'If I go, there will be 1,000 more Arvinds'

Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the latest kid on the political block, may be a party born out of noble intentions. It’s gestation period began when the anti-corruption agenda swept India like a tsunami, capturing the imagination of the common man who was fed up with numerous scandals, rising inflation and simmered under a sense of injustice. He saw the big fish slip away unharmed in a sea of scams, while the scapegoats got caught in the net. Flailing and railing against what is called the ‘system’, is of little help. It was time to get involved in the political process.

Inane or effective? Arvind Kejriwal at Jantar Mantar in Delhi after he was released from jail. Kejriwal was arrested in October during a protest against Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid, accusing the Law Minister of irregularities

So, Anna Hazare and the India Against Corruption (IAC) acted as a springboard for the anti-corruption movement to begin. While it did capture the imagination of the nation, soon, familiar cracks began to appear. Today, anti-corruption’s mascot Anna Hazare is in the background as Arvind Kejriwal now whips the AAP into action.

Jumping into the political arena is one thing, can Kejriwal & Co. sustain the party in the rough ‘n’ tumble of real politics? It is tempting to quip the tired, familiar and convenient cliché: TWT or Time Will Tell as answer to that question. Better though to put that question to Arvind Kejriwal himself. So this reporter did.

Here is what Arvind Kejriwal said:


The Aam Aadmi Party was launched recently. What happens now, what is the way ahead?
The National Executive has sat in a two-day meet and the way forward has been crystallised. Nation wide enrollments are on and by January 26, 2013, 337 District Committees will be formed across 15 states. The party feels that major issues impacting the aam aadmi of the country today are corruption, land acquisition, procurement prices, contract and unorganised labour sector and the party will continue agitation on these issues and will also continue with its exposes.

What is the agenda and any symbol for the party?
The main agenda of the AAP is to root out corruption and establish swaraj in India.

Money pours in: Supporters of activist turned politician Arvind Kejriwal line up to give donations during the launch of the Aam Aadmi Party in New Delhi on November 26.

This party is getting a lot of financial support from different quarters. Is that true?
Yes the party is getting support from the aam aadmi. We have got a couple lakhs from the simplest way of taking donation in a ‘chadar’. These donations are immediately counted and declared. More importantly, 300 people offered offices for the party and 13,000 people offered to work for the party! We are certain this is going to snowball and every patriotic Indian will be a worker, contributor and voter of AAP.

You have been accused of stealing Anna Hazare’s agenda from under his nose…
Anna is my guru and we began the fight against corruption together. Today, we may have chosen different tools but the task remains the same, we will root out corruption from this nation.

Cynics say that Arvind Kejriwal had political ambitions always and today, he has shown it by pushing Hazare into the background…
We began an andolan to root out corruption. Circumstances shaped the andolan towards a political turn. There is no question of political ambition, if the Jan Lokpal Bill is passed today we may change our stance. It is the objective of rooting out corruption that is important.

Carry on the fight: Kejriwal (c) is detained by police during a protest against Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid. Pics/AFP  

The AAP has been accused of concentrating on blaming others, But, what are you going to do differently?
We support power to the people. We want decision making to be given to the gram sabhas and mohalla sabhas.

Are there going to be any aam aadmi offices opening in Mumbai?
Yes, there will be 337 districts offices in the coming two months and the Mumbai launch will be held soon.

Right now, for Mumbai aam aadmi party and the movement is something that has happened in New Delhi. How do you plan to bring it closer here, to India’s economic nerve centre?
Mumbai is one of our largest support base and almost all IAC members here were unanimously in favour of entering active politics. We will shortly announce the Mumbai launch. There is huge corruption in Maharashtra due to collusion of political parties, land grabbing, dynastic politics and crony capitalism. We have a growing support base across every district here. We are launching AAP Maharashtra (tomorrow) December 2 in Roha, Raigad District. Besides thousands of Mumbaikars, thousands of farmers, adivasis and fishermen are joining the meeting wherein we will highlight the state of the aam aadmi whose lands have been grabbed by the political-business nexus.

History has shown that passion of the people, all these noble intentions of no corruption do not last. Even the Arab Spring has backfired in some ways. Already Egypt’s new ruler M Morsi has assumed sweeping powers for himself. Is it enough to simply ride on the no-corruption sentiment?
The ire against corruption is not just a sentiment. Today, corruption has made it impossible for the common man to live. The fight against corruption is a fight for survival today. Yes, we will have a strong decentralised political structure and it is taking shape before our eyes at amazing speed.

When you say that you will try to root out corruption from the system – how would it affect the common man? The man who has to pay a bribe to get a Govt. job or a gas cylinder…

Rooting out corruption permanently will happen when we implement swaraj. Once decision making happens at the gram sabha and mohalla sabha level, the common man will decide how the nation’s resources will be allocated and how they will be priced.

This is a revolutionary path but at times, revolutions have boomeranged, obliterating the leader itself…
Individuals are not important in this revolution, Ek Arvind jayega to hazaroon Arvind khade ho jayenge… if one Arvind goes there will be a 1,000 others ready to battle like him.

Are you aware you have a very heavy burden on your shoulders…
It is huge responsibility and I have am aware that I have to keep the faith of millions of people. While I cannot predict the consequences of our actions, I am aware that every step has to be carefully thought through. But I get inspired by countless people who are joining the movement en masse and today’s youth who are ready to risk everything to change the nation, it gives me the strength to go on. 

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