Shoot and scoot!

When I first met Kanshi Ram as a rookie journalist, he had just founded the Bahujan Samaj Party. It was election time in the 1980s and he had no hope in hell of winning even a single seat, despite his sharp focus on Dalit welfare in the country.

“In fact, I have told all my candidates that they should expect to lose their deposits this time around. At the next elections some of them may be able to save their deposits but most of them will be among the bottom three losers. Only a decade after, can they hope to be among the top four or five runners-up. It will be a full 25 years before we can hope to win enough seats to stand on our own feet,’’ he had then told me.

Now, 25 years looked like a whole generation to me and very, very far away in time. I thought his was a lost cause. I was too young at the time to look so many years ahead of time and so I was wrong – the BSP did make it under its own steam in 2007 in Uttar Pradesh at least nearly 25 years later but Kanshi Ram did not live to see the day. It is Mayawati who is reaping the fruits of her mentor’s hard labour and holds her ground because she roundly represents Dalits in the country, if not other communities as well. She is their modern-day messiah and nothing else, including corruption or criminalisation of the polity under her regime, really matters to her people.

But who do Arvind Kejriwal and his India Against Corruption (IAC) really represent? At the moment it seems to me little more than self-serving individuals with unclean hands who are now getting a taste of their own medicine – Kejriwal is under fire for transferring funds collected in Anna Hazare’s name to his own private trust; Kiran Bedi has been fudging her travel bills; Manoj Sisodia is under allegations of misrepresentation in a Ghaziabad development scam; the Bhushans are being constantly exposed as land grabbers of the highest order. In Bombay, which roundly defeated the IAC in December last year, Mayank Gandhi is seeking government largesse through allocation of a major redevelopment plan of the Chira Bazaar area to his family-owned Lok Group and the latest to fall under the axe of duplicity is Anjali Damania who put BJP president Nitin Gadkari through a media trial but is now herself cribbing about being subjected to one as her own alleged land scam unravels. Facts are coming to light about how she resisted the takeover of some of her own land for an irrigation project by the government and suggested that the authorities release her land and grab the adjoining land of poor tribals instead forthe project. Moreover, the land she had bought was reserved for agricultural purposes, she is alleged to have sold it after having got the authorities to change the land use to ‘non-agricultural’. How different is that from what she is accusing BJP president Nitin Gadkari of doing, then?

So does the IAC represent the clean and incorruptible or does it represent only its members’ own interests, not very different from the interests of those they accuse –sometimes unfairly in shoot and scoot operations – of similar acts and who are clearly holding out/blackmailing the authorities for some largesse of their own? And what is the big deal about one member of the IAC probing another for corruption? If Kejriwal and company have no faith in our courts or government investigating agencies already monitoring/probing a multitude of scams, why should we have any faith in a private investigation of another private citizen which could be akin to just another Kangaroo court in a different guise?

However, although somewhat stunned by the unfolding of all these events, I am rather beginning to enjoy this free-for-all as every one begins to wash every other’s dirty linen in public. It is adversity that brings out the worst or the best in people – and I am stunned to discover tha union law minister Salman Khurshid’s gentlemanly demeanour was just a mask for baser instincts. For the first time, I agreed with Kejriwal when he responded to the former’s threat to shed blood by saying that bis life was not in Khrushid’s but God’s hands. Khurshid should really have known better. I believe he let his tongue run away with him on more than just this occasion – the earlier was when he referred to Rahul Gandhi as just a cameo in the party. While that might be what so many other Congressmen too believe, I am convinced he is now paying a price for free speech — for he could not be so highly rattled just by Kejriwal alone. He perhaps knows the source of the leak of documents against his trust to Kejriwal who has already hinted that that is an insider job and so is going bonkers at possible loss of support from his own party high command.

I am also enjoying the sight of BJP leaders squirming at the exposes against Gadkari and applying to him the yardstick that the Congress has been applying to its own all these months. Then, again, it is now so clear that there is a faction fight raging within the BJP, as is evident from Ram Jethmalani’s letter on support to Narendra Modi as against Gadkari, clearly pointing to why Kejriwal targeted the BJP president.

Nothing is quite as it seems on the surface, for in the latest slugfest, even former cop YP Singh has not conducted himself with dignity or honesty in terms of both unnecessary one upmanship and conflict of interest. The documents relating to Lavasa and Sharad Pawar’s interest in this hill city project that he ‘leaked’ at his press conference on Thursday have nothing new – they have been part of the record and written about at least three months ago by various newspapers. Apart from a cheap stunt at grabbing publicity, Singh might have somewhat marred his reputation by not disclosing his conflict of interest on television as he renewed the allegations against Pawar: that he is representing Lavasa’s opponents in a PIL filed before the Bombay High Court and has a reason to influence the minds of the judiciary as well as the people in general against the project.

Surprisingly (or not really), the only person who has kept his cool through this drama is Sharad Pawar – from the time of his nephew Ajit Pawar’s resignation drama to now. Pawar, after all, is a veteran at fielding scam allegations of all sorts. No one until today has been able to draw a trail to him directly over any allegation so far and this, too, might eventually fall by the wayside.

I wonder if Kejriwal can display the courage to take his war against corruption to non-soft targets like Gujarat or even Karnataka, to prove that he is not a plaything in the hands of a faction of the BJP gunning for Gadkari who is just a babe in the woods compared to all the veterans in this particular ring. Through all this melee, he would be better advised tio take some from Kanshi Ram: for it is not as though Kejriwal will win the elections tomorrow or even in 2014 or 2019. All he seems to have done is divide the opposition space and that, too, in a limited portion of North India where the BJP could be the loser in the process.

Who gains then? Sadly, I am afraid, it could be the Congress. With the same argument as Narendra Modi, in case of a third consecutive win: the people’s verdict is greater than a kangaroo court’s. Let’s wait for that.

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