ARVIND Kejriwal’s name today is probably hotter than those of many Bollywood stars and cricketers, the two spheres which have been the most popular among the Indian masses for years. Well, there can be no doubt that politicians too are among the most recognised faces of this nation, but in these years, where ideological and political differences have become so marked that the followers of one political leader hate the rival leader, the popularity of the political leadership has become extremely factionalised. Kejriwal has bucked the trend in this regard.
It must be said, though, that Kejriwal as the core member of India Against Corruption (IAC) and as a crusader teaming up with Anna Hazare to form one of the most formidable and fascinating teams in recent years, and Kejriwal as the leader of the political outfit, Aam Aadmi Party, stand on completely different footings. While the IAC’s Kejriwal was beloved of almost the entire nation, particularly the middle class, and was beyond any criticism or reproach, AAP’s Kejriwal is now definitely a leader of a faction. The universal acceptance is gone, despite his spectacular performance in the recent Delhi elections. The reason is simple: Now he is also a part of a group like other groups and while his supporters adore him, the supporters of other political outfits have equally strong views of non-acceptance about him. This is simple mathematics; while initially he was in the process of multiplication, today his situation is more akin to the mathematical operation of division.
I’ll like to make one thing clear here before I proceed any further. It is that this article neither endorses nor discusses Kejriwal as a politician; it is not about his ideology, his political, social or economic thinking; it is also not about how correct or incorrect he is, his genuineness or otherwise. I am not making any comments as regards whether he shall be accepted or rejected, whether the electors need him or not. These issues fall in the realm of politics and I am not commenting on them. To me, the issue is only about the rise of Kejriwal and how and what other bureaucrats need to learn from him, particularly vis-à-vis their own political ambitions, or choices.
KEJRIWAL is not the first bureaucrat to enter politics. Right since independence, we have seen umpteen bureaucrats— IAS, IPS and IFS officers and their predecessors, among others—joining politics. We have seen many of them rising to very high levels. To name a few, there is Yashwant Sinha in the BjP who has been an important minister in different ministries and remains a formidable figure in his party. There is Mani Shankar Aiyer in the Congress who has been an important political person for years now; PL Punia from Uttar Pradesh and current Chairman of the National SC Commission; Natwar Singh, ex-IFS officer; Ajit jogi, ex-IAS officer and former Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh; and BP Singhal, ex-IPS officer and BJP leader, are among others who made a successful transition from bureaucracy to politics.
But the one important difference, with due regard for all these venerable and respected names running across various political parties, is that this seems to be only the second occasion, after N jaiprakash Narayan from Andhra Pradesh, an IAS officer, quit the service not to join any established political party but to make an effort to create one of his own and thereby make direct contact with the public. While an umpteen number of bureaucrats joined politics and reached heights, somehow, a common perception has been that their leadership owes a definite amount to the political party they are affiliated with. Thus, I would venture to say that these people prima facie seem to be party men, those who depended on their party to make them what they became.
While an umpteen number of bureaucrats joined politics and reached heights, somehow, a common perception has been that their leadership owes a definite amount to the political party they are affiliated with.
In other words, it means that none of these leaders possibly got an acceptance of a mass leader on their own, in the way Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi or Narendra Modi or LK Advani from established parties have, or the way Mayawati and Mulayam Singh in UP, Balasaheb Thackarey in Maharashtra, Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, Prakash Singh Badal in Punjab, Biju Patnaik and his son in Odisha, NTR in Andhra Pradesh, MGR and M Karunanidhi in Tamil Nadu, Laloo Prasad and Nitish Kumar in Bihar and some others, who challenged the structure and established themselves, could claim. Without going into the characteristics, features and signs of a mass leader, I would state that a mass leader is very clearly visible and understood by his acts, words and gestures. It is also undeniable that mass leaders, being in direct contact with the people, the ultimate repository of power in a democratic set-up, naturally exude a confidence and body language very different from others who depend on the political structure and system. It is in this aspect that Kejriwal has started a new trend, though he had a predecessor in jaiprakash Narayan to a reasonable extent. Again, without hurting anyone, I will venture to say that Kejriwal’s political strength and performance have definitely been on the higher side.
The only purpose of this analysis is for bureaucrats to learn and understand that they, being an extremely talented lot, can definitely replicate Kejriwal’s success or come near it. They can become political entities in their own right, not exactly dependent on various high commands, in case they definitely and strongly decide upon that and go religiously, meticulously and sincerely along that route. Without sermonising, I say this because it does hurt when I see extremely intelligent and capable bureaucrats seeking favours from the political establishment in a manner which is generally blatantly servile and not in any way suiting their capabilities. Whether one likes it or not, Kejriwal has done this and possibly shown the way to others. G
Amitabh Thakur, IPS officer from UP, is also working for transparency in governance. The views expressed are personal.