Arvind Kejriwal: the Agitator turned Electioneer

14 January 2015

In the coming Delhi Assembly polls on 7 February, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which won the most seats in the 2013 Assembly election, is up against the Aam Aadmi Party for the 70 Delhi constituencies. Both parties have discounted the Congress as rival. The BJP is going forward with Narendra Modi as the face of their campaign, while the AAP is projecting Arvind Kejriwal as a chief ministerial candidate for the second time—Kejriwal resigned from his post in February last year, after just forty-nine days in office. The current AAP campaign is significantly subdued when compared to the run-up to the 2013 polls. In 2011, Mehboob Jeelani caught up with Kejriwal while the Lokpal agitations were in full swing. In this extract from 'The Insurgent,' we see a more obstinate and fiery Kejriwal compared to the man standing for chief ministership today.

Over the course of the summer, like a tiny but committed guerrilla army looking to provoke a powerful adversary, Kejriwal and Team Anna continued their campaign against the government and its Lokpal proposal. Kejriwal did everything possible to keep the campaign alive and solicit further support from the public and opposition parties, hoping to keep up the pressure with a series of press briefings and increasingly combative television appearances.

Criticism that Team Anna’s methods and intentions were undemocratic had gathered considerable steam, and it became the semi-official line of the government, which insisted that unelected individuals had no right to force a  legislation on a democratic Parliament.

This is a critique that, unsurprisingly, Kejriwal finds entirely unpersuasive, either because he believes the end justify the means or, as he has sometimes implied, because democracy doesn’t work very well to begin with.

Under a barrage of prosecutorial questions from CNN-IBN’s Karan Thapar earlier this year, Kejriwal had presented a version of the latter argument: “We are a democratic country?” he said quizzically. “The democracy that we have has been so representative that the people have a right to vote once every five years and that’s it.” (“The situation in our country is so bad,” he added later, for good measure. “It is worse than it used to be in British times.”)

Mehboob Jeelani  is a former staff writer at The Caravan. He is currently studying for an MA in journalism at Columbia University.