New Delhi: Even as he continues to turn up the pitch on his expose-led brand of politics, bureaucrat-turned-activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal has drafted a clear strategy to build a national footprint and plans to forge a network by tapping into smaller anti-graft movements inspired by both political parties and civil society around the country. And, it could involve allying with smaller, regional parties as well.
“Our teams are being made (in states) like Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana. In these places, district-level teams have already been made and block-level teams are being formed,” Kejriwal said. “(These teams) have started working at connecting (with) people in these villages,” Kejriwal said in an interview.
Kejriwal’s as-yet-unnamed political party is to be launched on 26 November and he has so far remained reticent about how exactly he proposes to transform a largely urban movement into a national party.
“I do not agree that the movement is urban centric... We have fallen short, we agree. The movement and anger has reached across villages and they identify with it. We have to now reach out to them and give this a final shape in villages across the country...which is already happening,” he added.
Kejriwal was the force behind a series of anti-graft agitations anchored initially by veteran social activist Anna Hazare and targeted at the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Hazare and Kejriwal parted ways after the latter pressed ahead with forming a political party.
That movement wasn’t really urban, although there is clearly a need to “supplement” it with something more, added Yogendra Yadav, a political analyst who is now part of Kejriwal’s team.
“The movement against corruption had its own strengths and weaknesses. It was more urban although confined not only to the urban areas but more in the upper half of the society,” he added in a phone interview from Sri Ganaganagar in Rajasthan.
According to Yadav, the team is already in touch with several groups and parties that will partner with Kejriwal’s party, join it directly or ask their members to do so.
In Sri Ganganagar, for instance, members from the India Against Corruption (IAC) and a small political party, the International Democratic Party (IDP), which has a presence in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and parts of Rajasthan, will do this, he explained.
Yadav said Kejriwal’s team has initiated a similar dialogue with at least six other political parties, including the Samajwadi Jan Parishad, which has an presence in eight states; Karnataka’s Sarvodaya Party; Uttarakhand Janavahini in the hill state; Jan Sangharsh Morcha, an adivasi political party in Maharashtra; and the Nationalist Communist Party. “The idea is to provide a natural political platform for all people’s movements to turn to,” he said.
The Sarvodaya Party is registered with the Election Commission. Mint couldn’t immediately ascertain whether any of the others are registered political parties.
Experts said the strategy is expedient and limiting.
“If you do not have time at your disposal, the only way to create an election machinery is to incorporate smaller parties which already have one but are not adequately represented or heard,” said Jai Mrug, a Mumbai-based political analyst. “They have ideas but what is important is whether there is a different form of engagement required on the ground to gain some traction, specially among poor.”
Both Kejriwal and Yadav said district-level committees that are already functional in some states have started creating awareness and taking up local issues.
Arun Singh, member of the Allahabad district committee of Kejriwal’s party, said it had committee members in all districts in the state.
“There are 30-35 people in every district committee in the state,” Singh said. “Members go to villages and mohallas to create awareness about the party. ”
It is these district committees that take up local issues such as electricity problems and discuss it with locals. “Usually, there is a meeting held by every district committee on Sundays and members from all the district committees meet at least once a month to discuss the issues,” Singh added.
The district and block-level committees will have counterparts at the level of wards and municipalities, Yadav said. “The basic structure is a primary unit at village level, block unit and district level unit and its urban counterparts at ward and municipality levels.”
In recent public meetings, Kejriwal has been supported by a group of contract labourers working in the electricity department in Delhi, a group of farmers from Haryana, and the Rashtriya Viklang Party (RVP), which works for the physically challenged. However, it is not clear whether these too will either join his party or extend support to it. Some of these smaller groups may have thrown their lot in with Kejriwal, albeit temporarily, so as to amplify their own messages. For instance, K.K. Sethi, national president of the RVP, who approached Kejriwal on the alleged charges against union law minister Salman Khurshid over the misappropriation of government funds by a charity run by him and his wife Louise for disabled people, said he was hopeful that the matter would get noticed by people.
“We thought Kejriwal was someone who could help us on this issue when no political party or personality was expressing an opinion on it,” he said.