He won't be the first crusader to turn collector. But Arvind Kejriwal could be the first Indian mentee slain by his mentor in public life. An astonishing letter from Anna Hazare has virtually accused Kejriwal of fraud which, if true, should halt the Aam Aadmi Party's sprint in the Delhi election campaign.
Among the bizarre things in the Hazare letter is a reference to an Anna SIM card that Kejriwal and his party are apparently selling [for ₹20 each is the talk]. Hazare says this could make him an accused in fraud should someone go to court.
An even bigger concern [for the new party] is that Hazare has rubbished Kejriwal's promise of bringing in a Jan Lokpal Bill as deceit. With devastating logic, Hazare says only the Lok Sabha can pass such a bill and that Kejriwal's promise to do so at Ramlila Maidan is, by deduction, worthless.
Kejriwal's first response is to seek an inquiry headed by Santosh Hegde, a former Supreme Court justice who was part of Team Anna when it negotiated with UPA2 on the Lokpal Bill. It's a smart move with big stakes. Kejriwal could either be beatified or burned at the stakes. Either way, it will happen instantly.
Hazare's missive offers substantial ammunition to the Congress and the BJP who are struggling to match the swift instincts of a smart new player. Kejriwal has been brilliant where Sheila Dikshit has been slow and Harsh Vardhan nonexistent. All of that could change if Hazare's letter sticks.
To get an uninterrupted sense of what has been unleashed you'll need to read Hazare's letter in full. It is written in Hindi and dated 17 November. Here it is."Dear Arvind,
"I have been worried about the news I am receiving and I wanted to share my discomfort with you.
You are well aware of my views that a change in the system starts with the Lok Sabha and not the Assemblies. Assemblies have no role in framing policy or in changing the system. I have always said that until good and honest people get into the Lok Sabha, people's issues will not be taken up. Good laws will not come about and there won't be genuine democracy in the country as long as the same old people keep getting elected.
"You have formed a political party and decided to contest the Delhi Assembly election. That is your decision. I have nothing to do with your party and the Delhi Assembly election, indeed any assembly election. I am being regularly informed that your entire election campaign is so designed as to give the impression that it has my total support. Not only this, questions are being asked about my association with the party funds you have collected. You know that I have nothing to do with these funds.
"I have no idea about what happened with the money collected when I was on fast at the Ramlila Maidan. Similarly, I have no information about the funds collected at Jantar Mantar. I believe that the funds collected in the name of the [anti-corruption] movement must be spent on the movement and not on an election.
"Now a delegation has come to me with the worrisome news that you have got a card made in my name, some sort of a SIM card. And that funds are being collected through this card. I have never given you or anyone else permission for this. I can be made an accused party if someone goes to court against this SIM card with my name. It will be humiliating for me to stand as an accused in court for no reason.
Collecting money to fight an election is your business but it is not right on your part to use my name for it.
"You have given an assurance that you would adopt a Jan Lokpal Bill at the Ramlila Maidan on 29 December. Only the Lok Sabha can do this; it does not come under the purview of the Delhi Assembly or any other Assembly.
"A person in public life must be extremely careful about funds. I have paid great attention to this all my life. It is because of this that no one can point a finger at me. News about your activities is causing me great worry. Hence it is my request that you avoid taking my name in your canvassing and desist from suggesting that I have anything to do with any party.
"Let me know at once if there is any truth to the news that you have used my name to collect funds. I believe there is no truth in all this. But this is the talk of the town and that is why I am sending you this letter. I look forward to your reply."
Rarely has such a political rocket been fired in full view. Such stuff usually comes from an insider; it has the feel of a tipoff. If Kejriwal survives this he must have his 20 seats. Or thirty.
More from the author:
The Imaginarium of Narendra Modi
Seven faces of Narendra Modi
Rahul Gandhi: What do his efforts tell us?
Hail not, for Modi is not our first political troll
The last speech: How did Manmohan do?
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 tehelka.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.