Dalits would be the biggest beneficiaries of any law against
corruption: Arvind Kejriwal
Sruthijith KK, ET Bureau Sep 1, 2011, 06.39am IST
Forty-three-year-old, Arvind Kejriwal, a civil servant-turned
activist, was at the core of an unprecedented public uprising against
corruption, spearheaded by Anna Hazare. It was Kejriwal's silent
groundwork for over a year that culminated in the Jan Lokpal movement
that shook the political class. Talking to ET's Sruthijith KK,
Kejriwal discusses behind the-scenes development, Anna's functioning
style, his discontent with Indian democracy and related issues. Edited
What were the turning points in the negotiations with the government?
The government went back on its words three times. First, we had a
very good meeting with Pranab Mukherjee and Salman Khurshid, where
Mukherjee agreed to almost everything with respect to the process and
content of the Bill. There were some sticky issues, but nothing that
couldn't have been resolved over a few hours of discussions in the
morning. But when we met him the next day, he completely went back on
his words, saying there was no commitment.
You mean Pranab Mukherjee went back on his words?
Yes. The next day the Prime Minister gave a statement in the
Parliament. Though there were no specifics, the spirit was good. The
next day Rahul Gandhi made a statement that was completely reverse in
the spirit. That evening, Salman Khurshid called Prashant Bhushan and
Medha Patkar to his house. He showed them a resolution and said the
next day that resolution would be presented in Parliament. But the
next day at 1.30 pm, he said there will be no resolution.
So, do you consider the outcome a victory or do you think you have
just made some headway?
It is a victory in many ways, but also a reminder that it is a
beginning of a journey. It is a part of the process. We asked that
strong and robust Bill should be presented in Parliament. That was the
But the demand was that it should be passed by the Parliament by August 30.
Yes. We thought the government ought to respond to the mass upsurge
that was there in the beginning. This is what democracy is for—to
respond to people's demands. But with each passing day, it became
clearer that there was a huge disconnect between the establishment and
the people. Secondly, the government seemed to be so insensitive .
Thirdly, there was leadership crisis. Fourthly, internal power
struggles within the Congress. All these factors together made it very
clear that it would be a long journey and may take a longer time.
How long do you think it will be before the Bill is passed?
Normally standing committees take three months to work on a Bill.
Singhvi said the other day that they will try and finish it in two
months. The winter session of Parliament will also start by then. So
we hope that it can be passed during the winter session.
Several members of the standing committee have expressed their own
ideas for the Lokpal, such as there should be caste-based reservations
That is a very interesting point, though off hand I can't comment on
it. I would assume that it would follow the same model as the other
commissions such as the Central Vigilance Commission, Central
Information Commission, National Human Rights Commission , Election
Commission etc... I don't think there is a quota anywhere. There is a
quota for the staff, but not for the members. I don't know how it
would be implemented.
Do you fear opposition from Dalits and Muslims might mount and come in
the way of the Bill's smooth passage?
As far as Dalits are concerned, the movement has become a victim of
political manipulations. It has been projected that we are against the
Constitution, and Babasaheb Ambedkar and hence against the Dalits. It
was a completely mischievous move. First of all, the Jan Lokpal Bill
does not talk about any Constitutional amendments. It works within the
framework of the Constitution. Secondly, we have never said anything
against Babasaheb Ambedkar. Thirdly, Dalits are the biggest victims of
corruption. If there is a law that protects from corruption, Dalits
would be its biggest beneficiaries.
There may be an attempt by the government to divide and rule, and
towards the end of the campaign, there were obvious fissures in the
team. Do you subscribe to this view?
First of all, there were no fissures in our team. There are no
fissures till today. This government has tried to discredit the
campaign for the past few months. First, they targeted individuals .
They targeted the Bhushans. They tried to discredit us personally.
Nothing stuck. They tried to discredit Anna also and it backfired very
badly. Now they are trying to show that Anna is a good man but his
team is bad. Anna is a victim of this team. I just want to place on
record that all the decisions are taken by Anna. He is a fiercely
independent person. He has been fighting against corruption for the
past 20 years. This was his 16th fast. Who was using him in the last
15 fasts? This is an absurd allegation.
You claim there were no fissures but in the last few days both Swami
Agnivesh and Justice Hegde made it clear that they were not part of
Swami Agnivesh wanted to go as a negotiator in the first round of
talks with Pranab Mukherjee. Anna had decided Kiran Bedi, Prashant
Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal would go. He insisted that he wanted to
go. Anna said he didn't want to send a crowd and that nobody should
work for their own benefit. He said in that case I'm leaving the
campaign. The CD emerged three days later.
Do you suspect that Agnivesh was double crossing you?
I really don't know. If that CD is true, then I'm quite shocked.
Many supporters seem to have been alienated due to the very hardline
position you tend to take in public.
I don't think we have lost anyone. As far as the demands are
concerned, I was only voicing the demands of the campaign. We have a
core committee, we have Annaji. Prashant (Bhushan) and I are the
spokespersons. We say the same thing, but perhaps I need to reflect on
my tone. As far as Arunaji is concerned, we all have different points
of view. It is important to have different points of view in a
democracy. We need to discuss with each other. It is being said that
we are against dissent. If we were against dissent, then the bill
would not have gone through 14 versions. How was the government bill
drafted? Just five gentlemen sitting in a closed room. They drafted it
and thrust it on the government.
This campaign saw the involvement of an unusual number of spiritual
leaders. Sri Sri Ravishankar, Swami Agnivesh, Bhaiyyuji Maharaj and
Others made brief appearances; Sri Sri Ravishankar was an important
part of the team. Swami Agnivesh was also part of the team till the
developments of the last few days. You have spoken about consultations
with people ahead of a Bill being drafted. But mechanisms for
consultations already exist, such as a standing committee, but the
experience has been that few people are interested in making
How do you claim to be speaking for the people?
We went across the country, travelled so much, had discussions with
people, conducted seminars, surveys, referendums... we did everything
within our power and all of it suggested that overwhelming public
opinion was in favour of the position taken in Jan Lokpal Bill. Indian
democracy has become too representative in nature. That needs to be
changed now. We need to nurture the institutions at the grassroots
level so that we have a platform to gauge the people's opinion and
then we can genuinely say that people want it.
Will you ever contest an election?
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