New Delhi: Two weeks ago, a discussion among friends at the Delhi Press Club turned on the subject of Arvind Kejriwal’s hugely successful press conferences. Honest journalists who are a sad and vanishing tribe were amazed at how Kejriwal’s allegations against the high and mighty made it to prime-time television and the front pages of newspapers with emblazoned headlines. The question that kept propping up and could not be answered satisfactorily is, how does Arvind Kejriwal do it? What is it about him, apart from his wonderful command over the media vocabulary, that makes the country accept anything he says, and renders the newspapers and news channels fearful of ignoring or censoring him?

What is this Arvind Kejriwal phenomenon?

It is scarcely a secret that India is divided along caste, class and community lines, and in rare cases, conflicting ideologies create further schisms, although never to the extent of breaking up the idea of India. It is also true that all these divisions, and the extreme identity politics that they sometimes engender, have brought India to a standstill, governance-wise. With India enriched because of growth since the early 1990s, and the state consequently having become richer, politics has become a very lucrative industry, and this has encouraged the trend of dynastic politics, which has flowed beyond the Nehru-Gandhis. It is all about money now, and how to get rich quick via politics.

With honourable exceptions, politics is no longer about good governance, public welfare, justice for all, peace, security, and prosperity. It is about gaining and holding power, and all mainstream politicians and political parties are in this business. In this situation where winning power has become an end in itself, people find themselves trapped, and elections no more bring change, far from subverting the status quo. It is here that Arvind Kejriwal comes as a breath of fresh air.

Having been a disciple of Anna Hazare has given Kejriwal a head-start. Hazare is the most acceptable civil society activist today. In the line of politics that Kejriwal and his associates have chosen, they follow in public acceptability and esteem right after Hazare. Kejriwal is also an outsider in politics. He does not come from a political dynasty. He does not have a political godfather who has brought him laterally from the bureaucracy into politics. Kejriwal has walked the hard road of social activism. He has presumably seen dire poverty from close, he has witnessed high corruption firsthand as an income-tax officer, and he has very likely observed gross injustice being done.

Truth and justice run as continuous threads through his public actions and proclamations. Because he is clean through and through, he is not afraid to take on anybody, be it Robert Vadra, the Ambani brothers, Nitin Gadkari, Salman Khursheed, et al. Not only is he not fearful of challenging the established order, he scarcely cares for his own personal safety, going, for example, to Khursheed’s Lok Sabha constituency for a public rally despite the minister’s threat of physical violence. People cutting across sections who are sick of the political order see Arvind Kejriwal as the last hope. In the loot of their country, they see Kejriwal figuratively as the last man standing. Therefore, they are behind him. If he gets his political party going, there wouldn’t be any dearth of supporters.

The particular salience of the Arvind Kejriwal phenomenon is that he raises issues which are already in the public domain but haven’t gained sustained spotlight. Everyone knows the commandoes who fought the 26/11 terrorists bravely and were disabled were given a raw deal by the Central government. This has happened to the Kargil War victims and martyr families. By presenting a former NSG shock-trooper as personal tragedy, the celebrations of Ajmal Kasab’s death (wrong, in this writer’s opinion) have been rendered hollow, and the Manmohan Singh government has been pre-empted from making political capital out of a hanging. No other political party would have dared to do what Kejriwal did (because having been in government, they are all equally tainted: check the veterans lavishly praising Kejriwal on this), and he has shamed the establishment. Many reporters before this had the Ambani stories, but they were spiked by their editors and proprietors. Arvind Kejriwal has forced a change in the rules of the game. He has put the media in hot competition to report honestly and win the readers’ and viewers’ appreciation and respect. Any media outlet which underplays Arvind Kejriwal loses credibility, and finds the social media closer in pursuit.

How far will the Arvind Kejriwal phenomenon go? Will it transform successfully into a political venture? Surely, and, yes, the Kejriwal phenomenon is here to stay, unless he gets coopted by the system, which looks unlikely. Without qualification, Kejriwal is the best thing to have happened to Indian politics as the year closes on a sad note for the country. He comes with a lot of promise, and he is likely to change the course of India’s political history.