Arvind Kejriwal's real problem: He has no team

Last Updated: Mon, Feb 17, 2014 14:20 hrs

Individual brilliance has a use-by date in public life beyond which it goes stale and eventually dies. Subhas Chandra Bose and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, two of India's finest ever political minds, choked in later life because they did not have lineups to inspire. Arvind Kejriwal has issues of similar nature.

Kejriwal was the most disliked member of Team Anna when they negotiated with UPA2 on the Jan Lokpal Bill. There was something about him that put people off. He caught on and quickly transformed himself. He started talking of how he was not angry or arrogant; he only came across as such.

He got himself eyeglasses and softened his tone. He began to speak slower and friendlier. He seemed to do all this by his own instincts although he might have had help. In a year or so, the ever-evolving Kejriwal rose to be Delhi chief minister. He was so full of action that he was part of the day's narrative everyday for a month-and-a-half.

But India is not Delhi. The proportion of work changes. You have to deal with the world. At the very minimum there are always the United States, China and Pakistan to engage with. An elbow away are Africa, southeast Asia, BRICS, SAARC, the European Union and the Gulf nations. Talk of corruption is irrelevant here.

India needs a great crew. Anything less and we languish. Our auroral moment was winning Independence by nonviolence. Mahatma Gandhi and his team - their seniors and juniors - was possibly the most luminous collection of political minds in the past 200 years of human history. They were dextrous enough to undo the biggest political empire in modern times without foul play.

Kejriwal's battles are of a much smaller scale. He seeks to punish the corrupt, not patronise them. This is not an impossible task. Once you've written the song, you need a good band to set it to music. This is where Kejriwal fizzles.

His Delhi cabinet was jejune, some of them even frightful. Good intent can only do so much. You need sagacity to act on intent. Correction was largely attempted only in Kejriwal's portfolio. He got cracking, his team did not. Somnath Bharti might even have been destructive. Bharti had law, art and culture, tourism and administrative reforms. He got stuck.

Saurabh Bharadwaj had environment, transport and food and supply. He was nowhere as Delhi struggled with a surge in pollution. No one probably remembers that Girish Soni had labour and employment. Where was he?

Here's the thing. Kejriwal seeks to be prime minister; the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) wants him to be prime minister. But he is like the emperor who wants invisible clothes. You cannot aspire for the top job without an appropriate team. Anna Hazare can walk alone. Kejriwal cannot. Hazare is an activist, Kejriwal is a politician.

The only person in the AAP with the skill and mental intensity to be a union minister is Prashant Bhushan. He knows his job - they fear him in the complex world of law and corporate affairs. Where are Kejriwal's people to handle finance, external affairs, defence, social justice, health, education, sport, culture, land, energy, space, transport and so on?

Yogendra Yadav is too velvety. Meera Sanyal is a banker. She comes from the Royal Bank of Scotland which has a host of bad and unethical practices to answer for. Sanyal is pure khaas aadmi. Her entry into the AAP is a sure sign of confusion in the party.

Ashutosh seems to be draconian. His deeds in JNU, from what I hear, should raise serious concern in the AAP. They welcomed him instead. Among the first things he said as AAP spokesperson was that Kiran Bedi should be taught a lesson. This is exactly how he went about things in JNU, although more physically.

India needs honest and able people, not those merely smart and adept at winning elections. The timing and manner of Kejriwal's resignation was sharp. It instantly revived a flagging AAP and gave them a halo of sacrifice. But it masks the threadbare intellectual capacity at the moment in the AAP.

Right now, a correct public response might be to elect the AAP with a simple majority to the Delhi assembly. They need to be given an opportunity. We will never know what the AAP is made of if we don't allow them to govern without ambiguity.

The Lok Sabha is altogether different. The AAP is not ready for India. Perhaps this is what takes Hazare away from Kejriwal although Hazare has not explained why he does not support his mentee anymore.

A team derives speed and skill from the boss. But a boss without a team is not an option.

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Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi. His most recent journalism assignment was as executive editor with The Financial World, New Delhi, and

He was a guest on Season 1 of the popular Indian TV show Satyamev Jayate, hosted by Aamir Khan.
Vijay blogs here and may be contacted at

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