WITH THE RAGING conversations going on around street corners, at roadside tea shops and in tony neighbourhoods in Punjab, it is all the more necessary that we try to understand a little more of this thing called Arvind Kejriwal. And we name him —instead of indulging in the popular lore of the days till March 11 about who will be the chief ministerial candidate of the Aam Aadmi Party if it wins —because no matter which face is pushed forward, he will come wearing a Kejriwal mask.
For all practical purposes, Arvind Kejriwal will be the 'chief minister' of Punjab if AAP wins. Anyone doubting that can mumble 'Dharamvir Gandhi, Dharamvir Gandhi, Dharmavir Gandhi' thrice in a low tone to himself inside a bolted room to be reminded of what might happen if you do not understand the realities of body politic. (If you fail to convince yourself, try saying 'YY-PB,' 'YY-PB,' 'YY-PB.' It might help restore sanity.)
But how did we come to this pass? Simple answer: Bluster. Congress' Amarinder Singh tried it ("will throw Badals in jail"), Akalis' Majithia tried it ("no one dare to touch me"), but it worked the best for Kejriwal: "We will throw them in jail," "I will send them to jail in xx days" (from one week to 10 days to 100 days - Code of Conduct does not insist on consistency in foolish bluster).
Add to this AAP's promises in the run up to the February 4 elections, some in the manifesto and some in sundry stump speeches. It is difficult to keep track of AAP's manifesto promises, in fact, since there were multiple manifestoes. (Kanwar Sandhu got tied up in Kharar or we would have had a dozen more, including one for traditional 'datun'-sellers of Punjab, assuring them of guaranteed space by certain roadside points to ensure cleaner teeth with age-old dentistry innovations.)
So, will Kejriwal and AAP deliver on these? Send Bikramjit Singh Majithia to jail? Find the culprits behind the heinous acts of sacrilege? Change the law to ensure life imprisonment/capital punishment for those committing such sacrilege? Open street-corner AAP's offices to dish away the freebies they promised? Ensure every child has a laptop in the next two months? File applications in the high court to impound the passports of Sukhbir Singh Badal, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Prakash Singh Badal? Throw at least a dozen Akali ministers in jail? Stop the supply of drugs? Seal the border with Pakistan? Resolve the SYL imbroglio with Haryana? Get Punjabi speaking areas back from Haryana? Ensure release of Sikh detenues languishing in jails? Make its position clear on Rajoana? Pass a special law for granting one-third of Shamlat land only and only to Dalits in proper auctions that are open only to Dalits and not proxies of higher castes? End vulgarity in Punjabi songs (at least five candidates made election speeches about this)? Make it mandatory to run two Punjabi films in multiplex theatres (one candidate definitely promised this)? Bring down the price of popcorn and colas in multiplexes (AAP's candidates at three seats promised this)?
It is possible that Kejriwal may do all of this, and that too, within the defined time periods.
But it is only possible if we were to find that a far more powerful man has been able to keep his promises, and bluster. (Is there a difference? Just asking!)
Donald Trump looks nothing like Arvind Kejriwal, but the bluster matches.
To be fair to him, Trump carried on the bluster even after his inauguration. So that gave me hope that Kejriwal might keep his word. Trump was keeping his, after all.
Brave Trump accepted a phone call from the leader of Taiwan in December, caring two hoots about the United States' One China policy. His defenders called it a much-needed show of strength. Trump was willing to challenge decades of diplomatic orthodoxy.
Trump was the stalwart defender of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and winked at Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Hail the brave man, said America, or its Republican base which is all that is there to America these days, protest marches aside.
The EU was squirming after Trump told it off. Japan was on notice, since Trump made it clear it cannot be business as usual. The phone call with the Australian head will forever hang in the headlines. Overtures to Russia and Putin, threat to Iran that he will tear up the nuclear deal – it was Trump all the way.
And then it started. Much like the Lokpal Bill moment of Aam Aadmi Party. Shut down the agenda talk and carry on with the business as usual.
This week, Trump fell back into line.
He called President Xi Jinping of China to pledge that the US will stick to One China, a 44-year-old policy under which Washington recognized a single Chinese government in Beijing and severed its diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
Trump has also warned Israelis this week against going ahead with settlements in the West Bank. No more do op-ed writers claim Trump will be the master builder of the Middle East.
On Iran, Trump's advisers told EU's top foreign policy honcho Federica Mogherini that the US would fully carry out the agreement.
On Friday, Trump told Japanese premier Shinzo Abe right in the White House that US' alliance with Japan was a "cornerstone of peace and stability.”
Perspectives change. Barack Obama was an antiwar crusader in his stump speeches, and became a lover of drone strikes and other covert counterterrorism operations when in the White House. Besides, he befriended George W. Bush.
The world looks different from the Oval Office. Punjab will look very different from the second floor of the Punjab Civil Secretariat. The street in Punjab rose. Kejriwal rode the wave. The wave will ebb down. Reality will take over. Things will settle down. Aam Aadmi Party will find its Lokpal Bill moment. A little tinkering here, a little adjustment there. A few inspection visits at schools, a couple of people rounded up, a few drug addicts reformed, a dozen drug sellers arrested. A few headlines generated. A few journalists on the pay roll. A few advertisements about the good work in Punjab appearing in Gujarati newspapers.
The Donald Trumping of Arvind Kejriwal will be complete. Politics mainstreams. It mainstreams the bluster even faster. Mere Jaise Ban Jaoge Jab Ishq Tumhen Ho Jayega!