aNNa, ARVInD aND MiDDLe CLasS

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It was the urge for a ‘Tahrir Square’ experience among a new generation, which has never been part of any meaningful movement , that catapulted Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal to a celebration among the middle class in Delhi and elsewhere.

And then followed the cacophony of jingoism sandwiched between furious waving of tricolor and ferocious chanting of ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Inquilab Zindabad. Many enraged men and women jumped into the “movement of their life” like the one the 1970s’ generation had fighting Emergency.

The televised ‘movement’ pulled out many – most of them migrants from various parts of the country and was fighting rootlessness in a metro — from the coziness of their middle-class comforts to Jantar Mantar and Ramlila Maidan in Delhi to fight the “second freedom struggle”. It was their moment of reckoning and it was the “now or never” moment for them.

Amidst all those firebrand activism, sceptics were not enthusiastic about the anti-corruption war heralded by the old Hazare and young Kejriwal from almost the beginning, if not from day one. Many at that time thought this could bring change like the Arab Spring. But for those doubting Thomases, the movement had all the potential of taking a dubious rightist turn as it was motley of people with extremely divergent views on everything under sun.

As the movement gained momentum only to lose it later, Kejriwal was transformed into a need, an education and insight for many. It was not all positive as a large number of media personnel sought to make its viewers/readers believe.

Unintentionally, he made us know that his “guru” Anna Hazare is not just an anti-corruption crusader from Maharashtra whom most of Indians knew through newspaper reports and a Magsaysay award he got. Behind the fragility of the 75-year-old man, Kejriwal’s movement made us unmask Hazare as a rightist, whose world vision was so narrow. It made a scary start to the new “freedom struggle” as its leader believed that cable television was evil and that alcoholics could be flogged.

The movement also brought the middle-class hypocracy into the forefront again. They celebrated Kejriwal as the new hero. May be because Kejriwal exactly echoed “either you are with us or you are terrorist/corrupt/bad/mad/” middle-class philosophy.

But with all its faults, Kejriwal cannot be seen as an entire wrong. It will be really unfair to a man, who single-handedly took on the government and organised a movement (supporters say revolution) against corruption, if one says he is totally wrong.

He actually raised the questions you and me have been asking since we became a political animal in its right sense. He reflected our anger, our frustration, our disenchantment against the system and our urge and dream for a change. But there still remains a question. These questions by Kejriwal when raised earlier by Left parties or any other party, why did we chose to remain silent. When Kejriwal raised the issue on Mukesh Ambani and K G Basin oil block allocation, there was a hue and cry. But why it was not so when earlier Left raised vociferous opposition to it. The middle class then chose to ignore it as “Left’s irritation”.

It is this middle-class’ politics of comfort which is going to resist any significant change in the country. How long will the middle-class tolerate Kejriwal? Middle class is comfortable as of now with Kejriwal because he echoes them. Once he breaches the cosiness, the same middle-class is going to deal with him. That will be the challenge for Kejriwal, who has taken a political plunge leaving the activist’s path.

Another challenge for Kejriwal will be the personality-driven agenda of his party. It is all Arvind, as his cronies address him, in the movement. He and his party may end up like a Mayawati, Jayalalithaa or Mamata Banerjee. Or at the worst, like Subramanian Swamy who now heads Janata Party which once overthrew Indira Gandhi from power.

How democratic will his party? How different it will be? How tolerant it will be? Signs may not be that encouraging. A senior reporter with a leading English newspaper has been removed from the mailing list of Team Arvind only because the publication writes not so goody-goody news reports about them. And it was not the reporter covering the beat alone, all reporters from the newspaper were taken off the mailing list.

Also, once his party is in place, inner contradictions within the team will also come to fore as his comrades-in-arms like lawyer Prashant Bhushan and intellectual Yogendra Yadav, have strong views on contentious issues, including Kashmir. How will he deal with them? How will Prashant Bhushan, a left leaning lawyer, adjust himself to the rightist positions being taken by his long-time friend Kejriwal? So is it ideology and beliefs or friendship which is going to win?

Only time will answer these questions.

(photo by prerna sodhi, my dost)

Nov 21, 2012

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