Saturday, December 28, 2013

Aam Aadmi Party, Arvind Kejriwal and the Vulgar Indian Middle Class

(Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi Chief Minister)

Arvind Kejriwal is now the Chief Minister of Delhi; the 7th and the youngest. His rise to power makes people like me happy not just because he has vowed against all socio-political ills but also because he belongs to my generation. So I have all the reasons to believe that he understands the problem of the peculiar Indian middle aged people who were born in the years of the gradual deterioration of the Nehruvian dream and the rise of an autocratic regime with license-quota raj to spice it up. We belong to a cusp generation that had radio and newspapers as windows to the world only to hook up to television during our early 20s. Computer and internet came to our lives when we had crossed the maturing mark of 30. We are a generation that has been pushed around even by ideologies and education. Most of us grew up with a revolutionary fervor to change the world only to compromise as salary earners by our mid-30s. Once the social networking sites came into being, we all became activists there as if those platforms were just the regained paradises of anarchic self-expression, assured with some sort of security in our private havens. Then Arvind Kejriwal happened. And I believe he understands this. Perhaps, much of his followers belong to our generation.

I am not going to talk about our generation anymore. What I am going to talk about is a generation constituted by people who are in their early twenties today. This is a volatile generation. Whether the members of it belong to middle class or lower middle class, they all share one aim; and let me tell you, it is not a corruption free administration. Their aim is success. ‘Success’ is the magical word. So what does Arvind Kejriwal have got to do with the ‘success’ of these people? Rather, to put it in other words, the ‘failure’ of this young generation? Is ‘change’ the only defining word for them? Why do they support Aam Aadmi Party so much? Is this the charisma of this puny little man? How much do they understand when Aam Aadmi Party or Arvind Kejriwal talks about policy change, free water and reduced electricity tariff?

Let me start with the notion of success and its after effects amongst the young people. Everyone wants to succeed in life and it is naturally understood as a very comfortable materialistic life. Education and talent became tools to achieve this target; the success in the material world. It is not a bad thing to have a comfortable life style or a comfortable life environment or a lot of money to enjoy all what money could get. But there were days when people thought education and talent as tools to get a job in the government sector when government sector was the sole job provider. People otherwise depended on small trades, agriculture or wage labor to eke out a living. But with the change in attitude and the attitude towards economics in particular and life in general people started using education and talent as tools to achieve materialistic success. A doctor today no longer becomes a doctor to serve the ailing people. He or his parents ‘invests’ in his education and he should get the ‘returns’ or ‘profit’ once he finishes his education and starts off his career. Children are sent to school with a clear target about materialistic success.

But what about those people who do not have education, talent or any other means to achieve these means? They look at those people who have made it with some sort of grudge and envy. There are other set of people who despite having an education and talent yet denied opportunities. Some people get to vantage positions by using muscle power or crooked ways or asocial ways. Those people operate like this always get connected to the existing political parties and the power centers and a sort of symbiosis develops between them. So those people who are devoid of these means to power or not daring enough to resort to asocial ways thanks to fear or ethical thinking find it difficult to digest the fact that one section of society getting or taking all the advantages and success. Those young people who support Aam Aadmi Party today are led by this sense of frustration. Given a chance to express their mind or given a chance to be at the power centers they too would become a part of the existing power mechanisms only to replicate what they have been seeing from a distance with a grudge so far. They are not goaded by an ethical guidance nor are they supported by deep rooted democratic ideals. On the contrary they are led by an ambition to be successful in their lives. What stands between them and their success are the kind of social ills as manifested in the system of bribing, nepotism and opportunism. Their idea of social change or revolution comes from this simplistic notion of removing all these asocial patterns with one single magical stroke. Today, Arvind Kejriwal’s broom seems to have that magical power.

Yesterday, I happened to see a few youngsters wearing the Aam Aadmi topis and doing a lot of show off in a metro station. They were in a very euphoric mood. I suddenly thought that they could be from any party which had won the election. This time it is Aam Aadmi Party that is the winner. I do not show disrespect or cherish distrust in their euphoria or in their belief in the new savior. But today what I saw in a metro coach confirmed by skepticism about the idea of changes this young generation carries with it. The whole coach was filled with praises on Arvind Kejriwal who had said that he would travel by metro to take oath as the Chief Minister of Delhi. Some boys were also talking animatedly in support of Arvind. Their body language showed that anybody who said a word against would be thrashed up instantly. Surprisingly all of them were talking one sentence; From the birth of a child he/she starts giving bribes.’ I knew that the statement might have come from Kejriwal himself at some point. These were just parroting the words. Ideologically and in terms of propaganda, parroting the leaders’ words is a natural thing to do. But politically and critically speaking, all of them were just becoming ‘followers’ of a grand dream shown to them by Arvind Kejriwal. They do not discern whether the dream was a workable one or not. Yes, it is workable, provided we have too many people at the leadership who think with the same verve and sincerity of Kejriwal. But today, it is not the case. People are here for his magic touch which would turn any stone into gold; the success.

I am sure these boys would be disillusioned at some stage because all of them wear an Aam Aadmi topi and think that they have become one. In fact from an ordinary man’s status they have just become people who are at the threshold of power ready to replicate what they have been opposing so far. Their words and gestures prove it. It is comforting to see that so many young people attended the swearing in ceremony of the new Chief Minister at the Ramlila Maidan in Old Delhi. But I do not think that the larger turn out does not naturally translate into larger participation in the democratic process. People are here to see a spectacle; a scene that would not occur twice in history, perhaps. They just want to know how this man is going to remove the system that has been in place since ages and puts something new there. I do not doubt the intention and image of Arvind Kejriwal. But I do doubt the intention of the middle class. They want to replicate the success formulae of muscle based politics and the idea of success that has been spelt clearly by their predecessors till date. They do not have an alternative philosophy other than the claims of doing away with bribes. It is good to do away with the bribing. But what we are going to do with the idea of success?

The idea of success presupposes the failure of someone else. When you are making money, somewhere someone is losing it. Isn’t there a solution to this? I think, the solution lies in the hands of the people, not in the hands of Arvind Kejriwal. He cannot solve every problem of every human being in Delhi because he is not a superhuman thing. Our middle class, that in the name of religion, politics and anything conceivable vandalize the society and do self serving activities. They litter the roads, they acquire public parks and convert them into religious places, they deny job to their own brothers and sisters citing caste, creed and gender. And how such a middle class is going to sustain the dreams of Kejriwal? Wearing aam aadmi topi or trying to become the clones of Arvind Kejriwal will not change the society or will not cause any fundamental changes in the society. Instead it will turn the society into a large carnival of fancy dress and mimicry. Aam aadmi does not have a topi. Aam aurat does not have body guards. But in collective they become fancy dressers of Arvind. But it is not going to solve any problem.

The change in the society lies in the individual. In the individual lies the responsibility. When self-serving ends and the ideas of success change the individual becomes a better person. Arvind cannot do it for you/us. Arvind can show a possibility. Arvind is just a possibility. Be the change you want to see in the world, said Gandhiji. My life is my message, he added. How many can take up this challenge, in a changed scenario, not from Gandhiji but from Arvind?

I want to close this with a few lines from Bob Marley’s famous song Get up Stand up:

Most people think,
Great god will come from the skies,
Take away everything
And make everybody feel high.
But if you know what life is worth,
You will look for yours on earth:
And now you see the light,
You stand up for your rights. jah!


unni said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
unni said...

indeed. absolutely, the change should come within and if Aravind can be the cause for that, it is well and good. A very well written piece.