Guest Post by PRAN KURUP
Who is more dangerous for India – Arvind Kejriwal or Narendra Modi? This is a question that India needs to answer. But a recent article titled ‘Arvind Kejriwal: The most dangerous man in India’ has ventured to supply a one-sided answer to this question. The title is as catchy as it is misleading if not subversive. The ensuing ‘analysis’ is sadly not borne out by facts but relies on obfuscation and rhetoric. The tragic outcome is that many pertinent facts have been buried beneath the rubble of unsubstantiated allegations and sinister accusations. On the whole the article is an anti-Kejriwal diatribe disguised as an intellectual treatise.
While conferring on Modi the respectable halo of a “firebrand Hindu nationalist”, the writer goes on to indulge in pure speculation and sweeping generalizations about Kejriwal and other AAP leaders.
Here are some samples:
“Kejriwal spent his time in office preening for the cameras.”
“The last thing the country needs is a charismatic populist who portrays foreign investors as exploiters and Indian businessmen as crooks.”
“Journalists who question this shooting-from-the-hip style are immediately dismissed as being on the take.”
“India is better off with Citizen Kejriwal as a maverick on the sidelines rather than as a serious contender for power.”
Every cloud has a silver lining, though. The writer rightly observes that AAP has changed the grammar of Indian politics. However, while conceding that Kejriwal, unlike Modi and Rahul Gandhi, is not a career politician, and describing him as a man of merit, perseverance and raw courage, the writer goes on to add that Kejriwal’s “economic ideas are a blueprint for disaster.” This criticism is prompted by the fact that Kejriwal halved the power tariffs in Delhi and supplied subsidized water to residents. He adds, “He had claimed, without evidence, that private power companies were cooking the books to gouge consumers.” Perhaps, the author should rely on more authentic research before arriving at such conclusions. The AAP government had demanded an audit of the power companies and got it approved within five days, something the BJP and Congress governments could not accomplish in years.
The writer mentions that Kejriwal had passed two tough national level competitive examinations – for entrance to the prestigious IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) and later for the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) job. He agrees that the Jan Lokpal and Swaraj are two “big ideas” for which Kerjiwal deserves credit. Yet he pulls the carpet from beneath the feet of the fledgling AAP by adding a loose observation that ‘India’s gargantuan democracy…..doesn’t usually favor newcomers.” Again, he is completely off the mark. The truth is that Indian democracy has a history of making dramatic choices. It would do well to remember how the DMK came to power in Tamilnadu in 1967 simultaneously winning all the 25 Parliament seats the party had contested, how MGR led the newly formed AIADMK to power in the seventies, and how NTR burst upon the Andhra scene in March 1982 and swept the polls in January 1983.The most recent instance of the AAP’s spectacular success in the Delhi Assembly election is only a case of history repeating itself.
AAP candidates have filed their nominations from over 400 seats (a record in Indian politics) without “the organization, rural name recognition and grassroots support outside Delhi.” Therein lies the beauty of Indian democracy. It echoes what Arvind Kejriwal has been admitting all along, “If the people want it, the candidates will rise from among the people irrespective of organizational structure and resources”.
The writer says, “Despite frequently attacking Modi for using private jets, Kejriwal hopped onto one himself in early March to return to Delhi in time for a speech at a high-profile media conclave.” conveniently ignoring the critical fact that Kejriwal disclosed who arranged for his flight while the source of funds for Modi’s incessant jet setting campaign trips on corporate sponsored jets remains a mystery.
The writer opines “Countries became rich before they became clean…” implying that we should focus on getting rich and corruption will automatically fade away – a variation of the failed US Republican theory of trickledown economics perhaps? Please, thank you, but no thank you. Nowhere has the AAP argued that we should stop growing the economy while fixing corruption. In fact, a survey conducted by TOI showed a noticeable decrease in corruption even during the brief AAP rule in Delhi.
The writer seems to be particularly irked by Kerjiwal’s decision to run against Modi in Varansai. If the so-called Modi wave is in the ascendant, why should anybody worry about a puny challenger like Kejriwal? Besides, why should Modi contest from two constituencies?
Most importantly, the writer has little to say about Modi completely avoiding the media. If Modi has such a stellar record why won’t he speak to the media? Why won’t he take up Kejriwal’s offer for an open debate? In this day and age when communication technologies are revolutionizing the world does India need a leader who won’t speak to them, a leader who has nothing to say on the critical issues du jour – article 377 , oil and gas price, jobs, farmer suicides, FDI in retail, to name a few.
The AAP leadership has articulated that India’s number one enemy is corruption, followed by dynasty politics, communal elements and criminals in parliament – none of which seems to have caught the writer’s attention. If this makes Arvind Kejriwal dangerous for India, most Indians would say, “so be it”.
Who is more dangerous – a down to earth, outspoken, fearless leader or one who gallavants on corporate sponsored jets from one snazzy campaign venue to another with a carefully crafted public image fueled by unaccounted PR expenses?
This is a decision that the people of India will soon have to make. Let’s wait and see.
Pran Kurup is an entrepreneur, technology enthusiast and keen follower of politics. He writes a popular blog http://blogs.economictimes.indiatimes.com/outsideedge/