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Arvind Kejriwal: Game Changer, Or Rookie Naive Idealist? #Debate

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Kejriwal: The game changer (By Amarpreet Kaur)

The position where India stands in the world today, and the position that she can attain if things are done in the right way; there is a gaping distance between the two. Our country has an abundance of energy and vitality in the form of its youth. This energy, when channelized in the right direction can work wonders for the nation, and take it to zeniths of glory previously unheard of. The question that arises now is who is going to guide the future of the nation?

Unfortunately, our youth is being misled by our corrupt system. If we look at the current scenario in India, corruption is something that is so very rampant at all levels of society, right from the people at the top of the hierarchy up to those at the lowest levels of authority. Misappropriation of funds, misuse of the tax-payer’s money, black-marketing and hoarding, bribery, cheating and fraud, extortion; this list could go on and on.

The people in power, our so-called caretakers, our politicians, are to be blamed for this. The cheap and unethical gimmicks these people resort to for the lust of power are assuming dangerous proportions, what with the future of the country that is at stake. There is a need to revamp the system, and immediately at that, and this can be done by making the common man responsible for himself.

In this context, Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to form a political party that will have people from among the common masses as its members is a heartening development. A wise man once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. This adage holds true here as well. The way this menace called corruption has put a question mark on India’s progress and development, there is an urgent need to clear the system of people who are more concerned about making money rather than working responsibly for the betterment of their country. Power corrupts, and this can be witnessed clearly in the way our public administration functions.

The wave of angst among the common man found a perfect platform to express itself through the Anna Hazare crusade against corruption. People came out from the comfy environs of their homes to join hands with Anna and his team and forced the government to give a green signal to the Jan Lokpal Bill, to ensure a corruption-free India. There were hunger-strikes, there were bandhs, and the impact started to show when the bill was passed in the winter session of the Lok Sabha. Sadly, the bill was stalled somehow in the Rajya Sabha and the moment lost steam midway.

Every time Anna and his supporters came out in the open, the government would stop them through police intervention. It was becoming evident that protests in the form of indefinite hunger strikes and similar such ways were not going to suffice. Something more prominent was required, something on the lines of a political intervention with the common man leading from the front; as Shakespeare said: “Be stirring as the time; be fire with fire”.

The decision was made. “This is your party, not mine,” said Kejriwal at the launch of his new political party. It will not allow elected representatives to use government accommodation, security, or the lal batti or red beacons that guarantee right of way for vehicles used by MPs. “From today, it’s the people who are entering politics. Corrupt leaders, count your days,” he said. (Source:

Some serious fingers have been raised at Kejriwal with many questioning the man’s integrity and motives behind entering the political scene. I personally feel that he is bang-on with his school of thought. We need to bring in the common man into the political scenario if we really want to see the vice of corruption being wiped out from our country. Our political honchos are too much obsessed with power and the advantages it brings that the common man is being made to suffer by and large.

Hike in fuel prices, spiralling rates of essential food items and commodities; the graph is escalating way too high. The common man is not even able to afford the basic necessities of day-to-day life. Kejriwal is the man to look out for. He has made the start and it is up to the people now how they support him. It is a fight for the common man, by the common man.

Kejriwal: The rookie naive idealist (By Anuva Kulkarni)

Arvind Kejriwal’s declaration of the formation of a political party evoked mixed reactions. While people felt that it was about time honest folk entered into politics to make the change that everyone has been talking about since and before Rang De Basanti, his highly idealistic Vision Document has been called “a straight lift from a schoolboy’s fantasy of an ideal democracy” (Source: Akshaya Mishra, Firstpost).

The document declares a nine-point agenda, “including direct rule by the public, removing corruption, leaving it to the public to determine the price of essential commodities, land acquisition according to the people’s wishes, education for all, right to reject and recall political leaders, and earning the right price for agricultural products.”

The draft says, “A corrupt politician will be put in jail for six months,” It also seeks to prohibit an elected representative from the party to use facilities such as security cover, big government accommodation etc.

Now, of course we don’t like the fact that government officials get maximum security while we constantly face the threat of bombs blowing up around us. We want punishment for corrupt officials since it has never been meted out so far. In the face of growing inflation, naturally the public wants to determine prices. But do these statements not sound as if they are exactly what we want to hear?

Again, quoting Akshaya Mishra, “It (the party) wants a rollback of electricity tariffs but offers no solution on how power utilities will manage business without periodic hikes. It wants the diesel price hike rolled back but offers no solution as to how the country is going to manage the growing subsidy burden. It does not offer any new ideas for the economy.”

While addressing the rally in New Delhi, Kejriwal announced that his party, if elected to power, would pass the Lokpal Bill within 10 days.

None of this sounds practical. The Lokpal bill, according to India Against Corruption (IAC), was a weak bill that lacked effective measures. The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha, but it could not be passed by Rajya Sabha (there seemed to be other reasons for this too, like tainted ministers in the central cabinet). But the bill is said to be naïve in its approach, and Kapil Sibal went on to say that that it will lack accountability, be oppressive and undemocratic. Also, it has been called ‘extra-constitutional’ and some points are still unclear, such as the matter of whether the Indian Prime Minister and higher judiciary should or should not be prosecutable by the Lokpal. Magsaysay award winner Aruna Roy believed that it would concentrate too much power in an institution.

In such a scenario, there is much work to be done and still many amendments to be made to the Lokpal bill. It’s hard, nay, impossible to believe that Arvind Kejriwal can manage to have it passed in 10 days.

Kejriwal calls his party a ‘political revolution’ that seeks to “change the system within a fortnight if elected to power”. But corruption has seeped in thorough the cracks for years and years, and now everyone’s lives are riddled with the disease. Once Kejriwal’s party — oh, sorry, the People’s Party — comes into power, will policemen stop taking bribes? Will your traffic policeman suddenly grow a conscience? Will government workers become smiling, friendly and helpful elves overnight, ready to help you out with pensions and passports? How many officials is the new party going to punish? And how many are really going to fear the new order, being inured to taking hundreds of bribes throughout the years?

It seems like a childish dream, like a magic wand that makes all your worries disappear in a flash. Kejriwal needs to become influential and powerful enough first. Only then will his declarations and his laws carry weight. Right now, corrupt politicians see him as an angry activist, just trying to make some noise.

In my opinion, the system needs to change completely, to close all loopholes and tighten the reigns so that the law is more powerful that the most potent politician. Only when corrupt officials start fearing the law will they stop taking bribes. But it is hardly possible for a small group of activists-turned politicians, essentially amateurs at the game, to achieve this in a fortnight! They do not have enough numbers to be powerful in our country. They might get elected, but they will face the pressure, the rivalry and the cunning games that political enemies inevitably play. How do the voters know if they are upto the challenge? Kejriwal himself might be honest and motivated, but he should turn out to be a good enough leader to ensure that his followers remain in worship of their ideals.

Lastly, to govern a large nation in the face of world politics, I believe a party needs experience and mentors for guidance. If Kejriwal begins making enemies of everyone who has been in politics so far, we could really land up in the soup, so to speak.

While I agree that he deserves a chance, I think he needs to shed the ‘angry activist’ image and be more pragmatic about his declarations and decisions. In an ideal world, this would turn out like a Disney movie: evil would be overthrown and the righteous warriors would win the battle. But the future of our country depends on it. We must make changes within ourselves while staying strong under the pressure exerted by foreign powers. One false step could lead to disaster. We must be careful how much idealism we ought to embrace.

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        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

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        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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