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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Those in glass houses...

By Swapan Dasgupta

Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal is an effective and even inspirational communicator. However, there is something a bit jarring in his over-sanctimoniousness, particularly his underlying message that those who are not with him are somehow implicitly in favour of a corrupt system. This exaggerated polarisation may have won him adherents but his contrived saintliness has also made many people deeply uncomfortable. Such people may actually delight in some recent revelations that seem to suggest that those living in glass houses should be wary of hurling stones.

To be fair, the Media Sarkar sting operation directed at a handful AAP candidates for the Delhi Assembly doesn’t conclusively establish that the so-called ‘alternative politics’ is a sham. To say that many of those contesting on the AAP symbol are in no different from the archetypal venal politician is an exaggeration. The AAP hasn’t been around for long enough and hasn’t ever tasted political power to become tainted. However, the sting operation—which also happens to be dodgy journalism—does end up conveying a disturbing message.

It is important to note that people aren’t born corrupt. They don’t even necessarily become corruption by dipping their toes in political waters. The real test of integrity is when an individual has the opportunity to be corrupt and refuses to succumb to it. Those who have no real opportunity and occasion to engage in corrupt practices can stay pure. But that is not to say that they are inherently pure. The person who is charged with rape in a hotel lift in Goa wasn’t always a person who lacked all scruples and cynically crafted a career path using lofty idealism as commerce. No, his downfall began when he was overwhelmed by the opportunities available to him. He was intoxicated by his power. And, inevitably, the arrogance of power produced a disagreeable form of moral corruption.

In his pious rebuttal of the charges levelled against AAP candidates, its political guru Yogendra Yadav said that there was nothing to warrant disciplinary action against those who were ‘stung’. In a sense he was right. No money changed hands and nothing improper was actually done. Yet, the Media Sarkar sting did establish something that is potentially very damaging to the AAP: it suggested that given the right incentives, even the workers of a holier-than-outfit were willing to join the ranks of a disagreeable political class.

What the (albeit edited) sting tapes clearly indicated were two things. First, that like most outfits facing a resource crunch to fight elections, the AAP candidates weren’t too particular about the motives behind funding, the source of the funds and, in some cases, over-the-top cash donations. Secondly, and this is the most disturbing aspect of the revelations, the AAP activists appear to have turned a blind eye to the fact that the proposed donations had a definite quid pro quo to them. That AAP candidates were willing to lend a sympathetic ear and even promise possible action to intervene in private disputes involving either companies or landlords and tenants is revealing. Shazia Ilmi, the ever-smiling candidate for RK Puram, did clearly state that she needed documentary evidence to be convinced about the rights and wrongs of the case. Yet, she was not averse to any intervention in a civil dispute that has no bearing on the larger public interest.

The conclusions are distressing. They suggest that there are people in the AAP who, far from practising ‘alternative’ and wholesome politics, are mentally willing to walk down the same treacherous path as many other political parties.

I would be extremely hesitant to suggest that the likes of Messrs Kejriwal, Yadav and others are cynical practitioners of realpolitik and are devoid of scruples. But their unwillingness to admit the party’s shortcomings and instead fall back on attacking the cussedness of Media Sarkar in not supplying the original tapes is revealing. It indicates that, in anticipation of a good performance in the election, the AAP is not willing to practice the lofty idealism it preaches.

Actually, this embracement of pragmatism began earlier. Beginning with Kejriwal’s courtship of sundry clerics who claimed to control Muslim vote banks and including his overtures to disappointed ticket aspirants from the big parties, the AAP has given indications that it is ready to embrace many aspects of electoral politics as it now exists. Changing the political culture is a lofty goal and can’t be achieved through one electoral intervention. But the AAP doesn’t appear to have tried too hard.

Perhaps I am being unduly harsh on the AAP. However, when a party makes saintliness is uniqueness and sets lofty standards for others to follow, there will be an inclination to judge it by its own standards.

There are major lessons to be learnt from the jam the AAP finds itself in. For a start, it must realise that finding pristine pure individuals who will resist all temptations is an impossible mission. Secondly, the AAP must realise that just as it is unfair to judge it by the lapses of a few individuals in its ranks, it is equally unfair to judge other parties solely on account of a few rotten eggs. The point to note that politics has become such a disagreeable business that deviants are naturally attracted to it. Changing the tone and tenor of politics and statecraft involves a national awakening that can’t happen by getting a few AAP candidates elected in Delhi. 


Anonymous said...

Swapan, You have been unduly harsh on them as a politico.

I follow you and for reasons best know to you, u seem to have a disdain towards kejriwal.

U article was biased at best.
Read it again and you will realise its totally one sided without giving any credit to them whatsoever.

I dint expect this from a learned person. For your criticism , you are one fan down .


Anonymous said...

Dear Swapanda, With due respect to you, I feel that somehow you are not convinced that "imandari politics" is possible in India. As a common man i believe that Arvind Kejriwal is not a magician that overnight he will change India. but you have to praise the way he is trying for it. No one in last 60 years ever had courage to speak against corrupt system. There are many honest politicians who are in other political parties, but as a Total where do you see ethics & system in other parties that shows they want to stop corruption? All of Arvind's efforts may not be 100% working. He may fail many times, but what is wrong to support his efforts? and to be optimistic.

ravi said...

Sir, I think you should have wait for AAP's today PC...before writing this blog.
This was was sting operation but fraud on public and media

Kanti Prakash Brahma said...

Swapan, may be it would be appropriate to evaluate AAP with respect to other political parties in India. I am sure AAP will score much higher when it comes to integrity, commitment and the desire to change the system for the better. At present, it seems AAP is the only political party that aims to improve the systems, other parties have lost hope

Dr. Sasi Attili said...

Ha ha...looks like it has exposed your credibility more than anything else! ‪#‎FakeStingExposed

Anonymous said...

To believe in the first place that AAP is clean is a misconception. In Indis corruption is not person specific but systemetic one. Its incorrigible as far as people are concerned. Only way it can be reduced when you remove humans and replace with technology/machine.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous & Ravi,
There is thin line between "sincere working" and "pretending to be sincere". todays AAP Press conference doesn't answered the questions raised in sting, which SwapanDa has rightly highlighted in his blog.
Regards / Jay

DrAnil Sharma said...

If intellectual people become biased how country will progress.

सौरभ भारती said...

Frankly, I admire Kejriwal to turn to politics (out of whatever ideologies: be it social service, money, fame or power). That's because I believe everyone has a right to one.

What I dont admire is the path chosen by Kejriwal. He could well change his party symbol from Jhaadu to "Pichkari" filled with "Kichad". His party has thrown more muck on others, more kichad on others but has gone abusive once facing the same. An old saying says, "जिनके घर काँच के होते हैं, वो दूसरों पर पत्थर नहीं फेंका करते".

The eye-opener of this sting operation was "funding", the most crucial root of political corruption. Kejriwal proudly announced that AAP has collected 20Cr and doesn't need more money, and that "its enough!". Post sting, the online donation turned clearly out to be a farce. It is there for publicity and media creation. Real funding of AAP is happening through standard cash flow: no questions asked, no docs maintained. This has hurt AAP's credibility crucially.

Shazia ilmi did not have great credentials to start with. However, the shocking revelation of this sting is Kumar Vishwas! I saw this man on NewsHour with Arnab and it was shattering. Threats, Abuses, Shouts, everything you expected from a learned poet had gone to bonkers. Statements like "we will write on vishwas letterhead and give as bill". Is this how bills are managed in art industry? Letterhead?? Obviously, he's neck deep in managing his own black money.

I'd give thumbs up to AAP in learning basics of politics in such a short span of time. But hey, we (the people) are the boss here, "boss of politics", don't you get it? Go easy on morality part now, stick more to issues and we'd join you again!

Achintya Kumar said... entire raw footage and then share your views.your credibility is at stake

Shekar said...

After watching today's raw footage he has to write another article

No Mist said...

Dear swapan da,

As I see it, Kejriwal's biggest mistake (and it could well turn out be his shrewdest move) is that he wanted everything too fast. He reckoned that electorate is eager for quick change and he alone fills this niche (which acc to him is not a niche but the entire ecosystem) perfectly.

The first part of the assumption that electorate is eager for a wholesale change is very much true. But tell me, when was this not true. It was true in 1970 and also in 1977. Then it was true in 1984 and 1989 too. There is always an yearning for quick and huge change. It is like we always dream for a bullet train to link all the top 20 cities of India.

in case of the bullet train, we will need a high grade of steel to fabricate tracks, import is not viable so it must be inhouse R&D as well as inhouse manufactured, that is a capability we have only partly ... then you need high precision machinery to lay those tracks and the ballast needed. the imperfections which cause no damage at 80 KMPH will cost hundreds of lives at 300 KMPH. ... then we need the tilt-wheel technology and do away with the locomotive+coaches railway. we will need a far more sophisticated version of EMU trains ... we need regenerative braking (which we have) ... we need zero-error signalling (which we are now getting closer to) ... we need new platforms in every halt ... we need new catenaries and pantographs, viaducts, underground passes (when needed), dedicated communication line, dedicated training for a dedicated crew, a modern collision-avoidance system, entirely new security system for the tracks and platforms and an entirely new costumer-service orientation. and all this must be run at a cost low enough to turn a profit. it also requires that we change the current system of railroad laying contracts/commission in favor of a much more modern one.

no one in his right mind would think that Indian railways can do all the above in just a decade.

to get to the level of bullet trains, we need a huge number of continuous tweaks and adjustments and some big changes from time to time. all this requires a level of patience and understanding almost superhuman to have. sure it can be done but a bull in a china shop is hardly likely to succeed.

to carry the bullet train analogy even further, Kejriwal seems to think that a bullet train can simply be transplanted onto the indian tracks and it will change india from day one. i can only hope that the public is sophisticated enough to see that a bullet train on current indian tacks will end in a disaster worse than what we have now. this medicine is worse than the ailment.

the complexity of task at hand (ie to change India wholesale) is so enormous that once ppl see that, kejriwal will look like a stumbly 5 year old who has just learned to speak. he is just out of the consideration.

i urge all indians to think very coolly about all the available options. look at the track record of each and every person and then vote for the best option among all the options. think very hard to look for someone who has the necessary focus, vision, practicality, ideas, intent, intelligence as well as shrewdness (when needed), long term perspective, etc ...

i dont think i need to spell out who i hv figured out the ideal candidate to lead India ... do it yourself and do it with total honesty without being beholden to anybody's holier-than-thou agenda.

Anonymous said...

Dear Swapan,
You are absolutely correct when you say,"It is important to note that people aren’t born corrupt. They don’t even necessarily become corruption by dipping their toes in political waters. The real test of integrity is when an individual has the opportunity to be corrupt and refuses to succumb to it."

Anonymous said...

I agree that absolute pure n white is not possible in our system. But according to me Congress is 90 black 10 white,BJP is 50 white 50 black and AAP may be 80. White 20 black.So we shall encourage efforts by AAP rather than discouraging them.

Anonymous said...

But with that yard stick RG n Namo has already succumbed

ccie Singh said...

Kejriwal want to be NEHRU - want to lead with no practical vision
His AIM hook or crook don't loose deposit
His lofty idealism is same as of other parties
Those who questions him like RAKESH AGGARWAL or DAS GUPTA are disowned now
He has same tendency as of any highcommand. .Abv incidents & sting as raised questions and my soul don't expect/see anything different from aap
I donated to him but won't vote more monster's. .Every party has certain SLAVE mentality followers who support no no matter what?..I don't want to be one ...Article is fair and articulate many like me associated with aap member views..but we are told ..first let us win delhi ? and we ask by any means? ..SILENCE. .no answer but now I see arrogance from aap team ....I donated and may may donate again but won't vote them.

Anonymous said...

Well written Swapanji.

Mr. Kejriwal, alongwith his trolls - aka Kumar Vishwasghat, Yogendra Jhadu and of course Shaziaji... are looking for everything (Power) so quickly, that they forget the basis of politics or behavior in public life.... LONG STANDING CREDIBILITY BUILD OVER YEARS OF WORK IN PUBLIC.
Secondly, everyone, including myself, calls oneself pure and uncorruptable. But till OTHERS CALL YOU UNCORRUPTABLE this is of no use.
Thirdly, when warning signs came from none other than Ralegan Siddhi, he should have paused and sought course-correction. Instead, he was too busy and engrossed in buzzing ahead at full throttle as if he would not see the next elections, till which time he could have built a healthy and honest cadre and had developed credible candidates.
Anyways, I am a Sanghi by nature.. and believe the Sangh stands for what Kejriwal has been offering eversince it was constituted. So, i believe, Kejriwal's haste has indirectly helped the Sangh's cause and the Country and Delhi will lose nothing as BJP would be back now.

Anonymous said...

Very nicely written. Loved it. Though i think you were soft on Kejriwal. You should investigate his connection with Avaaz(Netherland based NGO). This entity funded Kejriwal's NGO(Kabir, Parivartan, PCRF). Interesting thing is, same Avaaz funded Shabnam Hashmi. U know her, right? Gujarat riots fame!


Swapan why do you forget AAP stand on Batla encounter? Insp Sharma sacrificed himself to bust a terrorist module and prevented more blasts, saving so many innocent lives...height of appeasement to cynically garner votes by questioning that, despite a court judgement that the encounter was fact, it is an insult to Muslims to suggest that they would vote for you if you support terrorists. IS THIS NOT WORSE THAN FINANCIAL CORRUPTION? Should security personnel sacrifice their lives in future for our sake? And then PB stand on Kashmir! What kind of desh-sewa is this? AAP followers are well-meaning people but how can they naively accept AAP proclamations>

Anirudh said...

Swapan, it's YOUR blog. Please to respond to comments!

Jai Hindu said...

This AK420 working on behalf of Cong's agents like Harshmandar, Aruna Roy, Vinayak Sen & So on... He & his team is completely city naxalites. They hijaked the Anna & BRD mass movement 4 hungry 4 power. Bechara Anna is now in comma:(