Kejriwal, the toast of the Indian media

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by Ray, Jan 5, 2014.

  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Time to think the unthinkable: Kejriwal as PM?

    SA Aiyar

    The unthinkable happened in 2013: Arvind Kejriwal became CM of Delhi. What’s the most unthinkable thing that could actually happen in 2014? Kejriwal could become prime minister of India.

    Readers may laugh incredulously at the very suggestion. But the revolutionary success of the Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi election shows it’s time to abandon conventional political logic and think the once-unthinkable. Conventional analysis suggests that the next national government will be headed by the BJP. But if the Aam Aadmi Party can scale up nationally, conventional analysis will become junk.

    In Delhi, the AAP won 28 out of 70 seats, with 30% of the popular vote. Skeptics ask, how on earth can you expect AAP to win such a high share of the vote, or of seats, in a general election? True, the AAP cannot hope to do anywhere near as well in a general election. But it does not need to. It simply has to win 30-40 seats out of 543. That could sink Narendra Modi’s hopes of heading a BJP-led coalition. A Third Front government, including neither the Congress nor BJP, is a clear possibility.

    If the AAP wins 30-40 seats, it may become the biggest constituent of the Third Front, bigger than any regional party. This would give Kejriwal excellent credentials to become prime minister of a Third Front government. He would have not only significant numbers, but strong moral authority too. He would stand out as the man who had toppled Congress, and prevented the BJP from taking its place.

    Obviously, Kejriwal would not be able to dominate such a coalition, and would encounter significant resistance from regional parties in the Third Front. He may dislike the idea of heading a shaky national coalition that could collapse within a year or two. But if, as in Delhi, he asks AAP supporters for their guidance, they will surely tell him to grab the opportunity.

    All this is, of course, pure speculation. The Aam Aadmi Party has yet to prove it can scale up nationally. Anna Hazare attracted huge crowds in Delhi but flopped in Mumbai, so maybe the anti-corruption theme will not energize voters everywhere. The AAP had a full year to organize itself electorally in a small area like Delhi, but has only four months left to try and reach the whole of India.

    Delhi is a densely packed urban area where every constituency could be covered quickly by AAP volunteers. Rural constituencies will be very different. India’s population is almost 70% rural. And, because of a rural bias in delimitation of constituencies, rural areas have almost 80% of Parliamentary seats. Urban India accounts for only around 110 of 543 seats, according to Lokniti, the respected research specialist on elections.

    These are indeed real hurdles for the AAP. But remember, India has 53 cities with a population of over one million. The big metros alone account for over 50 seats. These are fertile ground for the party. Besides, the census definition of “rural” is very misleading for electoral purposes. Any habitation where more than half the workers claim to be in agriculture is called rural. This means that many settlements of over 10,000 people are called villages in India. In other countries, habitations of even 1,000 are called towns.

    India has around 500 habitations of over one lakh population, densely populated clusters that can easily by covered by AAP volunteers, as happened in Delhi. Parliamentary constituencies have on an average 2.5 million people. Many supposedly rural constituencies contain several urban clusters of one lakh or more. This means that many formally rural constituencies may have enough urban pockets to vote much the same way as unambiguously urban centres.

    The AAP has gathered momentum after its historic Delhi victory. It has attracted 300,000 volunteers plus professionals like Meera Sanyal, former head of Royal Bank of Scotland; Sameer Nair, former chief of Star TV; and V Balakrishnan, former CFO of Infosys. Earlier, professionals steered clear of politics, since only those with political lineage, muscle and black money could succeed in the political arena. But AAP has suddenly created space for others.

    The party has not yet been tested in rural areas, and could fail there. But remember, two earlier anti-corruption crusades, led by JP Narayan in the 1970s and VP Singh in the 1980s, swept rural as well as urban areas. So, maybe the AAP’s rural prospects are not entirely hopeless. Maybe it can go well beyond 40 seats.

    Unthinkable? Yes, but the unthinkable happened in 2013 in Delhi. Maybe conventional politics is breaking down. If so, the unthinkable could happen in 2014 too.

    Time to think the unthinkable: Kejriwal as PM? by Swaminomics : SA Aiyar's blog-The Times Of India

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    Santa comes to town, with a jhola full of goodiesShobhaa De

    India has been waiting for a Santa Claus for ages. We got lucky, and Santa rode into town this year. No fancy sled. No reindeer. No jingle bells. He was carrying just a jhadu and a jhola full of unexpected goodies. People cheered. Critics jeered. But despite the odds, our desi Santa managed to touch countless hearts. The just concluded X-mas and New Year celebrations were marked by the one emotion that has been missing in our lives for decades — hope. Rightly or wrongly, a single individual became the focal point of this collective hope — Santa Arvind. His timing was impeccable. Things were getting pretty desperate. Doom and gloom defined the national mood. Out of that chaos emerged a non-descript person, who is being hailed as the biggest game-changer in the country.

    Listening to his seminal speech in the Lok Sabha, a few things became startlingly obvious. The simplicity of what he was saying made the others look really foolish. His approach was direct and non-confrontational. It was devoid of theatrics or unnecessary drama. The content was easy to access, process, decode and absorb. He spoke in a language understood by the large majority of India. Minus any flourishes, and stripped to basics, the clarity of his speech may well go down as the single most direct form of mass communication in the public arena. He spoke more like a concerned citizen and less like a seasoned politician. Given that he must have been perfectly aware of the historical significance of this address, he chose his words carefully and well. The thing is, Kejriwal played a credible Santa. He didn’t shortchange his constituency by making absurd claims or demands. And he didn’t alienate his opponents by hurling charges and accusations at them. The contrast between him and ‘them’ was instantly recognized and applauded by India.

    Kejriwal has understood the psychology of our people far better than any of his rivals. He has read us well. He knows our pulse. And he effortlessly presses all the right buttons. Most importantly, he gives the impression he isn’t faking it. Citizens are exhausted. Citizens are cynical. And citizens are impatient. They can see through political nataks. It’s not pompous orators with the gift of the gab they seek. Neither is it pampered baba log speaking in posh accents and suffering from a case of serious ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). It is someone more like themselves they want. Someone who doesn’t talk down. A no-nonsense chap. But here’s the catch. So far, Kejriwal has acquitted himself convincingly as just another aam aadmi looking for change in a hopelessly corrupt system. His paani-bijli narrative has worked well, even if one can pick several holes in its populist pitch. He quickly realized that moving into a comparatively modest, but still frightfully extravagant 6,000 square feet duplex may not sit all that well with the jhuggi-jhopdi- jhola wallas he courts. Some of his earlier gestures smack of mass manipulation. None of this matters in the long run, if— and it’s a pretty big ‘if’—Kejriwal relentlessly pursues and punishes the corrupt. Our vote was cast for that single promise. And we shall hold him to it.

    It’s fascinating to see Dilliwallas scrambling to adapt to the new order. Long-term netas, who have remained deeply entrenched in the old style of functioning (complete with the standard sho-sha of office), have realized the party is finally over. It has always been Delhi that set the standards for netagiri for the rest of India. Almost overnight, Kejriwal has rewritten the rules. Those khadi-couture clad leaders with perfectly co-ordinated sleeveless Nehru jackets, look almost comical as they strut around, noses in the air, Black Cats surrounding them, supreme self importance exuding from every gesture and utterance! How idiotic they look! How dated. How pathetic. Each one of them, a ludicrous symbol of all that we despise and have despised for decades. Suddenly, they seem over. They are past tense. And one hopes, with them goes the baggage of misdemeanors and crimes that have blighted our lives for too long.

    Can our Santa keep up with increasing demands? Will his sack run out of goodies? Does this well-meaning Santa stand a chance in hell as a national leader? Will ‘they’ allow him to take his sled across India? Worse, will he eventually sell out and become one of them? These are our worst nightmares. But then again, we live in hope! There are those who are dreaming of Santa becoming India’s PM. A word of caution here: Much as I hate to rain on Kejriwal’s party, it’s worth reminding him and his admirers that a wise leader takes things one step at a time. The first baby step has been taken in Delhi. The jhadu has done its job where it was needed the most — in the capital of India. The rest of the country will follow. Eventually. As they say in China : Slowly, slowly, catchee monkey!

    Happy New Year, readers…

    Santa comes to town, with a jhola full of goodies by Politically Incorrect : Shobhaa De's blog-The Times Of India

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    Arvind-come-lately changes rules of the game

    With a muffler thrown carelessly around his ears, trousers which clearly did not come from Fab India, casual sandals on his feet wrapped in untidy socks, Arvind Kejriwal delivered the speech of his life while winning the trust vote in the Delhi assembly. As I listened, I thought, when was the last time a speech by a politician, a novice politician, inspired and moved me. I couldn't remember. Like most journalists, I wear my skepticism bordering on cynicism, not merely as a badge of honour, but as an essential tool of the trade. Given the unlimited deviousness of our rulers — note the chicanery in the delayed Congress response to the Adarsh scandal, and the fanfare with which the 'criminal' Yedurappa is welcomed back to the BJP — a journalist without the aforementioned protective gear would blindly print everything that he was told.

    When it comes to oratory, Arvind Kejriwal is no Martin Luther King or Atal Behari Vajpayee. Yet he stunned the nation not by revolutionary rhetoric but with a sensible, middle-of- the-road, achievable vision. Speaking softly in a discourse laced with irony, wit, self-deprecation and seldom heard plaintalk, he laid out before the citizens of Delhi his 'impossible' agenda. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "The eloquent man is he who is no beautiful speaker but who is insanely and desperately drunk with a certain belief." He could be talking of Kejriwal.

    Kejriwal came to the assembly accompanied by the widespread anxiety, even among his close followers, that the AAP was too good to last. On the evening of December 24, when a party MLA revolted because he had been denied ministership, the script seemed to be playing to a predictable finale. These untested and rowdy legislators with comical caps would be at each other's throats sooner rather than later. The AAP would self-destruct. I-told-you-so-wallahs were delirious with joy.

    It didn't happen. That small bushfire was doused swiftly. Since then Kejriwal and his team have been remarkably sure-footed. They could be mistaken for veteran MLAs.

    Two of the so-called 18 impossible promises have already been delivered. The BJP and the Congress may quibble with the small print, but they do so at their own peril. The Congress is presently over a barrel. If it plays any dirty games over 'unconditional' support, the voters of Delhi, and I dare say the voters of India, will inflict further punishment on a party already in pretty desperate straits. Harsh Vardhan and Co, meanwhile, need to be careful in taking on Kejriwal. Most people who voted AAP in Delhi, when asked, confessed they would support Narendra Modi in a general election. Relentless hostility to a party that enjoys unprecedented popular support could be a dangerous tactic, possibly counter-productive when the BJP makes its pitch to these same voters. Benign neglect of the AAP as a strategy for the Sangh Parivar makes more sense.

    Make no mistake. A rare fragrant wind blows through our troubled land. Hope, optimism, expectation, and a sense of common destiny dangle tantalizingly before the republic. The AAP mania is gathering nation-wide momentum. Each day brings news of CEOs, film stars, taxi-drivers, eunuchs, scientists queuing up in several cities clamouring for membership. Money in small notes is pouring in. It is all unsurprising. Once the AAP demonstrated it was no fringe NGO (expert at agitation, hopeless at wielding power) India would follow Delhi's example. Already talk grows of Narendra Modi vs Arvind Kejriwal as the real contest in the general election.

    Forgive me if I seem to be going ga-ga over something which may prove ephemeral. Since late last year I have been consistently championing the aam aadmi cause, and if you will pardon a touch of immodesty, I was among the first in India's eclectic commentariat to predict that AAP would spring a 'surprise' in the capital. As somebody who gets his political forecasts spectacularly wrong, I can be excused for feeling faintly smug at the moment. When readers of this column and other columns on the subject get some time, I suggest they savour the style and substance of Arvind Kejriwal's full speech to make up their own mind whether I have gone overthe-top or whether Kejriwal's emergence from relative obscurity on to the national stage, is a matter for rejoicing . While you make up your mind, consider the state of terror our traditional political parties are experiencing (Rajasthan's new CM Vasundhara Raje Scindia reportedly came to work last week in a taxi) as this Arvind-come-lately changes the rules of the game almost on a daily basis.

    One final reason we have to be grateful to Kejriwal: he has knocked off Modi from the front pages!

    Arvind-come-lately changes rules of the game - The Times of India
     
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  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    IMMENSE POSSIBILITIES

    - The slow, far away taste of freedom


    Ruchir Joshi

    The roof of the vehicle slides by, it seems almost under the height of my knees. I’m on one of those high sidewalks in Defence Colony market in Delhi. It’s a busy evening and the perpetual traffic jam usually provides an eyeline of irritated sedans punctuated by the surly hulks of shiny SUVs, and it takes me a moment to recognize this thing that’s suspended between two normal cars like a wide, white-painted metal carpet. It’s the new year of 2014, Delhi is a crazy town, and some lunatic is navigating his new-ish Lamborghini Aventador at 10kmph between the jagged edge of the sidewalk and the prows of the parked cars. As the car passes, I note with satisfaction that the super-designed slats of the rear window are grimy with the same Delhi traffic dirt that drapes auto-rickshas and tempos.

    Conversation at the moment sticks closely to the first four letters of the English alphabet: AAP, BJP, Congress, Delhi. Like the slice of an assassin’s ether-dipped blade that the target feels only much later, the full effect of the Aam Aadmi Party’s election victory is only now beginning to bleed into the consciousness of the BJP and the Congress. Both victims are now feeling around their midriffs to gauge the extent of the damage, both are trying to walk straight, fighting to hide the pained grimace under a smile. “They didn’t actually get us, not really…well, yes, a small nick, but they didn’t really get us, not yet.”

    What’s most startling is the euphoria which is exploding not just in Delhi but apparently all over north India. So desperate are people for an alternative to the Congress-BJP double-headed monster and the venal regional satrapies that this victory could suddenly translate into something much bigger. The elation also seems to be cutting across class. Intellectuals who’ve observed Indian politics for sixty years are tempted by hope —“This somehow feels like real change.” Activists, their scepticism hardened by decades of disappointment, are willing to be cautiously optimistic. The motley crew of people the AAP has pulled to themselves are naturally buoyant, many of them young, all of them with open smiles and frank answers. The auto-ricksha drivers, the street barbers and others of the non-destitute working class in Delhi are grinning from ear to ear — they see it very much as their victory but they are willing to share it with people better off than themselves.

    At New Delhi railway station all the trains are late. The fog and rain have meant that all the long distance ones are coming in at the same time, around 11pm at night, everything from Asansol to Aurangabad rolling in at once. The traffic outside the station is madly knotted and one can sense that violence is about to break out at any moment. A sardarji stands near one of the exits, upholding a great, modern, Delhi tradition. His voice is clear even above the crashing of horns, gunning engines and squealing brakes. Centuries of invective fruit has distilled itself into his vocabulary and, listening to him, you understand that he’s disembowelling his driver via the cellphone network. “Yeh maan ley ki tu duniya ka sabsey badaa _____ hai! Just accept that you’re the biggest _____ in the world.” You’ve done yourself with charas now come here and get done by me. “Tu char janmo ka ______ hai. You are a _______ from four re-births…” Sardarji doesn’t raise his voice, he doesn’t change stance as he delivers the killer blow: “Ab _____, tu yeh maan ke chal ki teri naukri gayi. Now you _______, put it in your pipe that you’ve just lost your job.”

    If Punjabi gaali-galauch is in rude good health here, so is pan-Indian scepticism. The old Bengali leftist historian is not so impressed by AAP. “There are some Socialists, sure, but it is essentially a bourgeois formation. Let’s see how long they last.” Others shudder that the provincial fascist spirit of the insupportable Anna Hazare still resides in too many of AAP’s members. Others are differently unimpressed: “Unko na caste dikhti hai na communalism, sirf corruption ka dhol piitney sey baat nahi banegi.” They see neither caste nor communalism, only beating the drum against corruption isn’t going to do it. The Bihari basti activist is un-moved by his friends’ enthusiasm. “I believe in letting food cook on slow heat,” he says, “so, I’m not going to be impressed by this honeymoon period where all his supporters think Kejriwal’s achieved all that he promised in the first four days. I’m going to let these people cook and see what they taste like in six months’ time.”

    The Bengali NGO man who has dealt with Delhi ministers over three decades is more willing to cut Young-Uncle Kejriwal some slack. “Look, I’ve had interactions with both BJP and Congress ministers, several of them. Invariably they talk down to you, give you an ‘audience’ as if they are doing you a favour. My first meeting with the AAP minister was quite surprising. The man had done some homework, he treated us as equals, listened to us. His aides were also young people who knew some things. They all took notes. And, most encouraging, at the end of the meeting he asked us if we had any questions of him. This is how it should be but I’ve never seen anything like it.”

    It’s too early to say if the bands of working class women and men moving through the streets waving their jhaadus have actually begun to bring about change. It’s too early to say if the AAP are indeed the ojhas who will rid us of the demonic spirits of the Congra-Bhaajapaa double-headed monster all over the country. But one thing that’s clear is that everything is now unclear, far more confused, complicated, open and full of possibilities than the simple rout of Rahuga Baba’s Cong-I by Namosis’ BJP. AAP’s victory was the capture of a small but highly visible electoral territory, of a small but critical organ of the body that makes up Indian electoral politics. This could lead to many outcomes. AAP itself could win an unprecedented number of seats, changing the maths for Fekulogists in both branches of the Congra-Bhaajapaa goliath; AAP could win a smallish number of seats, but spread widely in critical areas, enabling them to still influence the formation of the Central government; there could be copy-cat parties that come up between now and May, parties that could queer the pitch in different ways; various existing parties which don’t carry the baggage of corruption (either money corruption or other kinds of systemic moral and structural corruption) could maybe steal stuff out of AAP’s playbook and overturn previous logics; the possibilities are suddenly immense, the process suddenly much more democratic.

    Furthermore, around and beyond the forthcoming elections, Aam Aadmi’s victory has opened other doors as well. It’s now possible to imagine that the municipalities of the big metros could be ruled by local AAP type parties who will primarily promise to look to the specific needs of India’s urban poor and lower-middle-class, even as they let the big state parties inhabit the capitals and control the surrounding rural areas of the state. The big parties may not want this but they may have no choice but to cut a deal when confronted with a popular city-based wave that threatens to damage their control over their rural zones. In this regard, one can easily imagine, Bombay, or Calcutta, say after four years of Trinamul mis-rule, rising to grab a certain municipal independence.

    Whatever the case may be, the most recent wave of discussions has centred around the rumour that Kejriwal had accepted a ten bedroom duplex in central Delhi as his residence. The other thing the BJP have been shouting about is AAP’s ministers taking over eight Innovas previously used by Delhi’s Congress ministers. Both were absurd things to throw at Young Uncle and his band of newbies. The duplex business has now been handled, it seems, by the man saying he will take up smaller quarters somewhere central. The Innova non-controversy was also bounced when it was explained that the cars were a) not new and b) to be used only on official business. The thing is, when one looks at Delhi’s traffic mess, one knows this is something that’s going to come and ram into the young government soon. No matter whether it’s the normal cars, the Lamborghinis or the Innovas, no matter what happens in the Lok Sabha elections, the Delhi government is going to have to show India the way by culling its automobile population on an emergency basis. It may not be as exciting as supplying water or electricity but in the long run that may be the first great achievement for which AAP is remembered.

    Immense possibilities
     
  4. TrueSpirit1

    TrueSpirit1 The Nobody Banned

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    Today's ToI editorial page is overbearingly fraught with Kejriwal-Kejriwal clamour.

    Many columnists & media-commentators are praying that AAP somehow wrests 30-40 LS seats & BJP can be prevented from coming to power.
     
  5. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    That maybe true, but surely the media is independent and not the lackey of any vested interest, or is it?

    Vinod Mehta is a self confessed Congress supporter, and SA Aiyer a crypto Congressman, but what about the others?
     
  6. pkroyal

    pkroyal Regular Member

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    I do not know how it may / may not work.
    please don't be surprised if someone from AAP contacts you
     
  7. Shredder

    Shredder Regular Member

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  8. dhananjay1

    dhananjay1 Regular Member

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    Media demands entertainment. They would send someone on cloud nine and when it stops being entertaining they would fling him down and feed him to the dogs and move on to the next thing.
     

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