Kolkata, India – Arvind Kejriwal, the new “crusader” for India’s teeming masses, made his presence felt at the non-political Pan IIT Global Conference 2012 at the Science City Auditorium in Kolkata.
Accompanying him on Day 2 (Dec. 8) was his comrade at the newly launched Aam Aadmi party and lawyer Somnath Bharti. Along with them were Gurgaon’s Municipal Councillor and ex-corporate Nisha Singh and Mustan Tambawala of the Lok Satta party.
An IIT Kharagpur alumnus, Kejriwal left no opportunity to convince his fellow IITians about the need for a clean democracy and a party that would provide corruption-free governance to the common masses. Clad in his trademark “Main aam aadmi hu (I am a common man)” cap, the activist-politician played to the gallery and spoke about empowering the masses and how he plans to do it.
While his immediate plan of action is evident – giving an option of honest candidates to the electorate, Kejriwal and Bharti failed to provide a long-term objective and promised to give a clearer indication of their stand on issues like terrorism, foreign policy, defense and others only by March 2013.
“We have created a team of experts to look after issues like unemployment, FDI, land acquisition among others. That should be done by March. Then we will take our stand to the people of the country before we finalize our stand,” said Kejriwal.
He started on a high note, announcing: “This country is only meant for VIPs. If you go to Delhi you will see separate houses and cars for VIPs. We want to change this culture.”
“Till you clean up, there will be no end to the corruption. We have accepted this challenge. Tumhari rajneeti badal denge hum (we will change your politics),” he declared.
Bharti called for judicial reforms. “The fact that more than 17 laws including the controversial IT Act (66A) was passed within 15 minutes without any discussion shows the wisdom our Parliamentarians possess. There is no other way but standing for the elections,” he said.
He pointed out an instance where a petition has been filed asking for court proceedings to be recorded. But, nothing has happened on that front yet but neither was the petition rejected, he regretted. “If you allow audio-visual recording then 60 percent of the cases will be over. We offered cheap solutions but they are not agreeing. The whole thing is not transparent,” he argued.
Tambawala, though, did not share Kejriwal and Bharti’s optimistic note. “It is impractical to say that we will go back to the citizens when a law needs to be debated. It is more practical to have competent people in a thinktank who can decide on the legislation,” he said.
And how do they propose to work in the Opposition should they fail to win? “If the law is good then we provide support. We would also take copies of the law and seek public opinion. If the law is bad then we will oppose it,” said Kejriwal.
“Do not fight only because of politics. Cooperate with the government on the basis of issues. Keep raising issues which need to be raised. People will realise you are at it all the time. Then they will give you a chance (to win),” said Tambawala.
Nishi Singh spoke about how she managed to run and win the elections without coming from a political background. “People are waiting for good candidates. You need to reach out to people and give your campaign enough time. You just need 20 per cent votes cast to win,” she stated.
So what are the long-term challenges for those offering a corruption-free government? “Getting clean, competent and credible candidates, clean funding and a united front for clean politics,” said Tambawala.
“Thanks to the Anna movement, the challenges have gone away. People are waiting to embrace us. We have to figure out a way to reach out. Getting your message across is important,” said Singh.
And what do they want the IITians to do, especially since they are selling their brand at the Pan IIT platform?
“The onus of making clean politics win is on you. Influence people around you. Provide clean funding,” pointed out Tambawala.
“Whatever has to happen needs to happen in the next two years. Otherwise we might not get a chance for the next 40 years. Participate, you do not have an option. Taan, maan aur dhaan se join karein (join with your soul, body and money),” appealed Kejriwal, who even shared his email id for willing volunteers among the audience.
Their party will launch a campaign in Delhi to enroll 90,000 volunteers in the next 21 days who would manage the booths during elections, he added. Kejriwal also plans to set up 378 district-level committees by 26 January, 2013 and then spread to villages and municipal wards.