Aam Admi Party’s rise to power is no ordinary event. A year before who could have imagined that Arvind Kajrewal – an activist who rose to prominence in the Anna Hazere led anti-corruption movement – would become the chief minister of Delhi. And here he is now; the fifteen years long rule of Congress in Delhi is over. BJP, the lone alternative to Congress party in must be lingering in shock over what happened. They preferred to be in opposition just because they thought Kajrewal can not deliver, and hence will be exposed. But the common man in Kajrewal seems confident to overcome the difficulties of being in power. The speech Kajrewal made in Delhi Assembly has the potential of going a long way in shaping the future politics of India. But what is the future of Kajrewal and AAP, well making any predictions is too soon.
Let us presume that this man really emerges as an alternative at country level. The way governments in India– at centre and in the states – have patronised corruption, no wonder if the common man through out India stands up to have vengeance upon those who robbed him off his wealth. The stark poverty on the one hand and the brazen display of wealth on the other has set the Indian mind thinking about what is happening to the wealth of this country. Arvind Kajrewal is an expression of that thinking. When Indian power politics was hit by scandal after scandal, and who knows how many scandals will come to surface in the coming days, the common man was bound to ask one day – what is wrong with India.
It was on this anxiety, an anxiety that had run deep and wide in the Indian masses, that Kajrewal could raise a structure of transformation. When he led the movement for Lokpal Bill a common man in India was willing to be all ears. That is how some housewife joined him in the battle, as did a student who had come to Delhi to prepare for civil services. That is how people left jobs to be a part of this struggle. Such moments are rare in politics when a common man becomes a part of change. When people leave their jobs and business and plunge into movements not for any material gains but to follow their conscience. Arvind Kajrewal, as a common man, and as the leader of a common man in India, has set an example.
But what does he mean to a common man in Kashmir! Does he really mean anything! Some would believe that Kajrewal or no Kajrewal, India is India to Kashmir – a tormentor. But as a run up to the 2014 Assembly and Parliament elections people will profusely talk about Aam Admi Party. In case AAP succeeds in Delhi, then every new comer to politics and each new party will identify itself with Kajrewal and AAP. ( By the way, it will be good entertainment watching people mimic Kajrewal).
Leaving aside the cynical rejection and funny copying of Kajrewal. There is scope for serious debate on the question of change in Indian politics.
When the critical mass was ready in India to take up the power centres on the question of corruption, things could move ahead. On the question of Kashmir that critical mass is yet to accumulate. What is for us to watch out for is the building up of this critical mass. In the year 2010 we saw the mainstream Indian media talking about Kashmir in ways unheard of before. But that was when Kashmir was bleeding profusely. In the normal times – ‘normal times’ – even those who are convinced of India being the oppressor in Kashmir, fall silent. How can that handful of people in India get talking about Kashmir in the normal times and a common man lends ear to that, is extremely important for a common man in Kashmir.
The current transformation in India is a response to the wrongs committed by the governments of the day. If the transformation has to become profound people like Kajrewal will have to question India as a state. The fundamental questions of economy, of minority rights, of foreign policy, of religious extremism and militarization are bound to come up. The level of consciousness has be raised on these matters. What Kajrewal has done is just the beginning; can it go beyond, is the question. If it shows the courage and willingness to go beyond, it would require huge intellectual inputs and charismatic leadership.
But the toughest of all things is to open up the question of Kashmir. Kashmir is where the governments, the political parties, institutions like defense and intelligence, and the state of India per se has to face the trial. It is not an easy thing to happen. And the most biting part of it is that India as a nation has to stand up for a trial. Kashmir is a scandal where the heroes of Indian nation – Gandhi, Nehru, Patel – fall, and fall miserably.
Kajrewal stirred national consciousness over what the authoritative power in the form of governments did to India. That means he is invoking the idea of nation to redeem the instrument of state. It is a huge task and he seems to have made an impressive beginning. But there is another level of consciousness that needs stirring. In case of Kashmir it is not the state that is at the root of corruption, it is the nation. Can Kajrewal, as a common man, afford to say what his colleague Prashant Bushan said some time back at Varanasi.
Certainly he cannot; but the point is this. In his inability to say it there is a reason for a common man in Kashmir to be sad. Unfortunately we seem to celebrate that failure, just to underline the vindication of our assertion that a thing like Kajrewal means nothing to Kashmir. The image of India has become a trap for a common man in Kashmir as has Kashmir become a trap for a common man in India. The two must join to walk out of this trap.