The Transformation Of Arvind Kejriwal: From Anarchist To Everyman’s CM


From anarchist to architect. The transformation of Arvind Kejriwal over the last five years has been dramatic indeed.

When he began his first full term as chief minister in 2015, his politics carried the grace of a wrecking ball. Abrasive, aggressive and confrontational, it had that bristling quality that comes naturally to people insecure and confused about themselves. A brute popular mandate, 67 out of 70 seats, was not enough to let the activist-turned-politician be at peace. It didn’t help that he was up against a hostile party at the centre making unambiguous its aim to hurt him through a thousand cuts. So we had a man at war with everyone–political opponents, the media, members of his own party and even his own support base.

Cut to 2020. Here’s a much mellowed Kejriwal, keen to be seen as the architect of a new Delhi rather than an angry crusader out on a demolition job. He no more deploys tweets–once his favourite weapon to take on the mighty–as poison darts and gone are the days he would enjoy making opponents go crazy through his barbed remarks. For nearly one-and-half a year he has consciously veered away from all confrontation. Yes, he smiles a lot and is more affable than earlier. The friendly neighbour image is winning him friends. The brand new Kejriwal is visible on posters dotting the national capital and radio announcements.

Should the image makeover worry political rivals? Yes, it should. The message he conveys about himself is what should bother them. He looked insecure earlier, now he is confident. He loved to flaunt victimhood earlier, he no more plays that card. He hardly behaved as a politician earlier, now he is conducting himself as a cool veteran of the game. In short, what the opposition could have used as handles to corner him in electoral politics no longer exist. With elections around the corner, the rivals are short of time to recalibrate their strategy against the ‘new’ him.

We are not discussing the achievements of his government in detail here. Any analysis of them is likely to run into partisan debate, but the fact is they provide the Aam Aadmi Party strong talking points before the elections. From the focus on education in government schools to mohalla clinics to huge concessions in electricity and waters bills to the success against fighting dengue–the targetting of measures has been spot on. All of them address to the formidable vote bank of the city-state’s poor and middle classes.

In his re-invented avatar, he talks governance and his plan in the next five years to make Delhi a world-class city. When the BJP’s top guns–there are few among Delhi leaders to match his stature at this point–hurl strong words at him at a personal level and raise national issues such as CAA, they go flat. Kejriwal has deliberately shifted the debate to local issues and turned the fight into a local one. In what could only be a well- considered move he has refrained from wading too deep into the JNU fracas or the ongoing protests in Delhi over CAA. Imagine the same person jumping into all major controversies with his trenchant views not long ago.

Thus what we have now is the everyman chief minister, focussed more on bread and butter issues. He has scaled down his political ambition too, preferring to concentrate on Delhi alone. The anarchist has indeed travelled a great distance in five years.


[Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily represent that of the website]

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