Indian politics has now got a new Sir Galahad. He promises to sweep away the muck, beginning with Delhi. Arvind Kejriwal, who is all set to become Delhi’s next chief minister, is committed to removing corruption from the political arena. His entire campaign had the eradication of corruption at its very centre. Mr Kejriwal sees himself as the representative of the ordinary man in India. This is reflected in the very name of his party — the Aam Aadmi Party. What may not have occurred to Mr Kejriwal and his supporters is that a clean government does not ensure good governance. What is still not clear is how Mr Kejriwal intends to govern Delhi. The removal of the symbols of power, the promise of water to all households, the reduction in electricity rates, avoiding bungalows as official residences and so on are all very popular gestures but they do not constitute an agenda of good governance. What is his programme to dramatically improve the law and order situation in Delhi? How will the reduction in rates for electricity affect the generation and the distribution of power? There are many similar questions that have not received adequate answers from Mr Kejriwal and his party. The promise to remain squeaky clean is commendable, but this minimum expectation is no guarantee for efficiency.
The other problem is Mr Kejriwal’s obsession with direct democracy, which he wants to introduce in Delhi. Does this mean that for every important decision his government has to take, it will seek a referendum? The impracticality of such a suggestion requires no reiteration. In fact, if pursued seriously, it could lead to a logjam in decision-making and governance. Moreover, if the AAP has ambitions beyond Delhi — to larger constituencies, for example — how does it propose to replicate the model of direct democracy in such places? Mr Kejriwal is driven by idealism, but this seems to be tinged by some amount of naiveté. Mr Kejriwal, if he has to deliver upon his promises, should think through the implications of some of his suggestions and offer substance to his programme. What he cannot afford to ignore is the fact that he has raised expectations and earned an enormous amount of goodwill. This means he will be watched; it also saddles him with unenviable responsibility. As a complete outsider to the system, he has already broken the mould of Indian politics. Will he remain the outsider?