T. N. Seshan, former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), was not the first middle-class “crusader” who plunged into the arena of electoral politics, and he won’t be the last. The latest to throw his ‘topi’ into the ring is the Jan Lokpal torchbearer, Arvind Kejriwal. Both Seshan and Kejriwal were civil servants before they captured the imagination of the masses with their much publicised anti-corruption campaigns. The big question is – will Kejriwal succeed where his predecessors have failed?
There is a big difference between television politics and electoral politics, just as there is a yawning gap between the poverty alleviation programmes and the real thing. For so long, Team Kejriwal was typified by the single agenda of establishing a strong anti-corruption law. And the television-middle-class cheered. However, the new political party has a grandiose goal, as stated in its vision statement. Even with the hype created by the agitation and on-screen persona of Anna Hazare, it is doubtful whether the electoral middle-class will forego its ties with caste, creed and local connections when it comes to the ballot.
The questions we ask ourselves is whether the middle class, the major constituency backing Team Kejriwal, is ready to make sacrifices for this crusade; to achieve something larger than the ‘silent candle-light marches’ and ‘Made-for-TV fasts’. Will it come out of its consumerist culture for a cleaner political system?
By promoting a wider political agenda, Team Kejriwal might alienate the original constituency that created the movement in the first place. However, the question of how a top-to-bottom clean-up of the system will be achieved with the mere nudge of a media-backed agitation remains. Instead of an overarching goal of capturing national power, Team Kejriwal should try to win smaller constituencies, steadily establishing itself as an undeniable political entity.
– Evita Liz Eldhose
SCMS – Cochin