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Yogendra Yadav on why he joined Team Kejriwal

Last updated on: October 17, 2012 11:37 IST

'Rajneeti is the yogdharma of the anti-corruption movement'



Why did Yogendra Yadav, the well-respected psephologist and astute political thinker, join Arvind Kejriwal's political movement?

In this exclusive interview with NDTV Editor Sreenivasan Jain, Dr Yadav spells out his reasons. Reproduced with kind courtesy NDTV Profit

"Arvind (Kejriwal) has energy. He thinks out of the box. He has the ability to cut to the core."

"For ordinary people who distrust politicians, who are uneasy about this group becoming political... for them, Anna Hazare was the bridge which could have covered that trust deficit."

Just two of the many statements that political analyst Yogendra Yadav, the well-respected psephologist and astute political thinker, who is now part of Team Kejriwal, told NDTV Editor Sreenivasan Jain.

I was very surprised when you came on board with Arvind Kejriwal. And I think I was probably wasn't alone.

Absolutely. So were many other friends -- those who have known my professional side, my election studies, political analysis and so on. They thought I was deviating from that into something new...

That could be because you've been a sceptic of the entire Anna Hazare movement.

Sceptic may not be the correct word. I have been a critical insider in some ways, right from the beginning when the Jantar Mantar (protest) took place in 2011.

I wrote to welcome it and also to say there were dangers... dangers of being anti-political, which is what concerned me enormously to begin with.

There was also some kind of unease about the nationalism it has espoused; at times, it looked like narrow nationalism, which worried people like me.

Yes, there were concerns about the Hindutva flavour to that initial movement.

It was probably over-read, but there were some tones that disturbed anyone who believed in the idea of India. So I wrote about it.

I spoke from the Ramlila Maidan (in New Delhi) at least thrice last year.

I supported it (the movement) but, at the same time, put forward a slightly different interpretation to what was happening. And I always said this is a not a movement of Anna Hazare, the person.

Interview courtesy: NDTV Profit

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Image: Yogendra Yadav addresses the anti-corruption rally at the Ramlila Maidan, New Delhi
Photographs: Courtesy: India Against Corruption


'The political establishment of the country has lost legitimacy'

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You say you were worried about the movement being anti-politics. Has that changed?

To a lot of people, it does still retain that aspect. I mean, it is now a political movement, but it still seems to be anti-politician... a very anti-political process, in a way?

I think we need to make a fundamental distinction between being anti-political establishment and being anti-politics.

You would have to be an anti-political establishment because of what is happening in this country. Look at Coalgate, at 2G... look at everything.

Just today (this interview was aired on October 12), you saw the footage of the MP wielding a machine gun of all things in Gujarat!

The political establishment of the country has rapidly lost legitimacy.

The problem begins when, while criticising the political establishment, you begin to criticise politics per say. Sab neta chor hai (All leaders are crooks), politics gandi hai (Politics is dirty)... that's what worried me.

One is still hearing that -- perhaps not from you, but certainly from Arvind Kejriwal and some of the other members of the movement -- politicians chor hai (politicians are thieves) , sab bharbad hai (everything has been destroyed), sab desh ko loot rahe hai (everyone is looting the country).

Are you comfortable with that?

I hear something different, partly because of the decision to enter politics itself.

After all, the movement has decided to enter politics.

A large number of people who did not believe in it (the decision to join politics) moved out. The group that is now leading the movement has to, perforce, believe in a certain kind of politics which has to say hum rajneeti kar rahe hain (we are part of the political world).

For me, that is a nice statement to hear because I think rajneeti (politics) is the yogdharma of this (movement). I have said this again and again.

Interview courtesy: NDTV Profit

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Image: Arvind Kejriwal is shielded from the police by his supporters during a protest near Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's home
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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'Anna Hazare was the bridge which could have covered that trust deficit'

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Let me ask about the division that took place when the decision was made.

Were you uncomfortable with the fact that Anna Hazare exited, and also that he exited on a note of bitterness?

He did and that was a setback. I would say it was a major setback.

For ordinary people who distrust politicians, who are uneasy about this group becoming political... for them, Anna Hazare was the bridge which could have covered that trust deficit.

In Anna's absence, it is going to be very difficult.

But was there no choice at that time? Even though he said he would exit the movement if it went political, the decision was to go ahead.

Couldn't the alternative be, perhaps, that we should respect his wishes and not go political, at least not for now?

I think, by then, lots of decisions had taken place; they were endorsed by Anna himself. They were actually initiated by him.

To go political?

Yes, absolutely. Initiated by him and endorsed by him. Then, at some stage, he felt that place is not something he wants. So Anna became ambivalent on this question.

Interview courtesy: NDTV Profit

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Image: Arvind Kejriwal with Anna Hazare
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
Tags: Anna , NDTV

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'Anna may have served this new cause by placing these questions in the public domain'

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Again, this is something that is somewhat in the past, but it is important to clarify it because one got two strands emerging from what finally happened.

From Anna supporters, it seemed Anna was betrayed by Arvind Kejriwal's group, which is now your group.

And from Arvind Kejriwal's group, it seemed that Anna had betrayed them. He had led them to believe he wanted it (the movement) to go political, but it was actually the reverse.

I don't see it as betrayal at all.

Right from the beginning, this movement had three tendencies within it -- the anti-political tendency, the anti-Congress tendency and, by implication, the pro-BJP tendency and then there was this alternative politics tendency.

In a mass movement, these things happen. Gradually, the first two have been sidelined.

Anna was somewhat uneasily placed between the first (two) and the third was never in the thing.

So there were occasions when he felt that the movement should go political?

Absolutely! I have heard it more than once... him talking about politics, the need for a party, the structure that the party would have... He went into all kinds of details.

This is not to say he has betrayed (the movement). There is certain ambivalence and ambivalence is not a bad thing.

Everyone is entitled to ambivalence, even movements are.

It's just that, during the initial phase of the movement, both Anna and Arvind -- in fact every senior representative of the movement -- would repeatedly state they were not interested in taking the political route. That was last year.

This year, even before I joined the group, I participated in several conversions where the political option was discussed at length and in depth.

After all, it was Anna Hazare himself who, from the stage at Jantar Mantar, announced the formation of the party. He talked about a party, not just a force.

At the same time, I would grant him his legitimate ambivalence. I think he may have served the party; he may have served this new cause by placing these questions in the public domain.

Interview courtesy: NDTV Profit

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Image: Arvind Kejriwal during a hunger strike
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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'Anna had made up his mind; there was almost some bitterness to it'

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Is he (Anna Hazare) upset?

Does he feel betrayed? He certainly sounds like he does.

When he made his announcement that particular day, he was clearly upset.

I was in the meeting; in fact, I was moderating that meeting for about eight hours...

It couldn't have been a very enviable task.

Yeah, it certainly wasn't.

In many ways, he had made up his mind and that came across; there was almost some bitterness to it.

But his statements later on have been very different.

They have been fairly magnanimous actually.

Both sides have resisted the temptation of reliving those things. And three months or four months or eight months down the line, the story could be different.

In the last instance, there is a convergence of a certain way of looking at it. There are two different parts, which are actually complimentary.

At points (you can have a divergence of views), that's how I look at it.

Interview courtesy: NDTV Profit

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Image: Kiran Bedi, Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia in Mumbai
Photographs: Sanjay Salvi
Tags: NDTV

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'The conversations about going political happened for quite some time'

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At that time, in a wider sense, the perception several people had of this rift was that this was actually the plan from the beginning.

The idea was to always to go political, but this was somehow never revealed openly. It was presented as a fait accompli at the end.

Is that an unfair description of what happened?

I am not that much of an insider to be able to say what was really at the heart of someone before.

As I said, I have seen -- especially between Anna and the others -- these conversations happen for quite some time

So it was part of an ongoing process. Now that the leap has been taken, do you think this is a viable alternative?

As we were talking just before we began (the show), many such alternatives have been floated at various points and none of them has ever come into...

This is where I would probably differ because, for the last 20 years, I have been associated with those aspects of the people's movements (going towards a political alternative) that have not just wanted to, but also tried.

My guru Kishan Patnaik, who the country doesn't remember, was a remarkable political person. Whatever this country wants to see in a politician, Kishan Patnaik had it all.

He built a political party in the mid-nineties which would represent the people's movement. But it (the party) didn't make it because it wasn't viable.

Interview courtesy: NDTV Profit

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Image: Doctors examine Anna Hazare at the Ramlila ground, New Delhi; Right: Arvind Kejriwal
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant/

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'Arvind has the ability to cut to various things to the core'

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Do you think Arvind Kejriwal is that person?

I don't see history in terms of personalities. I only see that Arvind has energy. He thinks out of the box. He has the ability to cut to the core.

He also has a reputation of being extremely intolerant.

I have heard that, but when I sit in meetings and discuss things, I have found all his members are able to say you are wrong here, you are mistaken, you look lousy... This is said to his face by his junior colleagues.

He takes criticism, but ultimately it's his way and that, some say, is what led to Anna's exit?

I don't think so.

See, I wasn't that aware of what was happening inside but... the extent to which you bring energy is the extent to which you drive the movement.

Interview courtesy: NDTV Profit

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Image: Arvind Kejriwal, on a hunger strike at New Delhi's Ramlila Maidan, chats with actor Anupam Kher
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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'The political establishment has created a conspiracy of silence'

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This current phase of exposing one big politician a week or every two weeks -- are you comfortable with that?

I don't think this is his permanent strategy.

But, right now, we are in middle of it...

On October 2, when the decision to form a party was announced, Arvind also announced it had been decided that we will expose two persons. The first is (United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law) Robert Vadra. The second name is coming.

Exposing one politician at one time is not a permanent strategy.

The basic point being made here is that there is a certain collusion that takes place in a political establishment.

The political establishment has created a conspiracy of silence -- you wouldn't speak about (then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's foster son-in-law) Ranjan Bhattacharya or Robert Vadra; you wouldn't speak about this country's big corporates.

So the attempt is to puncture the conspiracy of silence, to deflate it by naming names?

New players have the privilege to do, so why not? But this is not all that is happening.

There is a lot happening elsewhere. One of the biggest things happening is that there is a lot organising taking place; a lot of new organisations are brought into the fold.

Interview courtesy: NDTV Profit

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Image: Anna Hazare's unsuccessful Mumbai rally in January this year
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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'Fair procedure should have been followed'

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I want to come to that but, first, the exposes. Here are the criticisms -- that this is largely done to seek sensation without presenting all the facts to support the arguments that were made.

Would you agree to that since there were many loopholes in the presentation made by Arvind that day?

For example, he says Robert Vadra had purchased a flat for only Rs 89 lakhs (Rs 8.9 million) while its value is Rs 10 crore (Rs 100 million). But if you look at the (Vadra's) balance sheet for the next year, he has made the payment.

A point is made about a DLF SEZ where the high court says it should be demolished, but there is a Supreme Court stay order on that high court order which is not revealed and so on.

What are the basic points? Let me deal with the loopholes.

Where the mention of the high court was made, the observations have not been deleted. But yes, I think it was a mistake. It should have been clearly pointed out; fair procedure should have been followed.

You concede that it should have been mentioned?

We aren't in the process of conceding... I mean, this is a fair conversation. I really do believe, given a chance, I would like to see something of that kind because it is a standard procedure and should be followed.

There is a demand for standard procedure everywhere, so why shouldn't we follow it?

We must remember here that there is no injunction from the Supreme Court in not using the high court observation.

It's interesting that you should say that because it's a nuanced position. The one taken by your colleagues are more clear... that there is corruption, there is a quid pro quo?

There is a principal difference of style.

Interview courtesy: NDTV Profit

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Image: Arvind Kejriwal detained by the Delhi police after his protest near the prime minister's home
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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'The point we are trying to make is not about just one party'

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Your absences at these press conferences -- can anything be read into it?

No, I am not that kind (of person).

I have my limitations and this style of politics is something which is not my style. Maybe, I don't have that energy or self-belief.

You need these qualities to be a good politician and I don't have them.

You were on the show that I anchored last week. There was a question about will you expose someone from the BJP.

You refused to be drawn into that, but you said you would like to see the reaction of the same panel again when the announcement is made, suggesting somehow that the shoe will be on the other side?

The point we are trying to make is not about just one party; it's not about this government or that government.

So it won't be someone from the Congress?

There is something called the political establishment of this country which transcends parties. There is a deep collusion. That's the basic point to be made.

I can assure you that this is not what we are going to repeat the next week.

It is not a show. It is a one time thing that you do and then you go on to do other things.

I can assure you none of us believe this is going to lead us to success. This only makes one point.

It is a very hard task to create a party in a large country like India in the face of such large political parties. I may dislike them (but they are) deeply rooted. To take them on is not a joke.

What happens to the days of being a pollster? Are those over?

There was a lovely cartoon in Mail Today: The chance of a psephologist enabling you to win elections is exactly the same as a meteorologist causing rain!

Interview courtesy: NDTV Profit

Image: BJP leaders Nitin Gadkari, L K Advani and Rajnath Singh at a rally in New Delhi

Tags: NDTV , BJP , Congress , India

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