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Why Arvind Kejriwal failed

By Ritesh K Srivastava | Updated: Mar 30, 2013, 15:25 PM IST

RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal has a long way to go as a politician. And what proves this point is the failure of his indefinite fast against "illegal" electricity and water bills in Delhi, which did not get adequate response from the common man, whose cause Kejriwal claims to be championing.

The failure of his agitation, which he called a ‘civil disobedience movement’, to connect with the ordinary Delhi resident also raises serious questions about his credibility as a politician to effect big changes in the corruption-ridden society.

The wafer-thin turnout of people in Sunder Nagri, where he is holding his agitation, has caused much discomfort to those who see him as the flag-bearer of the common man’s cause. Ever since he parted ways with his mentor and noted anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare, Kejriwal has been trying hard to gain some ground to establish himself as a ‘different’ politician.

His brazen attack on various mainstream political parties, his startling revelations against corrupt politicians and industrialists, which earned him both friends and foes, were all possibly aimed at establishing himself and the Aam Admi Party (AAP) which he launched last year amid much fan fare as a credible force.

Barring some successful events in the past where the IAC activist and former Indian Revenue Services officer shared stage with his mentor Anna Hazare, both of them have suffered huge reverses and witnessed people’s fast eroding support for them.

The reasons behind Kejriwal’s dismal performance could be many. It could be either a change in his strategy to remain low profile and focus more on 264 wards in Delhi in view of the fast approaching Assembly polls or probably his over-confidence that a large number of Delhites will actually support his agitation and not pay their bills.

Back in August 2011, Delhi`s Ramlila Maidan saw a massive crowd when Gandhian Hazare was on a hunger strike for 13 days and even forced the UPA government to give fresh assurance to the nation about its seriousness in bringing an effective and strong anti-graft legislation.

Ironically, two years later, Kejriwal - once Anna’s chief strategist - is himself devoid of people’s support. His ‘civil disobedience movement’, possibly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, has no takers.

It is not that he did not prepare for his indefinite fast. In fact, Kejriwal held as many as 50 public meetings since September last year in a bid to prepare the ground for his agitation and indirectly push ‘AAP’ as a bankable alternative.

Hundreds of AAP activists fanned out across Delhi asking people to sign on petitions addressed to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit to roll back the power tariff hike announced by the government. But his efforts seem to have gone in vain.

Ever since the IAC split, the spotlight has remained more on Kejriwal than Anna but unlike his mentor, his movement has mainly remained focused on the urban India, with Delhi at the centre of its activity. He has erred by pinning hopes on the urban middle class, especially the office-going section, which takes pleasure in drawing room debates and accusing the political fraternity of all that is wrong but mostly disappears when it comes to actually supporting a noble cause.

For a smart man like Kejriwal, who survived all odds and accusations of harbouring political ambitions after the IAC split, failure to feel the pulse of Delhiites is a major embarrassment. Kejriwal’s flop show will surely force the IAC activists and AAP office bearers to rethink on the reasons behind their dismal show.

His dying agitation has only added to the pleasure of the rival Congress and the BJP, both of which have been in Kejriwal’s line of fire for quite some time. Had he succeeded in drawing huge public support, he would have added more weight to his personality and public image. However, no one would now consider him as a serious contender for the next Assembly Elections.

Kejriwal aims to oust the corrupt Congress government in the next elections but, in all probability, will fail to be a ‘game changer’ after his poor show. He is someone who is looking for quick-fix for all that ails our society but in the process he has forgotten that it takes years to change the mindset of the people and mobilize their support.

If those criticising Kejriwal are to be believed then it was actually the BJP, which first started the campaign against inflated electricity bills and raised the issue of water shortage. Kejriwal is just a new entrant to the scene and is trying to capitalize on the anger brewing amongst public by touching issues affecting the common man. By opposing the government on various fronts, including the Lokpal issue, he had actually committed a blunder in the past. He should have rather accepted the government draft and pressed for the inclusion of provisions which he deemed were important to make Lokpal a strong and effective body.

How will Kejriwal’s party fare in the coming elections remains to be seen but what he needs to understand is that he is still a rank outsider in the bitter world of politics. He also needs to acknowledge that dreaming to dislodge those veterans who have done politics all their life and understand the game much better than him, is one thing and to actually do the same is quite another.