The developing political scenario in India is as interesting as it was unexpected and many are drawing parallels with India’s Freedom Struggle and the role that Mahatma Gandhi played in it. This article is simply to look at similarities and differences with the intention to draw some lessons.
1. Both are/were mass based struggle where the leader projected himself as one of the common people – Aam Aadmi.
2. Both bypassed the elite and addressed the masses of India’s population. In Gandhiji’s struggle the elite fell in line when they saw the trend and didn’t openly oppose Gandhiji.
3. Both highlighted evocative issues and used unorthodox and unusual approaches – like the Dandi Salt March and Kejriwal’s Dharna against police inaction in Delhi.
4. Both attempted to gain some quick wins especially at thumbing the nose at the Government – Swadeshi Movement and Gandhiji’s Charka (spinning wheel).
5. Both attempted to include people of every faith – a very critical requirement in a multi-religious and pluralistic society like India.
1. Gandhiji’s struggle was for the Freedom of India from British Colonialism – a supremely evocative cause that can have no parallel. Freedom movements all over the world have a power of their own.
2. The ‘enemy’ was clearly visible, was a clear ‘outsider’, was a symbol of oppression and there were clear personal gains associated with succeeding in the struggle.
3. There was no media to highlight mistakes and egg-in-the-face and in any case the cause was such that followers were willing to forgive anything.
4. In Kejriwal’s case, the media has been bought and are doing all they can to dig out every little mistake or fault and highlighting it to try to discredit him. The power of this constant barrage on the senses and people’s minds can’t be underestimated.
5. There was no opposition to Gandhiji’s struggle – there was no counter movement to keep India enslaved. The British were also getting tired of ruling and this came to a head after World War 2 and freedom ensued.
6. In Kejriwal’s case there is a clear counter movement from the elite who have opened all purses and are willing to do anything to ensure that he fails.
7. Gandhiji didn’t have to worry about fighting an election or winning a majority in Parliament.
8. Kejriwal is working to a clear timeline – both a benefit and a liability.
9. Gandhiji didn’t have to bring about administrative reform – he was not the ruler and was not given the government in any form – so he didn’t have to take decision, pass laws or do anything to gain the commitment of his followers. They wanted freedom from the British and believed that he could get it for them, so they followed him.
10. Kejriwal has to prove that his promises come true right away.
11. Those who dissented with Gandhiji and his methodology – and there were many – thanks to the fact that there was no media to highlight their dissenting comments, simply fell by the wayside and Gandhiji grew bigger than all of them.
12. Nobody who was a part of Gandhiji’s movement spoke against him publicly no matter what they thought of him or may have said to him privately.
13. In Kejriwal’s case some of the high-profile recruits (like Capt. Gopinath) are proving to be a mixed blessing by criticizing him in public. Clearly there is no party discipline in place which leaves room for healthy dissent yet draws the line at washing dirty linen in public.
Having said all of the above it still remains to be seen as to what will unfold as we approach the 2014 elections.
Will idealism and the genuine desire to help this great nation of ours emerge from the morass of corruption that we have descended into be translated into visible action?
Or will we be delivered into the hands of the elite who have prospered at the cost of the masses – once again to be sold, manipulated, corrupted and silenced – so that the powers that be, become richer and more powerful?
I believe that the answer to the above will lie in how many of us are ready to rise to the occasion, bury their differences, keep India in focus and do what it takes to save our nation from slavery worse than the British ever levied on us.
Kejriwal is not perfect. Neither was Gandhiji. But what was different – what Gandhiji had which Kejriwal has to create – is people who believed in him and loved him enough to overlook his faults and idiosyncrasies and focus on his message. Gandhiji’s followers had bought into his dream – the dream of a Free India. What remains to be seen is if Kejriwal can also get his followers to buy into the same dream – the dream of a truly Free India.