Prophets are frighteningly tragic figures. Like 15th century Florentine Renaissance preacher Girolamo Savonarola, they call down the wrath of god on the corrupt and the decadent. Their vision is arbitrary and their law immutable. It’s also their nemesis. India’s only political satyagrahi, Arvind Kejriwal, has been betrayed by his own prophecy of winning the Assembly polls in Punjab and Goa. Ironically, it’s not Narendra Modi who humbled him, nor was the BJP his karma backlash.
The Congress is taking its belated revenge in the two states on Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which rose to prominence thanks to Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption fast in which Kejriwal’s hunger for power paid off.
He prophesied AAP will bring a new sunrise to India. Like most prophets, revival is Prophet Kejri’s theme song, too. And like most prophets, he is an expert at political grandstanding. When he contested against Modi for the Lok Sabha in Varanasi, he portrayed his doomed desire as the common man’s hope against a monolithical figure. His probity pitch paid off later, when he won in Delhi trouncing both the BJP and the Congress.
‘Here is India’s new prophet!’ exulted the middle class. Crowdsourcing plowed funds into India’s newest political start-up. NRIs left successful careers abroad to work as AAP volunteers. College students bunked classes to join the campaign. Young men and women went on sabbatical for Kejri’s sake in lopsided white cotton caps like rebellious fashion statements. ‘Delhi now, India later!’ was AAP’s battlecry then. Little did they expect it to echo only in the capital of India.
To his credit, Kejriwal sought to bring political renaissance to India by destroying the venomously venal, defectively dynastical system. In a politically diodenal nation like India, with the popular current flowing towards Modi, Kejriwal was perceived as the only real challenger.
He is not corrupt. He junks anyone in his flock with the slightest taint of corruption. He doesn’t have a fashionable tailor, optician or hair stylist. Hell, he doesn’t even have a milliner. He doesn’t ride around in swanky SUVs or is seen in the company of powerful corporate allies. On the other hand, like most prophets, he is a despot. He boots out anyone who dares to question him. Only he can be the cynosure of the public eye, expelling anyone with a public profile, keeping only sycophants. He hates to be questioned and has banished critical media from his political circle, using government advertising as leverage. His image is a salmangudi of neo-Socialism, urbanised caste and sub-regionalism, wooing rural Indians as the deliverer from poverty and exploitation. He resembles a potpourri of Modi, Rahul, Akhilesh, Mayawati and the Akalis.
In the end, he is just a disconnected man, surrounded by groupies, who tell him only what he wants to hear. He needs to hear what the voters are saying. Their message from Punjab and Goa is loud and clear.
“Will the real Arvind Kejriwal stand up?”
Machiavelli wrote that Savonarola “was ruined with his new order of things immediately the multitude believed in him no longer, and he had no means of keeping steadfast those who believed or of making the unbelievers to believe.”
To revive the people’s tattered belief in him, Kejriwal needs to find the real satyagarhi within.