Corruption trumps reforms and economics in Kejriwal’s politics
(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.
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?
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)