In this Dussehra season, the Ramayana is reinventing itself in India's political theatre. Look at Arvind Kejriwal, the self-proclaimed agent of the Mango Man in this non-mango season. For more than a year, India saw him playing Laxman, Bharat and Hanuman -- all rolled into one -- by the side of Anna 'Lord Rama' Hazare. But after differences in their Ayodhya Against Corruption over embracing the political route to demolishing the political Raavans, Anna decided to take vanvaas.
Assuming the role of Valmiki, Kejriwal has cast Laxman as the central character of this Ramayana@2012. Unlike his mythological counterpart, this Indian Revenue service officer-turned-Laxman draws no rekha. So everyone -- from Robert Vadra to Nitin Gadkari to Salman Khurshid -- is a target for him to shoot his anti-corruption arrows at. And by doing so, he hopes to shake crores of Indian Kumbakarans out of their slumber.
Wearing his 'I am an aam aadmi' Gandhi topi, he also dons the avatar of the electrician who will reconnect your power supply in Delhi. He also tried to stage a dharna outside the prime minister's residence on Friday to demand Salman Khurshid's resignation. A man of many parts, just like the Gods were supposed to be, many centuries ago.
How much of all this is an act that gullible India is lapping up? Is Arvind Kejriwal indeed the Mr Clean that he projects himself to be? Or is he Machiavellian like the protagonist in Tamil film Mudhalvan (or Nayak in Hindi) who takes a leaf out of the crafty politician's book to defeat him at his own game? Many of us have had these doubts creep into our mind.
The media is under attack for providing the oxygen of publicity to Kejriwal, as if newsprint and airtime are the sole preserve of the ruling elite. Those who have known him closely argue that unless he is smart and cunning, the politicians would have him for breakfast.
To a journalist's mind, Arvind Kejriwal is behaving like a new media house in town, that has lined up several exclusives up its sleeve to create a splash in the first few days of its launch. And Kejriwal has done enough to garner enough TRPs for his venture, that does not even have a name yet. By announcing that he will unmask a new politician on a given date, he has become a reality show that unfolds on television before a bouquet of mikes.
He does not shed tears like an Aamir Khan nor is polite to a fault like Amitabh Bachchan. Kejriwal's version of Satyamev Jayate exhorts people to use the power of the vote to get dishonest politicians out of Parliament and state assemblies. And the underlying message from Kejriwal's narrative is to tell the answers to `Kaun Kaun Bana hai Crorepati'. Every week.
Someone commented on Twitter the other day that never has a press conference been looked forward to so keenly, by the media, politicians and public alike. The newest politician in town is setting the agenda almost everyday and has otherwise cool politicians like Salman Khurshid frothing at the mouth.
His methods may be guerilla warfare like, but a Kejriwal is necessary for the system. Because the system today is compromised at every level, be it political, bureaucracy, media or judiciary. The chances of Kejriwal succeeding at the hustings in 2014 are extremely remote but if he manages to push established players to tweak some of their agenda to incorporate some of the points that his camp is making, the purpose would be served to an extent.
He is serving up Utopia but then unless Indians dream of a near-perfect country, the tolerance levels for the increasing number of zeroes in scams will only increase. Therefore it is necessary for India Against Corruption to maintain its tempo for the next year and more to ensure that the electorate does not get to choose between a thief and a robber.
Given that today United Progressive Alliance 2 is seen as the fountainhead of much of what is wrong with the system, the Bharatiya Janata Party would look at this new outfit with a great degree of concern. That Kejriwal's party could split the anti-Congress vote, thereby helping the ruling party. Just like what happened in Andhra Pradesh in 2009, where Jayaprakash Narayan's Loksatta Party, again a party that espouses clean governance and probity in public life, ate into the voteshare of the opposition Telugu Desam. It garnered a 6.4 per cent vote share in urban areas and indirectly contributed to a Congress win in some urban assembly constituencies.
But politicians like Jayaprakash Narayan and Kejriwal are necessary for Indian democracy. From the reactions of the political class, it is obvious Kejriwal has set the cat among the pigeons. The entrenched power elite of India cannot fathom that this aam aadmi could have the gumption to take on the high and mighty of this country and that pretty much reflects in the kind of diatribe it indulges in, dismissing his methods as irresponsible and his allegations as rubbish.
But for the idea called Arvind Kejriwal to succeed, it is important that he has a Rahul Dravid-like approach to the game. A Yusuf Pathan like pinch-hitter innings won't do.
Yeh public hai sab jaanti hai sang Rajesh Khanna in Roti in 1974. Kejriwal's real challenge will be to convert that jaankaari into action.