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Arvind Kejriwal: India’s Game Changer?

Garima Goswami, Darpan, 28 Feb, 2014
    India is in the midst of a turbulent political storm that has yet to pass with the upcoming 2014 general elections. The outcome not only holds the tendency to make or break the future of the contesting candidates, but more significantly marks a historic moment in the history of the world’s largest democracy – India. The competition has shaped to become even more severe after the 2013 election held in the capital city of New Delhi. The three parties that were vying to secure the chief position of New Delhi’s Chief Minister (Premier) were Congress, the ruling party of India; Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the official opposition; and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), a party that was formed in 2012 under the leadership of Arvind Kejriwal. Emerging as the second favourite after BJP amongst these three was the AAP, which also marked its debut in politics with its unexpected yet commendable victory. In a short span of time, Kejriwal amassed tremendous support from the masses and geared a wave of zero tolerance against corruption, an issue that has only escalated in recent times infuriating the common man. The 45-year-old leader anchored the campaign in an eccentric way to make it emerge as the second largest party in the Delhi elections. Unfortunately for Congress, this translated into a halt of their 15-year rule. 
     
    AAP, once labelled as “mango people in a banana republic,” had strongly campaigned against Congress and BJP and had earlier denied forming a coalition with either party. However due to a lack of majority seats, AAP ended up forming a coalition with Congress after conducting a referendum where 74 per cent of the people favoured AAP to form a government, thus the alliance with Congress commenced. 
     
    Working with an agenda of serving the common man and erasing corruption, Kejriwal was often dismissed by other leaders who referred to him as a political greenhorn. Impressively though, soon after securing the high-profile role of New Delhi’s CM, this tax official-turned- politician started to implement positive changes within Delhi’s political arena. Within his first week in office, Kejriwal halved the power tariffs and announced 700 litres of free water supply to every household with certain conditions. These were amongst the 18 issues that AAP also raised in a letter addressed to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and BJP Chief Rajnath Singh. Other issues included ending the political VIP culture, creating the Jan Lokpal Bill and more. 
     
    2014 General Elections 
     
    Political pundits proclaimed that Delhi 2013 elections pose a picture of what to expect in 2014 elections. Though the Congress has not officially revealed its Prime Minister candidate for the elections, speculations are that Sonia’s son Rahul Gandhi will take the reins of PM if victorious. BJP’s officially announced candidate Narendra Modi, a controversial yet very strong figure for the upcoming elections, who took a dig at AAP and in a veiled attack stated that the nation needed “people who have experience to take it [nation] forward and we are determined to do that.” 
     
    Emerging as a mascot of an alternative brand of politics, Kejriwal has managed to gain competitive attention from Modi, who has been hogged, scrutinized and debated much over by media personalities ever since his candidature was announced. Up until Kejriwal's appearance on the political stage, even those who were apolitical were excited about Modi, though not necessarily by BJP as an institution. 
     
    ‘The angry Indian’ was a term given by media to present the frustration of the country towards corruption and the constant price-rise in commodities and services. In a way BJP and AAP have benefited from an anti-Congress wave that has suddenly gripped the nation. 
     
    Clearly in terms of threats, AAP and BJP go head-to-head. The issues of corruption, unemployment and inflation can be cited as reasons for Congress lacking support from the masses in the upcoming elections. Given the widespread support achieved by AAP, it would be rather foolish to underestimate the traction gained by this party in a short span of time. 
     
    Internal and External Threats 
     
    For a party that came into existence very recently, and comprising of leaders who have just stepped into the political race, internal and external threats are bound to emerge. For now, internal threats are more of a source of worry for Aam Aadmi Party. 
     
    Shortly before the party contested the election, it was the target of a sting operation which alleged that AAP was raising funds through illegal means. In response to these allegations, AAP raised questions on the authenticity of the visual and audio recordings claiming it was doctored. However, the Election Commissioner of India HS Brahma stated the commission has not verified the veracity of the tape and unless the party challenges it, the commission cannot legally give clearance to the AAP. 
    Post coming to power in the capital city, AAP faced threats that emerged from certain statements from the party leaders. Vinod Kumar Binny, Member of the Legislative Assembly from AAP, has become the cause of controversies for AAP from the time the party secured its debut in politics. Calling Kejriwal a dictator, Binny claims the minister has failed to fulfil his pre-promises. “Kejriwal had promised to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill within 15 days of taking office, but has again failed to act. There is no talk of the commando force for women. These were promises made only to get votes. Contractual workers have also been ignored.” Kejriwal responded to Binny’s claim, and says Binny is angry at being denied a Lok Sabha (lower house of the Parliament of India) ticket. Binny has threatened that he will go on a hunger strike if Kejriwal does not oblige to his promises swiftly. 
     
    Furthermore, a major dispute surrounded AAP after the party’s senior leader Prashant Bhushan made a controversial statement about Kashmir, a topic that has always sparked debate in the country. In early January, Bhushan had said that deployment of military in Jammu and Kashmir should be undertaken with the consent of people of the state. His statement was slammed by political parties and most prominently by a fringe right- wing organization. Individuals from the group vandalized AAP’s office. Kejriwal also expressed disapproval of Bhushan’s comments. 
     
    Most recently, the ruling party of Punjab, Shiromani Akali Dal claimed that AAP’s move to relieve Delhi residents in power and water bills was something initiated by the Akalis in Punjab. “By slashing power tariff and providing rebate in water bills, AAP is doing nothing new but only following what Akalis have already done in Punjab,” says Punjab Cabinet Minister Bikram Singh Majithia. Many are observing the statement as a move by the Akalis to project AAP in a negative light ahead of campaigning, which is yet to start in the state for the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections. 
     
    From the moment Kejriwal delivered his speech upon taking oath as CM, he has maintained that AAP is a common man’s party and he will deliver his duty working in close proximity with the common people. As the party continues to grow in popularity and numbers it only brings one down to the fact that AAP poses serious competition to the two fronts that have dominated India’s political picture since independence. 
     
    Before entering the realms of politics, Kejriwal was actively involved in social work and worked for the implementation of Right to Information Act (RTI) at the grassroot level. Kejriwal was also associated with the famous social activist Anna Hazare and spearheaded his movement until he formed his own party – the Aam Aadmi Party. 
     

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