My association with the Aam Aadmi Party predates its formation. I was among the first 500 or so people who joined the erstwhile India Against Corruption movement back in 2011 at a time when it was just another protest at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. Over the next few months and years, I did my fair share of placard holding, slogan shouting, dharnas, processions and door-to-door campaigning. I was also among the 100 or so people who camped outside the Tihar jail when Anna was arrested. I was among the volunteers who slogged for hours doing crowd management at Ramlila Maidan during the ‘original’ fast. In short, I’ve been there and done that.
Today, when I saw the events unfold on TV, my eyes welled up more than once during the course of the day. On a deeply personal level, I felt satisfied.
But that is a purely personal feeling – a feeling of personal vindication, a reassertion that it was the people who called me crazy who were wrong. I was right, my instincts were right.
But I also have a strange sense of dread creeping over me through the day. For the last four years, I never faced self-doubts. I never had to ask myself if I was (we were) wrong and what they said about how power corrupts everyone could be true. I blindly trusted Kejriwal, Yogendra and the countless other volunteers and organizers I’ve met through the years. There was no possibility that we could fail in our own eyes. No.
Yet that possibility stares us in the face now. If it has so long been external factors that stood so far between us and our dream of achieving a corruption-free Delhi, now it is our own ‘niyat’ or conviction.
I worry that Aam Aadmi Party would also slowly, but inevitably, become part of the system, that Kejriwal would become a politician, complete with his own coterie of power-hungry hangers on. It would, as Anna Hazare warned, become like the JP Movement, which spawned Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav as its legacies.
Those worries get reinforced as I see the celebrations at AAP as if everything has been achieved. Everyone says we’ve won, it’s a landmark victory etc.. But have we, really? Did we set out to become the ruling party in Delhi? Was that why we took leaves from office and attended rallies, so that instead of Sheilaji, we could have Arvindji in the CM’s chair?
Far from it.
It was to set an example for the rest of India. It was to show this great country of ours that we are not predestined to be a third-world country, that corruption and lawlessness do not have to be our hallmarks. That we may be poor, but we are not wanting when it comes to integrity and having a society that works, without bribes flying all around.
I know that Arvind shares that vision. But I get worried when I see all this talk of us having won. We haven’t. Our journey has just begun, and we have, as the poet said, miles and miles to go before we sleep.
Let us focus on our goal. Let us show everyone what India can be. Let us not be distracted by the small trappings of power. Let us eschew them. Let us rededicate ourselves to fighting the forces of corruption that is keeping this country poor. Let us forge ahead with the same hunger that impelled us to shout ‘Anna Tum Sangharsh Karo, Hum Tumhare Saat hain’. Let us, get down to the job we set outselves.
(P Rajesh is a Delhi-based tech professional.)