The Cult of Kejriwal: What Arvind Kejriwal's Speech at the National Council Meeting Tells Us about Him

30 March 2015
Aam Aadmi Party convenor, Arvind Kejriwal, has ensured that the party will now function according to his will, and the latest purge serves as an indication of the fate that awaits those who decide to challenge him.
AP Photo/Altaf Qadri
Aam Aadmi Party convenor, Arvind Kejriwal, has ensured that the party will now function according to his will, and the latest purge serves as an indication of the fate that awaits those who decide to challenge him.
AP Photo/Altaf Qadri

On 24 November 2012, Arvind Kejriwal announced the formation of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which was formally launched two days later. Photographs of the press conference in the next day’s Mail Today showed him standing next to Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, and the accompanying article described the structure of this organisation. It was to be managed by a national executive that would be selected by the national council members who were chosen from among the founder members of the party. According to Yadav, the national executive would be the highest decision-making body, à la the politburo in communist parties.

It was an appropriate choice of words. More than two years later, on 28 March 2015, in a feat worthy of most communist parties across the world, Yadav and Bhushan were expelled from the national executive in a show carefully choreographed by Arvind Kejriwal, the party’s national convenor and the equivalent of the general secretary in this politburo.

For nearly a century, the term politburo has gone hand in hand with the sudden and traumatic exit of some of its most prominent members who had fallen out of favour with the general secretary. In rigidly controlled states such as the erstwhile USSR, these exits mandated no explanation to the general public. However, public memory often extends beyond what it is allowed to articulate, and this meant that the party would employ means that were as crude as they were effective to suppress it. Those fallen out of favour were unceremoniously removed from the photographic records of the state. But even such an erasure was rarely perfect. Removing a figure from a photograph required filling in the background, and sometimes a smudge here or there was enough to give the game away.

On 29 March, the AAP released a video tape of what it claimed was the actual version of events that transpired during the meeting. Compared to a doctored photograph, it was a subtler attempt to manipulate the truth in an environment that the national convenor or his party still don’t control. But like the doctored photographs, a careful examination of the speech released by an increasingly intolerant and autocratic national convenor revealed more than it was meant to.

Some of these revelations are interesting on their own merit. It is good to know that Narendra Modi is not the only demagogue with a large ego in this country who likes referring to himself in the third person. It is even more reassuring to realise that a party claiming to practice transparency and inner-party democracy believed its national convenor’s speech was the only matter worthy of being made public from the proceedings of a crucial meeting of the national council.

Hartosh Singh Bal is the political editor at The Caravan.

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