The novice Indian politician’s guide to drubbings, snubbings and shruggings

October 21, 2012

It was only a matter of time before activist Arvind Kejriwal and his anti-corruption movement got back some of what they gave.

After Kejriwal’s flurry of allegations of wrongdoing by politicians and accusing the entire political class of working together as a “family” in looting the country, the family is striking back.

Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh has accused Kejriwal of being a “self-serving ambitious megalomaniac”, and plenty of others have openly questioned his intentions. An RTI activist has accused one of Kejriwal’s aide of playing a dubious role in a Mumbai land deal, while another faces questions over farmland that she bought.

Kejriwal, whose hard knocks mostly have come through hunger strikes and being arrested during protests, is learning newer, more interesting forms of roughhousing. For him and other people thinking of changing the country through politics, here is a guide to political pushing that will help you recognize it when it’s happening to you. Once your skin develops some resistance, you can start practicing it on other people – all while saving the country, of course.

The silent treatment: A simple but effective response against any allegation, the silent treatment relies on the short attention span of the 24-hour news cycle and the public. Once the novelty of the accusation wears off, it’s on to more breaking news. Sample this wisdom from Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav: “Ignore them (Kejriwal and aides) for some time. They will get tired of repeating the same thing again and again and will eventually go silent.”

Counter-allegations: Turning the tables on your accusers is a great way try to force them to lose focus and poise. Anyone who saw on television how Kejriwal’s aides indignantly shouted and rambled on about not being cowed by allegations against them can see that they have started to lose their cool.

Inquiry Commissions: Also known as, how to bury a problem at the bottom of an aquarium. Everybody can see it, but nobody cares. From corruption allegations and religious riots to cases of human rights abuse, setting up an inquiry commission ensures that the issue is put in cold storage for the next couple millennia. A prime example is the Liberhan Commission which was set up following the Babri Masjid demolition. The report was delayed by a mere 17 years and cost 90 million rupees. No political leader was convicted after the commission’s report was submitted.

Release the hounds! This involves ordering government agencies to probe the dealings and assets of a meddling rival or activist. Some would like to call it tit-for-tat. Baba Ramdev might describe it as persecution.

After many years of having powerful politicians pay obeisance to him and getting photographed with him, the world-famous yoga guru suddenly found his financial assets being investigated, and a probe ordered on a missing priest from his ashram five years after the incident. And this is after he decided to join the anti-corruption movement.

The Central Bureau of Investigation: The CBI deserves special mention because the country’s premier investigating agency is so often accused by opposition politicians of being used by the central government to target rivals or keep them in line with the threat of prosecution. “It is obvious that the UPA government is dangling the sword of the CBI probe against Mulayam and Mayawati into corruption charges against them to coerce them to support it,” BJP spokesman Syed Shahanwaz Hussain said of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party’s continuing support of the government from the outside, even though both opposed the recent reforms initiated by the centre.

There will be blood: Even refined leaders, when prodded enough, can lose their poise sometimes, and what you get is plain-spoken threat. But we’re not sure whether Law Minister Salman Khurshid’s “I will work with the pen, but also with blood” statement will actually scare Kejriwal. After all, it’s just the idea of physical violence, which must seem tame after being buried inside an inquiry commission…

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