Arvind Kejriwal and his band of Aam Aadmi – or tamashbeen – are regularly called Anarchists. Not just like that. There actions are one thing, but their mindset too is anarchist. The values of “people’s power” that they extoll is mob rule.
Interestingly, as Shekhar Gupta discusses, Arvind Kejriwal gets his inspiration – documented in his book Swaraj – comes from a story-cum-legend from Ancient India. The Story of the Kingdom of Vaishali. The same one where Amrapali became the courtesan and the kingdom was completely destroyed. This is the story that Arvind Kejriwal puts his entire force behind.
His history is all anecdotal — once upon a time, there was a king in Vaishali, which is the “world’s oldest democracy”, obviously. Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, because his knowledge of ancient Vedic history is supposedly even better than that of physics, which he taught at Allahabad University, would agree. The Vaishali king’s son always became king but had no powers. He only did what his gram sabhas told him to do. Once, his “people” pointed at a girl and wanted her to become a courtesan. The girl said she had no problem, but only if the king gave his castle to her as a gift. People said, fine, and the king had no choice. People said the castle is not yours, it was built with our taxes. So the king was forced to give away the castle. Of course, he built himself another one, evidently by levying fresh taxes on the people of his omnipotent gram sabha. Kejriwal underlines, in all sincerity, that it is a bad custom to ask a woman to become a courtesan. Nevertheless, he says, the larger message of this “story” is what matters. That ancient India had real democracy, people had all the power, the sovereign was naam–ke–vaaste, and the gram sabha was the institution of governance. It could make a pretty girl a courtesan and render a king homeless. He doesn’t merely rest his case but goes on to explain it as an agenda for modern India.
Very rightly, Gupta calls it inspired by Chandamama and Amar Chitra Katha. Based on this story and inspiration however, Kejriwal comes up with an interesting formulation of how the future Governance will be structured. It goes something like this:
His grand idea is supremely virtuous gram sabhas and mohalla sabhas governing our villages and cities, respectively. They will receive direct, untied funds. What it means is that the “government” will just deposit money into their accounts without specifying any purpose or instituting supervision, oversight or accountability. Of course, with this, most of the bureaucracy will be rendered irrelevant, definitely the CAG and its offspring in state capitals. The MPs and MLAs will no longer make laws. They will bring the draft of each law to gram sabhas, take their views and then convey these in their respective Houses and laws will thus be passed directly by the “people”. The elected representatives will merely be honest correspondents and note-takers. They deserve no better, says Kejriwal, because in the current system, they blindly follow their party line and if they defy the high command, they are thrown out. I’m not sure if Vinod Kumar Binny read out this passage from Swaraj in his defence at his inquisition.
Given Binny’s episode, the intrinsic hypocrisy of Kejriwal’s Swaraj is of course very clear.
It is pretty obvious that if the Constitution, the Police, the Judiciary and all other institutions are deconstructed in India, and replaced by Mob rule through Gram Sabhas, where these groups hire and fire the officials to their satisfaction – the internal security will be in shambles. Just in case anyone forgets, we are a country with 18 Official languages and thousands of dialects, with many hundred cultures living. Food habits change every 100 km. To run such a huge country in a meaningful way by making Gram Sabhas as the major unit of Governance is asking for Collective Suicide!
And, by the way, as the postscript of this article suggests, that is PRECISELY what Vaishali ended up doing. Totally destructed by Ajatshatru because the Gram Sabhas could not come to an agreement on how to launch a defense to the invasion. So, all the AAP enthusiasts, please think carefully before you wish for something.
I found some references to the Vaishali of “those times” (probably 6th to 5th century BC) in eminent historian Dr Upinder Singh’s wonderfully erudite and authoritative A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century (Pearson, 2009). But none to the courtesan that Chandamama, Wikipedia and Kejriwal extol. There was indeed democracy of the kind Kejriwal mentions. Singh says Vaishali’s “greatest asset — governance through discussion — was also their greatest weakness. They were vulnerable to internal dissensions, especially when faced with aggressive monarchies”. There was also an invasion of Vaishali by Magadha’s Ajatashatru, but not because he was madly in love with the nagarvadhu, as Chandamama and Wiki tell us. He was cross because two cousins, who had stolen a wonderful 18-string pearl necklace, had been given refuge in Vaishali. He invaded Vaishali, laid it to waste and massacred all its people, except Amrapali. And why did Vaishali, the much stronger and richer state, lose? Its “people spent all their time arguing and fighting over how they should carry out their defence”! In fact, according to Buddhist texts quoted by Singh, so notorious was the Vaishali anarchy that even the bodhisattvas advised a contemplative Buddha in heaven not to be born in that kingdom as it followed no system or order, as everybody there went around saying “I am king, I am king.” I am not sure that is the ancient Vaishali Kejriwal has drawn inspiration from. I, at least, didn’t read this in Chandamama. Or maybe he is talking about the Vaishali next door to the Ghaziabad colony where he has lived. Further, the Wiki, Chandamama and Amrapali, the film, tell us that so ashamed was Amrapali at the destruction of her country because of her that she went to Buddha and became a nun. Kejriwal doesn’t tell us this, but then he surely reminds us that the ultimate objective of all mankind is attainment of “nirvana/ Buddhatva” and liberation from all worldly desire (Swaraj, page 107).
One thing is clear. Every AAP follower SHOULD read Swaraj many times over. Again and again.. and again!