How AAP became a circus of egos

If Kejriwal thinks justice belongs to the majority, his views are not very different from Modi.

 |  5-minute read |   06-04-2015
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The history of news today is a history of waiting - we are perpetually waiting for the grand victory. The readers wait for news to happen and yet beyond the apprehension there is no news, no great events, no good news.

All we have is the pomposity of politicians and the emptiness of economists. All of India is waiting for things to happen, for things to improve, for violence to decrease, for the nation to feel good. In our hearts, we know there is no news, only the silence of waiting. One does not deny that a lot is happening. Yet they are processes without products. They have to still mature.

Meanwhile a nation waits while realising that the nature of waiting, the rituals of time have changed. Waiting as a ritual has transformed between the socialist and the liberalisation eras.

Santosh Desai, once wrote our childhoods were spent waiting, and watching each other wait. Boredom had become socialism's finest folk art. Our parents waited and watched each other waiting patiently in ration lines, movie lines, railway stations. Hours floated between hysteria and emptiness as waiting for the promise of delivery.

The new generation has few memories of waiting. There is also a change in attitude. The new generation behaves like clients and customers rather than as passive citizens. They treat government offices as malls expecting quicker service speed. Service is the order of the day.

Think of the domains in which Indians have high expectations. Cricket found us in the semi-finals short of a big victory. What it redeemed was the legend of MS Dhoni. It gives a sense we can fight our way out of trouble. Our economy is full of good intentions as Rajan and Modi proclaim compatibility like old quarrelsome couples.

Even Bollywood, which never seems to disappoint has no great myth to offer. Neither NH10 nor Byomkesh can create ripples. Our Khans act better in ads and our public cannot decide whether Deepika Padukone is a model, a film star or a feminist and fails her in all three.

When there are no great events we tend to nitpick. Indian citizens work best as enthusiastic spectators, when the game recreates the great rituals of citizenship. In desperation we ask about politics, the last refuge of concerned citizens and desperate scoundrels.

Politics as a hit movie centres around the great B grade serial AAP. This is one family movie that everyone expected much from. The tragedy of AAP begins with the fact that its most memorable characters, many of them its founders, are also spectators or function as critics.

A script that can do without Ramdas, or Bhaduri, or even a fading Shazia Ilmi must be either overconfident or thoroughly unimaginative.

Watching AAP is eerie. It is like watching an epic struggle turn slapstick and them becomes an absurd drama. One realises it is not truth Arvind Kejriwal is chasing but dogma and convenience.

Oddly, controversy aside the party turns Kejriwal moody and hypochondriac. His speech was a failure of honesty. He presented an edited, sanitised account of his own address playing censor to audience responses.

One has to watch Kejriwal to realise his dishonesty lies in the silences. He talks of backstabbing as he carries out a purge of the party. If Kejriwal thinks justice belongs to the majority his views are not very different from Modi.

In fact cartoonists must already be having a field day transforming Modi into Kejriwal. All that might survive is the telltale moustache, the litmus test of Kejriwal's honesty. AAP is one political play that spectators in India have followed avidly waiting for a miracle, a transformation as only Indian audiences can.

Yet nothing has had so many highs and lows. Kejriwal now appears as a Jekyll and Hyde personality, lecturing about corruption and morals and yet conniving to stay in power, wooing Congress to stay in the struggle.

It is as if there is a high ground and low ground Kejriwal. In fact it appears true of most of the leaders. One cannot quite decide with all of them where operatic truth ends and banal dishonesty takes over. In fact waiting and watching one senses that waiting teaches you about politics.

One realises that goodness cannot survive with egoism and as one watches AAP and its collection of Yadav, Bhushan, Ashutosh, Kumar Vishwas. One realises one is watching a circus of egos. All of them project the party as an extension of their selves. In fact deep down it teaches you about citizenship.

He is spectator, fan, observer, consumer, par excellence. He is a critic learning the way others perform. AAP's followers are some of the finest critics of politics. Their enthusiasm was of connoisseurs waiting for a breakthrough. After decades of Congress, BJP or CPM, they were waiting for an honest party. However one realized what politicians spin at home is conspiracy emphasising the deviousness of the craft.

However, Indians are great at waiting. They can smell the readiness of time and history. They know unlike the Arab Spring, the Indian Spring is here to stay because they know AAP belongs to them. The politician can dismember it but he cannot appropriate it. This is the wisdom of waiting. It shows the ordinary man that he too will be history and if history is obstinate, he knows how to wait. This is the beauty of democracy as an imagination and a way of life.


Shiv Visvanathan Shiv Visvanathan @shivvisvanathan

The writer is a social nomad

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