Arvind Kejriwal’s storm of lethal revelations against the alleged corrupt political parties, Congress and BJP, has upset the tricky equations and nexus between the government and industry.
It all started with the most coveted Robert Vadra, whose deals have been questioned in whispers by many for years. Kejriwal alleged that DLF granted favours to Vadra wherein the latter used black money worth Rs 500 crore to purchase properties, in return for a Rs 65-crore interest-free loan, numerous discounted residential flats and more. Vadra being ‘related’ to Congress meant that the powers-that-be in Haryana gave land meant for public utilities (and from the green belt) to DLF with easy clearances for an express lane as well.
After Vadra, Kejriwal went out to less significant exposés concerning Salman Khurshid and Nitin Gadkari. And on October 31, 2012, he tagged the Reliance-politicians’ nexus as crony capitalism and pointed out how the entire political spectrum, not just the Congress, extended undue favours to Reliance. Kejriwal’s press release mentions, “RIL takes away more than 80 per cent of profits and the government gets less than 20 per cent.” Kejriwal also adds that Reliance gained Rs 1 lakh crore by plundering the country’s resources. He even accused Reliance of being instrumental in the selection of the petroleum minister.
Kejriwal’s tricky corruption questions are bringing out names that were once sacrosanct. He alleges that PM Manmohan Singh referred Reliance’s demand for hiking the gas price midway through the contract to the accountant general, when such freebies were not considered for even NTPC. And with respect to the Krishna Godavari Basin contract, the PM did not raise any concern when Reliance increased the price of gas and not even after Reliance broke the contract deal and stopped producing the required 80 mmscmd of gas. The only person in the ministry to raise objections and who slapped a notice penalising Reliance with `7,000 crore was former petroleum minister Jaipal Reddy, who was sacked from his office. Kejriwal also states how Mani Shankar Aiyar was replaced by Murli Deora in 2006, because the latter was cozier with Mukesh Ambani and had no qualms in raising the gas price from $2.34 per mmBTU to $4.2 per mmBTU.
The bigger issue is actually beyond Ambani and Vadra. It is about the game of looting the nation. It is about land acquisitions and SEZs; about iron ore and coal mines; about mobile phone spectrums, power distribution and tariffs; it is about nuclear plants… It is about everything to do with natural resources and national interests. In each such case, the state is acting against the aam aadmi brazenly and in favour of the corporate class, giving rise to crony capitalism. Sadly, on its own, the media mostly gossips about such things in whispers, till activists and brave souls like Kejriwal force them to raise these issues.
Kejriwal’s rise with his organisation, India Against Corruption, is in real terms like an uprising that has the potential to remake India, if he can sustain this momentum. Kejriwal has become a symbol of focused, cool-headed bravery, speaking each time with compelling logic and supporting evidence, and that’s where he scores. And he is using the media very intelligently indeed. Today, even getting rid of him has become a very difficult option—as then, Kejriwal’s dream of Tahrir Square in India might really come true. He is definitely not an individual that people would not battle for. In his fight for supremacy in the polity, unlike the Congress and BJP, Kejriwal does not have a huge cadre or force to penetrate India. Therefore, he has to depend on TV and print penetration; and this limits his impact in the country. However, his tendency to unearth the naked truth and open secrets surrounding India’s ghoulish network of corruption has vast implications for India and the region as a whole. It is clearly the start of a long-drawn battle towards cleansing India. And by taking the corrupt head on, Kejriwal has shown that it just takes one Kejriwal to change the status quo. Sadly—as of now, it seems—there is only one.
Chaudhuri is a management guru and honorary director of IIPM think tank