No muffling this Muffler Man

India’s capital city has a new action hero. The name is Muffler Man and he will let no one and nothing keep him from saving the people of the city…

By Sudha Menon (Person of the week)

Published: Sat 21 Feb 2015, 9:34 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 7:57 PM

India’s teeming millions — the poor, the oppressed, the frustrated and the downright angry, have a new superhero in Muffler Man aka Arvind Kejriwal whose Aam Aadmi Party recently trounced the Bharatiya Janata Party led by Prime Minister Narendra Mody, at the elections to India’s capital city, Delhi.

Never before has India’s political stage seen a David and Goliath story of such proportions: a diminutive 5ft something man with a hacking, asthama induced cough landing a body blow to Mody’s famed, self-proclaimed  56” chest.

A common man’s humble muffler and sweater taking on the might of a man who was recently seen wearing an expensive jacquard jacket with his own names woven into it a thousand times over.

A tea-vendor turned prime minister who recently invited the President of the United States for Chai Pe Charcha (chat over tea) trounced by a man who got the bulk of his votes from the city’s poorest of the poor who probably cannot afford a cup of chai everyday.

It is not without a reason that the former revenue service officer has made it to the cover pages of almost all newspapers and magazines in the last week, one of them putting him in the image of The Common Man, an iconic cartoon by the country’s  beloved and recently departed cartoonist and social commentator, R.K. Laxman.

When he took over as Chief Minister of Delhi for the second time in the last two years ( he resigned as the CM in just 49 days the last time, protesting over the opposition’s failure to support his Lok Pal bill), it was with the confidence of a man whose party has complete majority — his party won 67 of the 70 seats. It is a matter of much public humour these days that the members of the opposition in the Delhi assembly can actually get there ensconced in a single autorickshaw.

Kejriwal chose his favourite location — the sprawling Ram Lila Maidan in Delhi — for his swearing in, a smart move considering that one lakh citizens turned up there to cheer him on, waving brooms in the air, lustily supporting the man who has promised to wield the broom and sweep away corruption from public life.

Minutes after he took the oath to become the chief minister of Delhi, Kejriwal set the process in motion by urging citizens to use their smart phones to record corrupt officials who demand bribe for doing their work. “Send those videos/photographs to me directly. I will take action immediately,” he assured the cheering masses. Not many with a voice that is as singularly off tune as his, will dare to be heard in public but then, Kejriwal is no ordinary man. He is the guy from the masses who has walked on every solitary path, taken on the establishment and written the plot of his own life. So no one was particularly surprised when he took to microphone to sing a song about human solidarity, urging his followers to take the message in the song as the philosophy of their future life.

In the days to come Kejriwal will have challenges by the truckloads, waiting to mow him down. The extraordinary majority that his party holds in the assembly in itself could prove to be a double edged sword as there will virtually be no opposition to anything that his government does in Delhi. Well-wishers are already cautioning him about the old adage: ‘Power Corrupts . Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.’

Kejriwal is well aware of the pitfalls and took the swearing-in ceremony to send out a message to the party to keep away from the dangers of letting the arrogance of power go to their heads.

In the days to come Kejriwal and his ragtag army of young, idealists from all walks of life will have other things waiting to trip them up and and this includes the wrath of the establishment whose might he brought crumbling down like a pack of cards.

The BJP is left without a modicum (pun unintended) of credibility in Delhi and we are sure Kejriwal and company are well aware that getting support from the Modi-run central government will be a Himalayan task. But like we said before, this is a David and Goliath story of modern times and you never know what tricks this Aam Aadmi has up his sleeve to take on Modi’s brand of politics.

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