Arvind Kejriwal’s meteoric rise in Indian politics after India Against Corruption mass movement and demand for Jan Lokpal, stunned even the veteran political observers and analysts.
An Income Tax commissioner floating AAP, taking donations through crowdfunding, promising transparency and an end to widespread corruption, captured the imagination of a large number of Indians. The rise of AAP in Delhi was nothing less than a political revolution. A drastic transformation in the political sphere. AAP stood for change. A spark of hope amidst the political parties wedded to self seeking status quo, ineptness, nepotism and corruption.
Arvind Kejriwal is a mechanical engineering graduate from IIT Kharagpur. He worked briefly with Tata steel, and then joined the Indian Revenue Services. He has also won the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award for his commitment to civil activism and public welfare. His college friends speak about his honesty and how even during student days, he had a desire to do something significant for the society.
Kejriwal has a long list of followers and detractors both. His followers admire his honesty, forthrightness, bluntness and his desire to herald a new style of politics in India. Kejriwal has proven many times that he walks the talk and unlike other politicians, he isn’t interested in mudslinging, unnecessary diversionary tactics or scoring brownie points. He has been subject of social media jokes and often receives excessive and totally unjustified criticism. This is primarily because he is attempting to change the rules of the game in politics and is a humble and approachable leader. He unapologetically speaks whatever is in his mind and does not shy away from raking issues which might defy convention political wisdom and seem unpalatable and acerbic.
Arvind Kejriwal is a maverick. A man who prefers being a trailblazer instead of treading on the beaten track. He is open to new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking. He has stridently spoken against crony capitalism and the nexus between selected big corporates and politicians. His severe criticism of Reliance and crony capitalism in Gujarat, is a testimony both of his moral courage and his commitment to public interest. He spoke against private electricity suppliers, corruption in Delhi Cricket Board and the various scams under previous governments. There are many roadblocks in his path, but he is not deterred by them. He also launched an online portal that made student loans easier.
Kejriwal is a plain talker. He speaks from the heart, and does not try to create us-vs-them divides. His politics represents inclusiveness, not divisiveness and opportunism. He has never given any statement that can be considered prejudicial against any caste, religion, linguistic or regional group.
He avoids petty politicking and nonsense issues. But his critics are so much obsessed with him that they don’t fail to focus on even his muffler and sleepers. The man is a risk taker and yet driven by the core values he believes in. His book Swaraj provides a glimpse into his ideas. He very understands the agrarian base of our country and the day-to-day problems of the common people. His emphasis on public transportation, public education, public healthcare are steps in the right direction, at a time when privatisation has almost become the magic pill. He isn’t removed from his electorate and understands their issues very well. Unlike a lot many politicians, who inherited politics or turned it into a private limited business, Kejriwal’s political life is an open book and allegations of corruption simply do not stick.
A lot of people try to denigrate him as a publicity seeker, an anarchist, a populist, or someone who is perpetually in activism mode, instead of switching gears to administration mode. Well, this malice towards Arvind is mainly because they are unable to digest the fact that a Chief Minister can also talk in the language of an activist, and does not consider himself mighty and beyond the masses. People accustomed to servile style of politics won’t like Arvind Kejriwal. Those afraid of constructive changes and those who have stakes in conformism, will look for an opportunity to pull him down. But AAP government’s policies – particularly in Education and Healthcare sectors – only prove that he is the people’s CM and is concerned about the issues that the masses care about most. He has got his priorities right, unlike sloganeering, public relations and image building by other parties. Delhi Municipal schools have been improved and there are now restrictions on private schools to arbitrarily raise fees. Delhi’s Mohalla Clinics are being praised across all states and this is certainly a big step in improving healthcare in India. He fulfilled his pre poll promise of free water supply and reduced electricity tariff.
His resounding victory in Delhi Assembly elections in 2015, when the nascent AAP bagged 67 seats out of 70, was a Red Letter Day in the history of Delhi assembly. David had overwhelmed the Goliath. A new party comprising of youth and members filled with enthusiasm and an idealism to improve the political system, defeated the two heavyweight national political parties. Both Congress and BJP couldn’t stand the AAP Tsunami and were left biting dust.
The BJP-led central government tried to create many problems for Kejriwal government. We all witnessed power tussle with Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung. Still Kejriwal maintained his resolve, and refused to cow down or tow the BJP line.
BJP was so much frustrated with him and his popularity in Delhi that for the first time the office of a sitting CM was raided by CBI, on a flimsy pretext. Kejriwal stood his ground, and despite the enormous difficulties and obstructions, he plans to make Delhi school education system world class. There have been teacher’s training and foreign trips to learn more about pedagogy abroad, and adopt best of the practises in Delhi. He is also planning to launch canteens providing highly subsidised food, modelled on the flagship Amma Canteens in Tamil Nadu, a brainchild of the popular Jayalalitha.
In the healthcare sector, within a span of just 2 years, there have been three great government initiatives, including free medicines at government hospitals, free medical tests at private hospitals, and the most recent one that Delhi residents can get 52 different types of surgeries for free from 48 private hospitals, if the waiting time in government hospitals is more than 30 days. These further bolster the pro people credentials of Kejriwal, much to the dismay of naysayers. To call these reforms as impressive or great, would be an understatement. This is indeed revolutionary and a milestone in the healthcare sector. This just proves that Arvind Kejriwal is delivering what he promised and he and his dedicated team will ensure that Delhi will have the best education and health care facilities in the nation, and even amongst many Asian countries.
India needs a new style of social democratic party. And AAP is the perfect answer to it. AAPs grassroot appeal amongst the peasants in Punjab, amongst middle class in Delhi and even the diaspora Indians, underscores that its support base is across all sections and it is one party we can bank on.