Chirharan of the Kauravas

THERE may be many Indians out there admiring Mr Arvind Kejriwal’s guts to strip saintly masks off many faces in politics, with no concern for his life, with concern only for honest governance, yet among them there would be quite a few who may not agree with him that only a new political party under his leadership can deliver this country from the Pindaris and thugs and lead it into a golden age.

Lest it may sound pleasant to the ears of politicians of all hues, it needs to be said that there is not one political party in the country today which stands out as a party of honest people. So much so that if you engage politicians, high or low, in private they would not shy away from admitting it. There may be politicians less or more skilful, less and more brazen, in accumulating wealth by unfair means; so you may find within a party politicians whose affluence may match large or middle-level business houses and politicians whose wealth has not gone beyond the level of small businessmen; but you will seldom find politicians who have considered touching private capital as sin or who have fainted at the mere thought of dipping their fingers into the public treasury.
Now, this we knew even before Mr Kejriwal appeared on the national stage, on behalf of us the common people, the tens of millions of Pandavas who were denied benefit even the size of a needle, to perform the chirharan of the few hundreds of Kauravas. There was never a time when commoners did not think how dramatically their life could change if only there was a party of honest people. They had been living, so to say, with the hope of a God’s avatar descending on this piece of earth to liberate them from the demons. Would they see Mr Kejriwal as an avatar? Now that is the big question, and we need to arrive at an answer after some cool thinking.
Let us look at history. There have been avatars before, starting with Gandhi, who people followed with hope of freedom from exploitation, injustice and dishonesty. What happened to Gandhi and whatever happened to Gandhian political and economic philosophies, we all know from the ashrams, memorials and lofty rhetoric they have been reduced to. People who voted in the first general elections in independent India went on voting for the Indian National Congress in the subsequent elections even though its politics and governance moved farther and farther away from Gandhian concept of purist polity. Then came the socialists and Hindu nationalists in the mid-sixties as new avatars. They railed against Congress corruption, the degeneration of Congressmen from patriots to plunderers, and people in many states voted them into power, with the hope that they would end the asura raj and bring justice and happiness to all. But they, in their lust for power and pelf, proved no different from Congressmen.
In the mid-seventies, Jayaprakash Narayan descended as the new avatar. But he was only to discover, after the non-Congress conglomeration, the Janata Party, got into power, much to his shock, that he had not brought much gain for the people by renouncing his renunciation. The ministers of the Janata Party government proved no less greedy.
Should Mr Kejriwal not take the experience of previous avatars into account before deciding to launch a new party? But he is very good at polemics: he may shoot back that failures in the past do not necessarily mean failures in the future. If Man had given up after a few failures, there would have been no progress on the planet.
Fine, Mr Kejriwal: but wouldn’t it be wise not to try to make a political party by stringing together parties and organizations on the margins – parties that have been abject political failures, and civil society groups that are mostly one-person armies? We do not have a full list of all the fringe parties and groups he and other members of his politburo are trying to fuse into a new party, but the names of the few that have been disclosed by the proposed party’s “political strategist” ( hitherto not-always-dependable psephologist), Mr Yogendra Yadav hardly inspire confidence. These parties and groups might have office-bearers who are men and women of very strong moral fibre, but the harsh reality is that they have failed over decades to gain, what to speak of mass, even respectably small support among voters. They have had no presence in legislatures or Parliament.
All Mr Kejriwal is banking on is the illusion long nurtured by many liberals disenchanted with all political parties and enchanted with works of several honest, spirited social activists across the country that the only thing this country needs for its liberation from the Kauravas is the amalgamation of all the “grassroots movements” to build up an epoch-changing force. This has so far remained an illusion, because a political party needs a common ideology and a trusted common leadership. The parties and groups Mr Kejriwal is trying to unite have each existed independent of others, with separate leaders, ideas, strategies, objectives and style of functioning. Many of them are one-man shows. It would be wiser for Mr Kejriwal not to build a party on such an illusion. The country would be better served if he concentrates on his chirharan. If not political parties, at least individual politicians would not return to legislatures or be forced to prove their innocence before voters.