Why Arvind Kejriwal makes more sense than Narendra Modi

Last Updated: Sat, Dec 28, 2013 08:07 hrs
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Two men shaped Indian politics in 2013 - Arvind Kejriwal, 45, and Narendra Modi, 63. They might continue to do so for the conceivable future. It is therefore important to know them. Between the two, Kejriwal makes more sense than Modi. Here is why.

1. Kejriwal comes from below. Modi comes from above.

Arvind Kejriwal has street cred. It's the most valuable asset anyone can have. It frees him of the constraints and favours that a mainstream politician tends to operate within. His biggest attraction is that he is one among equals. For instance, he dresses, speaks and walks like an ordinary Indian.

Narendra Modi parachuted into BJP primacy before he made his move. He speaks and walks like he believes he is someone special. He has a tough time believing that LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj may be as good as him. He looks at the BJP from a perch above.

2. Kejriwal puts people first. Modi puts himself first.

Kejriwal's instincts make him go to the people on all things important. He is comfortable listening to the anonymous Indian. He thinks it is the natural thing to do. He pays heed too. For instance, Kejriwal might well have refused to form a government if their referendum said so.

Modi has no history of seeking the people's opinion. He started to interact with them as chief minister. This is different from working as an RSS campaigner, which he did when younger. Modi trusts himself. His instincts drive him into decision first and then sharing it with others.

3. Kejriwal fights the system. Modi is the system.

Even before he became a politician, Kejriwal targeted Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra and Mukesh Ambani. He listed how the DLF funded Vadra's corrupt deals because they profited in return. And then he listed how Mukesh Ambani benefited from violations of a contract to supply gas.

When Ambani sued TV channels for broadcasting what Kejriwal said, Kejriwal dared Ambani to sue him and not the TV channels. Ambani did not. Modi has not taken on anyone big barring those he sees as opponents - principally Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi and now Nitish Kumar.

4. Kejriwal is the product of a movement. Modi is the product of indoctrination.

We might not have heard about Kejriwal the politician if it was not for Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement. Fighting the State with Hazare seems to have convinced Kejriwal that he has nothing to lose. He fasted as well, for 10 days, against the high electricity and water bills in Delhi.

Modi comes from closed door politics. His emergence was crafted largely by the RSS, whose shakhas he began to attend as a child. There is no record of Modi on public fast. He seems to work best when no one is watching.

5. Kejriwal follows icons. Modi usurps icons.

India's greatest politician is Mahatma Gandhi. He undid the then biggest empire in the world in an unequal battle. Kejriwal sees no reason to try and outdo Gandhi. He tries to put into action what he may have imbibed from Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri. For instance, he speaks stridently of Swaraj.

Modi seeks to own icons. The wholly unnecessary attempt to steal Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's work is an example. Modi appears to be uncomfortable without a great past to display. It makes him seem like a new kid on the block, which he doesn't like.

6. Kejriwal abhors wrongdoing. Modi abhors wrongdoers.

Kejriwal has not come from hate. He has focused on the wrongs of a system and of people. He has been mild on the difficult-to-like Robert Vadra too, for instance – highlighting the corruption but not getting personal. His campaign in Delhi stressed on solutions; he didn't get after the Nehru-Gandhis individually.

Modi picks on people. His entire being comes alive when he has someone to pour scorn on. At the moment, his campaign is centered on creating an impression that the Congress is as bad for India as the British were. Modi has not spoken much about solutions yet.

7. Kejriwal is religion-neutral. Modi is religion-centric.

Kejriwal comes across as equidistant from all religions although he mentions the word god at times. Apparently he sees a divine hand in how the Jan Lokpal movement ballooned. Mostly, it appears that people who follow different religions are comfortable with Kejriwal.

Modi's core followers seem to be hardline Hindus. There's a large chunk of liberal Hindus who don't buy into the Modi narrative. Many people who follow Islam and Christianity appear uncomfortable with Modi. This makes him come across as a fanatic, an impression he does nothing to dispel.

8. Kejriwal unites. Modi divides.

The AAP had support from the followers of almost all parties. For various reasons, many people who would normally vote for the Congress, the BJP, the Akalis, the Communists and even the BSP backed the AAP. It would seem that the AAP has something for everyone, like the Congress in its early days.

Modi has been attracting attention across India but large sections have concerns about him. He doesn't have clear support among women and men. His opponents take pride in standing up against him, like Lalu Prasad. Kejriwal doesn't have this dislike factor.

9. Kejriwal is clean. Modi is not.

There are no cases against Kejriwal at the moment. No concerns about suspicious wealth. No history of hatred on grounds of religion. No instances of slaying colleagues to move ahead. Among those who know him, only Anna Hazare seems to have a degree of discomfort.

Modi is seeking to be prime minister after being investigated for his role in the 2002 Gujarat anti-Muslim riots. There are also fresh concerns of his men having stalked a woman on his instruction. He has not been able to erase the doubt that seems to grow with him.

10. Kejriwal does not seek big money. Modi does.

Kejriwal's method of raising funds is to keep it small and transparent. Donor details are available for anyone to see on the AAP website. He is quite happy to bring political parties under the gambit of the RTI, for instance, so their funds and other activities are open to scrutiny.

Modi loves big corporates. His growth model for Gujarat largely consists of making land available cheap for business tycoons so they invest in the state. The BJP's funding is opaque and secret. The party seeks to stay out of the purview of the RTI.

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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 tehelka.com. 

He was a guest on Season 1 of the popular Indian TV showSatyamev Jayate, hosted by Aamir Khan.

Vijay blogs here and may be cont acted at vijsimha@gmail.com.

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