governance, political economy, institutional development and economic regulation

Kejriwal sleeping on the freezing ground by his Wagon R looks defenseless as a baby in the cold rain. But in his weakness lies his strength. He is the first Chief Minister to stage a dharna against the State. What does it is say of a State when a Chief Minister has to break the law to be heard?

CMs, like Kejriwal, who don’t play by the rules of “old style” politics (quid pro cos; nod and wink; mutual back scratching; Nelsons eye; keeping others off the bus you have clambered on) have no “voice” in the system. Much of the power and prestige of a CM, is derived from her ability to network the system, just like any CEO; to collaborate, compromise and cut deals.

Kejriwal, like Modi, shuns this model of “governance”. Modi is now growing into his new national role by sanding his rough edges, rubbing kites with Bollywood and learning the ropes of compromise.

Of course there is always a space for contrarians; street fighters like Didi and the imperious Naveen Patnaik, or the regal Amma who refuses to cow-tow to the hypocrisy embedded in the edifices of our “federal state”. She routinely gives scant regard to the annual jamboree of the National Development Council, which is one such federal edifice, meant to provide a fig leaf of rationality to the sharing of the annual booty handed out  annually by the Planning Commission are shared rationally amongst the state government through Central Sector Schemes. The fact is, blood is thicker than water and political bargains are the basis for the pork handed out. So why bother with speechifying?

What is Kejriwal saying when he spends a cold night on the ground, in the open, on dharna? He is screaming that this is what the common man has to endure every day to be heard. Everyone in power knows this, in theory, but it is quite something to “experience” it.

4000 policemen have been mobilized to exclude the passive AAP dharna from Shinde. The Delhi Police showed how efficient it can be when it is protecting one of its own; not just a Minister, of the Government of India, to whom they report, but also protecting the hollow “democratic” edifice we have built for ourselves over the last 60 years where protocol, process and posturing, trump direct action.

The corner stone of this edifice is exclusion of the aam admi beyond neta visits to villages and slums for photo ops. Ministers, who routinely check into luxury hotels on their own account, get instant admission into AIIMS to treat imaginary illnesses. Those without connections sleep on the road outside, waiting in queue till they can get to see a doctor. Government Ministers get free electricity and water in their homes but sagely advise the aam if basic services are free, they are wasted and advocate “user charges” as the remedy. The aam gets electricity only against payment and irregular, poor quality water or has to rely on private suppliers who charge exorbitantly.

Kejriwal has established himself as the “voice” of the marginalized. The problem is he repeatedly asserts that he did not fight elections to form a government; that he is not hungry for political office. This is difficult to reconcile with the demands of political office. Political parties are meant to provide contestability in the market for political office.  If a political party fights elections merely to be in opposition, it actually destroys the political architecture of democracy by reducing contestability. How can one imagine a majority “opposition” party. What then would be the political mandate available to the minority government?

The time has come for Kejriwal to resolve this dilemma by hiving himself off from political office and becoming what he is; an inspirational leader of the marginalized citizen; the AAPs voice of conscience; a new age Anna/JP Narayan/Gandhi. His role would be similar to the RSS, which is the soul of the BJP, whilst Modi is its executive branch.

The AAP must similarly quickly develop a small, carefully selected, executive cadre who can be committed to the dull tasks of governance. Party work is generally unattractive for netas because it is neither high profile nor lucrative. Since AAP leaders do not have worldly ambitions, finding committed party workers should not be a problem. The problem is to identify executives with the right balance of ideology, aptitude and integrity.

Yogendra Yadav is one such leader who is universally salable. Manish Sisodia is another. Kejriwal could hive-off the nitty-gritty task of being CM Delhi to Sisodia, pitch Yadav as CM Haryana, and soar triumphantly, as the man who changed India in 2014.

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Comments on: "Kejriwal: triumphant in defeat" (2)

  1. Kejriwal has challenged the way politics is structured in our country. One hopes that the structure is permanently changed and we do not regress to the old system.

    The outrage evoked by his lack of concern for the Republic Day on a number of news channels was a bit odd. Why exactly do we have a Republic Day. I am happy that we are a republic which is sovereign, secular and democratic, however the socialist reference introduced by Mrs Gandhi is not to my liking.

    But why do we have a Republic Day. Is an Independence day not enough. If we want to have additional national holidays like Republic Day why not also celebrate Sovereignty Day, Secularism Day and Democracy Day. No Socialism Day please. Personally I would prefer Democracy Day to Republic Day as our being democratic is more important to me than our being a republic.

  2. What we are seeing is a revolution of a critical mass that wants to live a life of dignity!!

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