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Politics of the aam aadmi

As the sixth phase of Lok Sabha elections are due, a new title, The Disrupter: Arvind Kejriwal and the Audacious Rise of the Aam Aadmi looks at the man who seemingly brought about a revolution in the Indian polity. the guide speaks to its authors, former journalists Gautam Chikermane (GC) and Soma Banerjee (SB)

Q. What motivated you to write the book?
GC: To explore what gripped the nation in terms of political ideas, disproportionately high media presence and its disruptive approach. Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) promised that things will change for the better and people will be empowered. Sadly, the phenomenon lost its shine once in power.

SB: For us, the book tries to tell you what the phenomenon — the rise of the aam aadmi is all about. So the party is more of a vehicle. It’s a book that tells you about how people who were happy being cynics, and watching primetime shows decided to actually come out and vote.


A supporter of then Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal carries an Indian flag as he walks past Indian policemen during a sit-in protest in the capital in January 2014 Pic/AFP

Q. The moniker ‘disrupter’ itself suggests lack of stability and the means to establish a government, which was evident when he resigned as the CM? Please comment.
GC: Disruption means shaking traditional systems and creating something new. The Indian polity did not evolve with the changing aspirations of the Indian people, thus this was a chronicle of a disruption foretold. What we have said is that while disruption is a good, perhaps the only strategy for a political entrepreneur starting out in this space will have to look at ideas like organisation, cadre and so on.

SB: We grappled with this because we felt that he was trying to do many things in a different or innovative way. What struck me were their funding models. Like how they tried to talk to telephone operators, and anybody who had a connection could make a small contribution of `5 to the party. Even the fundraising dinners, which aren’t mentioned in the book was an innovation, which India has never had when it comes to clean funding of politics. Another innovation was making of 70 AAP manifestos in Delhi; with a separate one for each constituency. Yet, the party has done things too fast and too soon.


Gautam Chikermane

Q. Would you call yourself an AAP supporter?
GC: No. I am a political analyst and track and study the subject. I am not a political person in the sense that I am not affiliated to any party, and don’t plan to either.

SB: I am not a supporter. I sympathise with what they have tried to bring about in the society. We’ve tried to bring out stories of lesser-known people such as the story of Aitishi Marlena (Rhodes scholar) and Praveen Singh who worked in a model that governed villages via a grassroots approach. That they worked with an NGO, tried to find a solution and realised that they needed some top down work, thus joining AAP — was an eye-opener to me.


Soma Banerjee

Q. Your comparison of Kejriwal with Dhirubhai Ambani is intriguing. Tell our readers
about this.
GC: Arvind Kejriwal in 2014 is like what Dhirubhai Ambani was in 1959, one year after he plunged into entrepreneurship. My take is that Arvind Kejriwal’s one year of track record as a political entrepreneur is the easy bit, the starting blocks. His next 43 years (Dhirubhai Ambani’s entrepreneurship spanned from 1958 to 2002) are still in the realm of the unknown.

SB: Kejriwal seems to have zeroed in on Ambani; it’s grabbing big eyeballs. Still, in a way, there are many similarities between Dhirubhai Ambani and Kejriwal as Ambani was someone who thought ahead of his times. Kejriwal is like what a start-up would do and he had the convenience to do it in a small organisation. Though, the comparison is ironical.

Q. Kejriwal has accused Reliance Industries of supporting crony capitalism and has filed an FIR against the company. It’s interesting that now, Chikermane works for Reliance as the New Media Director, given that both of you embody a sympathetic voice for Kejriwal throughout the book.
GC: No answer.

SB: This is a very tricky question. As far as I know Gautam is freelancing on books. While we were writing the book he was a journalist. I have moved on now, and work with the The Confederation of Indian Industry.

Arvind Kejriwal

The Disrupter: Arvind Kejriwal and the Audacious Rise of the Aam Aadmi, Gautam Chikermane with Soma Banerjee, Rupa Publications, R295. Available at leading bookstores.

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