Meaning of slapping of Arvind Kejriwal

Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee and CNS Columnist
Photo credit: CNS
Several incidents of ink throwing at or trying to punch or slap Arvind Kejriwal have occurred now. It appears that some people, mostly from his own movement and party, are angry at him and are giving vent to their frustration in this manner. However, is Arvind Kejriwal the only leader with whom people are angry? Actually, people are probably more angry with big leaders of established parties. But have we ever heard of anybody slapping Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, L.K. Advani, Narendra Modi, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Yadav, Mayawati? Occasionally some Sharad Pawar or Buta Singh is targeted. Such incidents, though, are exceptions. And they were not repeated.

Why is poor Arvind getting beaten time and again? The real reason is that common people can’t get near any of the abovementioned national leaders of other mainstream parties. They have such a tight security around them that it is unlikely that any miscreant would be able to pierce their security shields. Arvind has not accepted formal security, even though you can see people around him who are obviously there to protect him, from the time of beginning of Anna Hazare’s movement. Arvind doesn’t have to worry about this. His right hand man Manish Sisodia takes care of his security needs, sometimes may be without Arvind’s knowledge. But this ring of security is proving to be ineffective. The fact that Arvind is the only national leader getting beaten repeatedly shows that he is accessible to people whereas others are not. People can reach Arvind’s cheek to slap it but they dare not think about it with Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi or Mulayam Singh. They should also expect a much nastier retribution if they were to try slapping any of the other leaders. They would be thrashed much more severely than they are by Arvind’s supporters. They could even be beaten to death or land in jail. They can take liberty only with Arvind Kejriwal because they know that nothing serious will happen to them given Arvind’s public pronouncements about being a common man as opposed to being a VIP.

Hence the real reason Arvind is getting beaten is that he is accessible to people. Some people may be unhappy with him but then their anger for other leaders will probably be much more. However, people cannot give vent to their annoyance with other leaders in the same way they can do with Arvind. They feel Arvind is like them whereas other leaders seem to belong to a class apart who clearly maintain a distance from the common people. This must be admitted in Arvind’s favour.

After being slapped by the autorickshaw driver, Arvind Kejriwal went and sat for sometime at Rajghat for meditation and possibly introspection. He and his team smelt a conspiracy behind the attacks on Arvind. But he pardoned the man who slapped him. The next day Arvind and Manish went to meet the autorickshaw driver at his home to find out why he hit Arvind. The autorickshaw driver had already stated after the slapping incident that he was unhappy with Arvind because he did not run the Delhi government properly and fulfill his commitment made to the autorickshaw drivers. The man was an AAP supporter and had donated Rs. 500 from his hard earned income to AAP. He doesn’t appear to be person sponsored by Arvind’s political opponents as AAP was suspecting a day earlier.

Now Arvind is trying to adopt Gandhian ways to deal with such unpleasant situation. It is commendable that he went to meet the autorickshaw driver. Gandhi had taught that one should not hate one’s enemy. It is a very difficult thing to practice. However, people posted by Manish Sisodia around Arvind Kejriwal for his security have thrashed the person who threw ink or punched or slapped Arvind. It is only after he is given a thorough beating that he is pardoned by Arvind. Is this a Gandhian way? They are merely making use of Gandhian ways for political gain. Such pseudo-Gandhianism will not take Arvind anywhere. One cannot use routine political gimmickry like a conspiracy theory and at the same time visit the attacker to show one’s large heartedness. You cannot be a Gandhian politician and use deceitful methods practiced by run of the mill mainstream political parties.

One has to be consistent with Gandhian or any ideology that one is following. One cannot selectively use it to suit one’s interest. Arvind may not have claimed explicitly to be a Gandhian but his methods clearly have a Gandhian imprint. However, not all his actions are in accordance with Gandhian philosophy. A basic tenet of Gandhian philosophy is that not only the goal should be right but even the method of reaching the goal must be correct. There should be consistency between ends and means. Arvind Kejriwal and team don’t seem to have learned this lesson very well. They seem to be very good at only making use of various tactics which will give them publicity. This will work for some time. But when people realize that there is a pattern they would stop being fooled. Arvind needs to review his working style quite seriously. Camera’s will cover him only so long as he has people’s support. The day people will desert him the cameras too will stop his coverage.

Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee and CNS Columnist
10 April 2014
(The author is a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and a senior social activist. He is the Vice President of Socialist Party (India) and member, National Presidium, Lok Rajniti Manch. He has led National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and is a former faculty of IIT Kanpur. Presently he is a faculty at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) BHU. He did his PhD from University of California, Berkeley and is a visiting faculty for a number of US Universities and IITs in India. Email: