ARVIND KEJRIWAL KI AJEEB DASTAAN…
Rajeev was disillusioned after his request for an audit of Kabir's account was turned down by Kejriwal. "It started interestingly one day with chai and samosas when he asked why we should give out information that we are funded by international outfits," says Rajeev, adding that four months later Kejriwal wrote a mail saying that anyone can audit the accounts. "There was certainly some sort of bungling in the accounts," says an associate. "Why else would he be so secretive about it?"
Meanwhile, Kejriwal reportedly told one of his associates that he was asked to teach once again at Sankalp, the RSS-run coaching classes for civil services aspirants. "He used to teach there earlier. I told him this would not be a good idea," says a colleague. There are unsubstantiated stories about Kejriwal's old family connections with the RSS. "This does not make him RSS," clarifies one of his friends. "That he kept mum on the RSS involvement in the Anna movement is a clear pointer to where he stands," says another old associate.
Working in tandem with activists of the NCPRI, Kejriwal became a regular at World Bank and UN events. "He would go to attend Jan Sunwayis organised by World Bank and UN," says an associate. "Contrary to the norms in Parivartan, he would not consult the team before going for any such meetings," he adds.
Also, with his strong media management skills, he suddenly became RTI's face in Delhi. "He considered it a magic wand," says an RTI activist. "With his populist approach, he approached Indu Jain, proprietor of the Times of India, and became a partner in a one-year-long campaign on RTI. He wanted to take all the credit," says a veteran social activist. "He was now all over the place. An RTI Manch was established in Delhi. This is how he operates; he establishes partnerships with the corporate media, uses them to the hilt."
He got in touch with other activists, including Sandeep Pandey. "This is how he got the Magsaysay," says an associate, "It was not the right time to recommend him for a Magsaysay." "I think it was Pandey who recommended his name for the award," says Rajeev. Pandey is part of Team Anna. He too is apparently terribly miffed.
Post Magsaysay, things took an altogether different turn. "He became totally disinterested in Parivartan," says Ritu, who was among the founders of Sampoorna Parivartan. "He came to office just once in 18 months after receiving the award," says a colleague. "Parivartan has been dead since," says another associate. "He did not work as much for the nationwide RTI Act as people believe. There was more hype than anything of substance. There were huge differences, with good people
Now, he was hobnobbing for his friends and associates to get them plum postings in the newly set up Central Information Commission (CIC) in Delhi. "He proposed Sisodia's name for the post of independent commissioner in the CIC through backdoor channels," says a senior RTI activist. This did not materialise, however, reportedly because of Sisodia's lack of experience on the ground. "He was pitching for Shailesh Gandhi, who was later appointed. However, he had differences with Gandhi too, and in one instance he got really angry when Gandhi disagreed with his idea of penalising every erring public information officer," says the activist.
With the Magsaysay money, he started a 'trust': Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF). It was this 'trust' which organised RTI awards in five star hotels with corporate funding, involving media groups like NDTV and Dainik Jagran, with active support of multi-millionaire film stars like Aamir Khan. "This was shocking for many veterans, including the late editor of Jansatta, Prabhash Joshi, who said that if one starts taking money from corporates, it would defeat the whole purpose of RTI," says an activist. Kejriwal reportedly told Joshi that he can't back off.
"It is a marriage of convenience. It happens with him all the time. He would later feign ignorance even though he knows exactly what he is doing," says an associate. A similar thing happened during the Lokpal movement when people raised questions on the presence of another millionaire guru, Baba Ramdev, despite his overt Sangh Parivar links. Indeed, Ramdev gave a speech at Ramlila Ground also.
A Delhi-based RTI activist says Kejriwal refused to part with information on an application seeking details of funding and expenditure on RTI awards. "It was, if not legal, a moral question, for all those who talk of RTI petitions. I petitioned all the NGOs who work in the RTI sector. Kabir and PCRF gave ambiguous details. Instead, Kejriwal called me and said, come to my office for tea. I refused," says Afroz Alam, a freelance journalist.
"He is an agent of the corporates," says veteran activist Ashok Choudhary. Among other sponsors for the RTI awards were the Tatas and Infosys.
Meanwhile, Kejriwal started a tacit and unsuccessful campaign supporting Kiran Bedi's appointment to the CIC. He also ran a campaign against privatisation of Delhi Jal Board. "It was a good campaign. Despite that, people were feeling marginalised," says an activist.
By now, as is the pattern, his interest in RTI diminished. "His group started saying that there's nothing left in RTI," says an activist. "This is why, when CBI was taken out of the ambit of RTI recently, Kejriwal did not protest."