Why the public is turning its face away from Arvind Kejriwal--Economic Times 10th April 2014
BY SAUBHIK CHAKRABARTI
So, Arvind Kejriwal has met those who assaulted him; meetings that are supposed to tell us he can forgive the unforgivable, that he's above the fray, and therefore so untypical a politician.
But there's bad news for AAP. Assuming nothing but purest motives on Kejriwal's part, the message is playing out differently - the revolutionary who was going to change our system is increasingly looking like an actor in a prolonged, low grade street theatre.
This may be good for afternoon news TV that needs any drama to fill up the hours before evening's studio shouting matches start. But the highly media-conscious AAP should know that what's sending afternoon TV anchors into raptures is making its leader lose sheen.
Public perception built on Kejriwal as a challenger worked till he seemed to be articulating 'people's frustrations'. Kejriwal's programme was never as unproblematic as this perception suggested - but there's no denying he got that message across.
It started going wrong when Kejriwal expanded the scope of the message. AAP probably thought Kejriwal taking on what it portrayed as a business-politics nexus will go down marvelously with the aam aadmi. AAP thought wrong.
We instinctively respond to what's immediate. We react differently, less emotively to the more abstract. This sounds obvious. But then, the interesting question is why AAP didn't see the obvious. A message about citizens being harassed by powerful entities is one thing. A message about powerful entities allegedly helping each other is another thing entirely - it can't fire up masses unless there's a simple-to-understand smoking gun.
AAP's allegations had no such simple-to-understand smoking gun. Plus, they were repetitive to the point of being exhaustingly boring. So, masses started ignoring the message and losing some of their earlier interest in the messenger. That many of Kejriwal's allegations didn't meet the test of logic was an additional problem - even classes weren't as impressed as AAP thought they would be.
From that point on, Kejriwal's public messaging has got worse. And that includes his high voltage 'I will take on Narendra Modi' campaign. What has he achieved by way of public perception by personalizing the battle? That he's a hero? Not really. He looks like someone who just wants headlines. Fighting Modi in Varanasi has nothing to do with speaking for ordinary citizens, it has everything to do with making Kejriwal look grand - that's how it's playing out.
And because he's made such a to-do about fighting Modi personally in Varanasi, his appeal in Delhi has suffered, as all objective political observers have noticed. Delhi's ordinary citizens liked Kejriwal because for them he looked like one of their own. Now Kejriwal looks like he's trying to be three things - the man who asks abstract questions about remote things, the man who wants anti-Modi headlines and the man who understands the pain of people.
But you can't be three things with equal effectiveness. And while trying Kejriwal has come across as a somewhat desperate political player - that's why the perception of low grade street theatre.
Arvind Kejriwal may indeed be a great man who can publicly forgive those who publicly assault him. But to the public, Arvind Kejriwal doesn't look so great anymore.