By Shafey Danish (NVONews.Com)
A fresh set of allegations are roiling Indian politics. Social activist turned politician Arvind Kejriwal has alleged that Robert Vadra, husband to Priyanka Vadra and son-in-law to Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi was the beneficiary of various sweet deals from realty giant DLF. These sweet deals were a ‘quid pro quo’ for Haryana government’s facilitation of land acquisition by the company.
Since he turned politician Kejriwal has turned into something of a firebrand. He has been relentlessly attacking Congress, and has now turned his fire on the first family itself. The media has taken due note, and turned Kejriwal into something of a celebrity.
Merely media’s insatiable appetite for political dirt digging, or deft manipulation on Kejriwal’s part? However it may be, Kejriwal the politician has emerged from the shadow of his erstwhile guru, Anna Hazare, and has emerged as a consummate politician in the process.
The journey to politics was anything but smooth however. Kejriwal was born in 1968, to an engineer father. He spent most of his early days in small northern Indian towns like Sonepat, Hissar, and Mathura.
Given that his father was an engineer, it was not surprising that Kejriwal joined IIT Kharagpur, the premier engineering college in India. For Kejriwal the period he spent in IIT, from 1985 to 1989, were a formative influence on his later life.
After graduating out he joined Tata Steel, but apparently disenchantment with the job led him to resign from service in 1992, just three years later. For a time, he worked with charitable organizations like Ramakrishna Mission, and Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. In 1995 he qualified for the Indian Revenue Service. He worked in the department for 5 years, during the time, he apparently devoted himself to the task of curbing corruption. While he was still and Additional Commissioner of Income Tax in Delhi, he started an NGO called Parivartan, using it to empower citizens to get basic documents and amenities like ration cards, or electricity connection. Parivartan has never been officially registered, and depends on few volunteers to provide its services.
The Delhi Right to Information Act was enacted in 2001. Soon after Kejriwal started a silent movement to educate people about their rights under the Right to Information Act, and to have it enacted at the Central level. The Centre passed the Right to Information Act in 2005.
Throughout this time, Kejriwal had been working as an RTI activist. In one memorable case Parivartan partnered with a poor woman named Triveni, who had not been getting her share of grains from the Public Distribution System. She had been told that the government had stopped distributing grains in that area.
Parivartan partnered with her to file a RTI. It was discovered that officials had lied to Triveni. That the government had continued to supply food grains but most of it was being siphoned off to be sold on the black market. Suspecting that the problem was widespread, a further RTI was filed. It was found that 93% of all wheat, and 87% of rice was being sold off on the black market.
Parivartan’s efforts led to the reopening of 15 PDS shops and food started being distributed to dozens of families. He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for emergent leadership in 2006. Kejriwal used his Magsaysay award money to found a new NGO called Public Cause Research Foundation.
He hit the headlines after joining Anna Hazare movement for the drafting of a strong anti-corruption bill in 2011. Through his Gandhian methods and his unrelenting stance against corruption Anna Hazare had captured the imagination of the people. Hazare’s fast started on 5th of April 2011, soon it turned into a national movement. The government was forced to take notice, and negotiate with the Hazare movement the committee that had formed around him.
That committee included father and son duo, lawyers Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal, retired police officer Kiran Bedi, Santosh Hedge and others. Though the movement gained a lot of traction in the media, the government ultimately did not keep its pledge of drafting a Lok Pal bill.
This spurred the Hazare movement to political campaigning. Later under criticism, it abandoned that path, confining itself to anti-corruption movement. Kejriwal however was adamant that there could no solution if there wasn’t a political solution.
Kejriwal launched his political party on October 2, 2012, unveiling a ‘vision document’ and calling it a ‘dharm yudh’.
Since then he has gone after political parties with gusto, and apparently garnered enough support from the media to remain in the news. However, he is a new player in the politics of the country, which does not merely hinges on social causes. There is a lot else which comes into play.
He has been a successful social activist. By entering politics he has entered the domain of his opponents. Will he be able to beat them at their own game? We can only wait and see.