I look back satisfactorily at the India Against Corruption movement because it brought the issue of corruption to the forefront of national discourse. For some time, there was a burst of energy and enthusiasm among the people, especially the youngsters, and they felt they could get involved in public life.
However, the movement was hijacked by one individual, Arvind Kejriwal, who turned it into an agenda for power. The movement against the Emergency in 1975 was hijacked by the Janata Party and it was ruined by their infighting, leaving the people dejected. After the Emergency, it took 37 years for the IAC to happen. The way it was hijacked and its guiding principles betrayed, I doubt if anyone can now start a movement again and if people will trust it.
- Ten years of Anna Andolan: Who benefited from the anti-corruption movement?
- BJP government, too, did not want the lokpal law
- IAC’s goal was to display the power of people
- RSS and BJP had a role in the campaign
- The IAC campaign has done more harm than good
- The movement failed to provide a credible alternative
In hindsight, it is also apparent that the demand for Lokpal was only a rallying point to gain power. We campaigned on the issue of ‘swaraj’, and the minute the Aam Aadmi Party was formed, we removed it from the party’s constitution. There was a provision that nobody can have more than two terms as party president, but the Constitution was changed so that Kejriwal could be president for life. We fought for the decentralisation of power, and now we have ‘Kejriwal’s picture in the flag of the party.
I felt I was not suited to this kind of politics, so I quit. I did not have any confrontation with Kejriwal. We were very close. He used to stay in my house. I saw how he changed. And then I got very afraid, that if somebody whom I admire so much can change with power, what will happen to me?
I will not say that he had planned to enter politics from the beginning. [But] situations make things happen and you start feeling differently. You feel that the government is not listening, so let us form a political party. After you form a political party, you feel that you cannot win elections in Punjab with your
original principles. So, you make compromises.
My suggestion at that time also was that the AAP should focus on providing good governance using our stated principles. Instead, we got too ambitious and abandoned all our principles. Just as you have a heat-seeking missile, Kejriwal is a vote-seeking missile. He is doing everything that we were fighting against.
Arvind had put Anna Hazare as the face of the movement. When it did not suit him to have Hazare, and he thought that he had enough support on his own, he removed that mask.
Kejriwal, at that time, also used to tell me: ‘I just need people who say Bharat Mata ki jai and follow me. I do not want any intelligent person.’ So, anyone with a different view was not welcome.
All in all, I have no regrets. It was a good phase of my life. It was a good phase in this country’s life. The result could have been different and better. At least, Kejriwal is providing some opposition. Some good things are happening in Delhi. So, I am not sad.
—As told to Soni Mishra
An architect-turned-social activist, Mayank Gandhi is a former national executive member of the AAP.