Corruption trumps reforms and economics in Kejriwal’s politics

February 14, 2013

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

The transformation of Arvind Kejriwal from taxman to anti-corruption activist and politician has been hard to ignore. He became something of a celebrity last year when he launched broadsides against rich, powerful people. That in turn gave him a platform to enter politics with his “Aam Aadmi Party” (party of the common man). Now Kejriwal, 44, must build a party in time to contest state-level elections in New Delhi this year.

After an hour-long election speech on a makeshift dais at a bus stand, the novice politician was visibly tired as he climbed into an off-white SUV for the journey home to Ghaziabad. I waited for him to stop coughing and take a sip of water before asking questions. We then had an animated, if one-note discussion about India’s economy and politics. The short story? Fix corruption and you fix everything else. Details about the economy, such as statistics and reports on inflation and economic growth? Just numbers for the media to repeat.

Here are some excerpts from the interview on Sunday:

Q: The Indian economy is set to grow 5 percent in this fiscal year. What do you have to say about the way our economy is growing?

A: Economy does not work in isolation and all these figures of growth do not have any meaning for a common man. It keeps on increasing and decreasing, but the life of a common man is continuously getting more and more miserable in this country. And the politics of this country has become so corrupt that economy can’t prosper without checking corruption.

Q: One of your major concerns has been high prices, but inflation is currently at a three-year low. Do you still think the government is not making enough effort to keep inflation in check?

A: Those figures are basically meant for media. You talk to a common man in this country. The common man is unable to survive now because of the rising prices. He does not care whether inflation has come down by 1 percent or increased by 1 percent. These figures have no meaning for him because zindagi jo chalti hai vo in figures se nahi chalti (figures don’t help sustain a life).

Q: If you were running the government, which five key reforms would you introduce?

A: I think that’s a very simplistic way of saying what five things would we do… First we will have to clean up the politics of this country, politics ko saaf kiye bina economics saaf nahi ho sakti (there will be no clean economics without clean politics)… [if] we were to come in power, the first thing we would do is to clean the politics of this country to check corruption. And if corruption is checked, I think most of the economic policies would be made in the interest of the people of this country and not in the interest of those people from whom bribes have been taken.

Q: What do you think should be the key focus of Budget 2013?

A: I don’t think it’ll change the lives of the people. It will again be a routine budget. They will again play with figures — inflation was 5.6 percent now, it’ll be 5.3 percent, increase, decrease, growth, 6 percent, 5.76 percent.

Q: But why do you think figures are not important?

A: Figures should be directly related to the lives of the people. These figures are related to the lives of very few people in this country. Sensex is related to very few people. Growth figure is related to the lives of very few people.

Q: You have positioned yourself as a single-issue candidate. What do you have to say about your agenda?

A: We have a stand on many things and we are finalising our stand on many of the other things, number one. Number two, let us for theoretical sake assume that we just a one-point agenda — corruption. If there is one party which can remove corruption from this country in five years, isn’t that a big thing that would happen to this country?

Q: Do you think your exposes are becoming tiring for people?

A: Each of the exposes was not done to identify any individual or to target any individual. Each of these exposes was meant to explain the rotten system that exists in our country.

Q: What will be your strategy for the upcoming Delhi polls?

A: It will keep on changing. Every day we are going to one constituency; we’ll go to 51 constituencies.

Q: Are you grooming young people into leaders?

A: We have very little time. We have to achieve in six months what these parties have in a hundred years. We have to groom [leaders], build the organization and reach right up to the village level. We have to build and identify leaders.

Q: How are you doing that?

A: It’s difficult. That is the biggest challenge we have today. I don’t have an easy answer to that.

(You can follow Sankalp on Twitter @sankalp_sp)


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Very good interview. You are right AAP has to think about economic and system reforms in the country. His saying that figures are unimportant is careless. The growth rates are important and they do reflect change in the society. The growing prosperity of the middle class for instance! The question is how do poor sections of the society benefit from it? We can take a cue from West after 1950’s, how they consciously worked on giving underprivileged the rights. We can see the goodness of their system in the rise of Lakshmi Mittal.
The idea that corruption is the only problem plaguing the system is wrong. We all know how good and co-operative our lower bureaucracy is- ask them something which form to submit or what is the whole procedure, instead of an answer all one gets is huge scolding, volley of abuses or worse threat of not doing any work. They expect us to know their work!!

Second popular excuse, file ghum gai hai (I have misplaced your file?) I think in any corporation such people would be suspended for this irresponsible behaviour. But in our system there is no threat. And these people then use these tactics to extract bribe.

How much I have observed the system, I don’t think that corruption alone is the problem. There is so much delay thanks to the procedure, the file has to pass through so many departments! In my opinion if the passport has to be made in 2 weeks, it has to be! But given the existing procedure the things takes months. And sometimes employees take also advantage of it, they delay it further and ask bribes. So even if you remove corruption the entire thing is so tiresome and lengthy that people are tempted to give bribes and get work done soon. It is the system that has to change. For all things reasonable time frame has to be suggested.

So yes,if AAP has to replace Congress and BJP it has to gets it’s vision right. One cannot enter politics without thinking about the various problems and there solutions. Even Gandhi took three years to understand the British empire and evolve his idea of non-violent struggle! Looks like AAP party has lot to learn and understand.

P.S: For rural areas he has to understand the problems of debt that have nothing to do with corruption but rather from incomprehension of working of the markets. I am not sure how many villagers deal with bureaucracy!

Posted by Woman21 | Report as abusive

Arvind is right when he says his thing about economy.As long as a strong and vibrant middle class exist,the economy is set to boom,however corruption can take a toll on it,as it is been happening in india for ages.
When Rabri devi,an illiterate housewife became chief minister of bihar,nobody questioned her economic policies,i dare say she haven’t even a clue of what that means.
Arvind here is a hugely qualified engineer and civil servant,certainly he can do much better then most of the present illetrate criminal politicians in india.
India’s economic success depends largely on well being of its huge middle class,but the story now is this middle class spends more on bribe then on purhcase,the country is being looted left right and centre.
Arvinds one policy of rooting out corruption,is rightly intended,the economy will take care of itself.
Corruption free india is the need of the hour,when bribes and kickbacks and capitalism is controlled,then money will flow back in the system.
This is what is economy stands for.
Arvind is right here,,get rid of the corruption,all this figures of inflation and growth does not matter.
Truth is india is not a democracy,its a political dictatorial and highly pro captilist country.
A country where there are scores of billionaires,who net worth makes up the figure for india.In reality its a poorest country on this planet and will ever be.
Truth hurts,arvind keriwal has just opened a can of worms,and certainly we are delighted to be part of this revolution.

Posted by imango | Report as abusive

It the basic values that have to change for good and Value creation with Values is the right way for us, I believe can lead us in the right direction. At a particular point of time consider any particular system that performs activities in a specific way. Eventually over a period of time people living within that system will find ways to invent, optimize the way things are run. Further on new ideas originate and new systems evolve. But how soon people can adapt to these changes, learn and think further and further (depends on the system’s transmissibility and adaptability). It is quite commonly observed that newer generations adapt sooner to these changes quite easily than their earlier ones. Eventually the system will reach a stage where the non-learners/low learners are left far behind and these leftouts tend to find space in the old system that is on the verge, they cannot perform and they have to survive somehow. Sometimes the # of these leftouts can be quite high in terms of the percentage of the population, which means that the leaders choosen were not wise enough to lead the pack in the right direction and/or the people are not interested to learn to improve to innovate. As a result, there will be an ever widening gap. People should learn good values and how to use them to choose wise leaders. If people do not learn they donot grow, they commit low deeds for a living, they choose alike people as leaders to protect them, neither shall improve lives.
Some of the changes that take place within the system can be based on the convenince of those who are already ahead or up and above. These type of changes to the basic values is a severe clash. Standard Good Values derived prosperity is definitely a welcome sign but convenience based, need based customised values and hence prosperity is a disagreement among many and eventually there will be a segregation among the people with different permutations and combinations of customised basic values.
Books teach some values which are no longer followed. Children observe things that are in contrast to what they were taught as right ways to live. Starting with the parents all the different participants in their surrounding environment customise values for their survival. Children tend to deviate from good values and begin to realise the power of sin and false takes over. The system will reach a stage with the accepted norm as – anyone can live in any way they like to without any values and there begins an end. The child can learn very quickly what matters is only whether one is above and not how one shall reach there and how power can take them up. Freedom without values is peril. Values without freedom is no growth. We need to find space in the middle third with good values and freedom used for the right purpose.
Should we go with rule based entirely or free based entirely, I guess either won’t work. It should be reason based, values based – Valueism works because it is rules that are open. The future should be going towards is No sin and No false power if what we are aiming for is a possibility of Go Hi-Tech and Go Green. The prosperity of the nation is within the hands of its people, if people learn and improve and invent.

Posted by valueScreation | Report as abusive