre stage — his party won an eye-popping 28 seats against the BJP’s 32 and the Congress party’s 8 seats— has made everyone in the game sit up and stand notice. The Congress party’s sole hope for the future, the scion of the Gandhi-Nehru clan, Rahul Gandhi, said in the immediate wake of his party’s complete rout that he would learn from Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party and listen to the voice of the people more sensitively. Gandhi, who is likely to be announced the Congress Party’s prime ministerial candidate soon, is already believed to be on the job, reaching out to the people to try and make amends before they take the party to the cleaners in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014.
The soft-spoken Kejriwal who could well be the Sachin Tendulkar of Indian politics, with a baby face and a child’s voice, has clearly sounded the warning bells for everyone who wants to try their luck in the Lok Sabha elections. Emboldened by the people’s mandate for his fledgling party, Kejriwal and team are now eyeing the Lok Sabha elections where they will once again test their appeal with the disillusioned masses of the country.
But what is vexing just now is his insistence that the AAP will not make a bid to form the government in Delhi where neither the BJP which fell short of a majority in the elections. He has been insisting his party will sit in the opposition while the BJP and the Congress both dare him to form the government and demonstrate his party’s claim that they are the honest alternate to the corruption ridden established political parties.
Delhi is currently looking at a hung Assembly after AAP won 28 seats and BJP 32 seats while Congress got a pathetic 8 seats. His opponents are already jeering him saying it is one thing to criticize a government and another thing altogether to form and run a government on the principles that he has been propagating.
The other alternate, which is already looking like reality for Delhi is a re-election that will bring home one clear winner for the state that is the playground for the richest and the poorest of the country.
We are not sure the common man on the street wants to go through the expenditure and chaos of another election. But is the neta of the common folk, the man who got the Magsaysay award for ‘Emergent Leadership’ in 2006 , listening to their voice? Only time will tell.