ARVIND KEJRIWAL KI AJEEB DASTAAN…
Or, you may ask, Arvind Kejriwal ko ghussa kyon aata hai... Here is the inside story of the obsessive man behind the draconian Lokpal Bill
Sadiq Naqvi Delhi
"Get a Muslim and Dalit face, we want them on the stage. A lot of negative publicity needs to be countered," says Arvind Kejriwal, before Anna Hazare broke his fast at Ramlila Ground. Team Anna insiders informed that this is how a 'symbolic' Muslim and Dalit girl were huddled to the dais in front of TV cameras, where Hazare was sitting on fast in the 'second freedom struggle'. (Incidentally, the father and mother of the little ones belong to Kejriwal's NGO.)
His friends say that Kejriwal, architect of the Jan Lokpal campaign, can give the best of PR agencies and event managers a run for their money. Since the fast at Jantar Mantar (held between the cricket World Cup and IPL – two cash-rich TV grand shows), and the manner in which mobile companies, TV channels, and multiple fronts were mobilised, including RSS fronts, a lot of strategic thought went into it. "In the first programme against the Commonwealth Games, there were not even 100 people. That's when Kejriwal went to Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravishankar and the Delhi Church. This translated into numbers in the subsequent events," says Devinder Sharma, agriculture expert and founder member of India Against Corruption (IAC). "You just can't match his managerial skills. Every step is taken in a planned manner," says an IAC member. "He is ambitious. There is a strong driving force," says an old friend.
IAC was not just a good coincidence. It was a coalition of individuals from diverse backgrounds in tune with a certain urban-centric ethos. "It wasn't a fluke, but a well-laid plan," says a member of the National Campaign for Protection of Right to Information (NCPRI). "Kejriwal is behind the entire conceptualisation of the Lokpal Bill."
Says an old associate who worked with him in his first NGO: "This obsessive Lokpal piece with the vision of a gigantic bureaucracy is his baby. It's psychic and typical – as if he is repositioning his incestuous past in the bureaucracy, once again playing super-boss and dictator combined. This is in synthesis with the basic fascist character of Anna Hazare's life and philosophy. This is precisely why the Lokpal draft is draconian, without imagination or flexibility, and completely unoriginal. It's reflective of Kejriwal's basic character and wish-fulfilment."
"It's not easy to pick and choose a few people from such a big country. It was a huge task," says Devinder Sharma. In September 2010, a meeting was called at the India International Centre in Delhi by Kejriwal. Participants recount it as a brainstorming session where he picked up points to carry the campaign forward.
With a middle-class 'Amol Palekar' look (sans the simplicity or vulnerability of Palekar), with unimpressive loose trousers and shirt, this ex-IIT, Indian Revenue Service (IRS) man seems to have a burning desire to get things done within iron curtain objectives – in a mechanical, one-dimensional, managerial manner. There is little concern for complexities, ideological/paradigm shifts, social contradictions, larger vision, self-criticism, philosophical underpinnings. Hence, when he unilaterally said that Hazare is above Parliament, his Team Anna associate Justice Santosh Hegde was quick to say, "It was unwarranted. This is what happens when you talk too much."
Others say, why only Hazare, Kejriwal himself would want to be "above Parliament". "And why only Parliament, he would want to be above everything: government, judiciary, Parliament, democracy itself," says a former, bitter associate.
"The movement consisted of people from all shades of political opinion, including Left, Right and Centre," says a recent IAC statement. (Fact is, it was mostly Rightwing.) This was in response to RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat's public declaration that the RSS was out there in full strength at Ramlila Ground during the Hazare fast.
Kejriwal started his career with Tata Steel in Jamshedpur. An electrical engineering graduate from IIT Kharagpur, a journal quoted his father as saying that he initially wanted to join the Indian Police Service (IPS). (All the unrequited police traits are still there for everyone to see, say his critics; also, no wonder, ex-cop Kiran Bedi is currently his best pal.) That's why, perhaps, his rigid stand on issues and a belief that tough and draconian laws are the answer to every problem plaguing this country. He quit his job with the Tatas and decided to take the civil services examination. Extremely bright since his school days, he was selected for the IRS.
Those who know about his "status quoist careerism" for long, laugh at his obsession with 'bureaucratic power'. "So why did he go to IIT in the first place? Is it not absurd and reflective of a certain state of intellectual integrity, or lack of it, that he dropped out of engineering to become a revenue officer? What a pity!" says an old friend of Kejriwal. "And then, irony of irony, dropping IRS, to start an NGO! He could very well have started an NGO in Haryana itself!"
Apparently disgruntled with the inept and corrupt ways of the Indian bureaucracy early in his career, he started to think of ways to tackle it. "Since his training days, he would say that he wants to work on tackling corruption in the country," recounts a faculty member from the civil services academy in Mussoorie. "He seemed to have a genuine interest in tackling corruption."