New Delhi: Observing Arvind Kejriwal gives rise to optimism and despair, which is perhaps reflective of the nature of this country itself. On one hand, Kejriwal has traveled a great distance from his mentor, Anna Hazare, and is today at the forefront of the campaign to cleanse India of establishment corruption. On the other hand, he is no closer to his goal of forming a viable political party and leading it to electoral victory. Indeed, in some ways, Kejriwal is further away from his political goals than when he was with Anna. His talent lies in activism, and he would be a failure in politics. He cannot be in a better place than now, and he should make the most of it. He is not a visionary who can forge a new republic.

The Kejriwal effect can be seen in two immediate developments. Rudely jolted by the popularity of India Against Corruption's campaign against Delhi's thieving electricity distributing companies, BJP has filed a police complaint against Delhi's chief minister, Shiela Dixit, Delhi's electricity regulators, and chiefs of the distributing companies. Dixit who cultivated and enjoyed the image of a good-natured aunt sees her record of chief-ministership being blotted at the end of three terms. She may yet escape punishment for the bleeding of Delhi's consumers, but she cannot be sure of that in the season of Arvind Kejriwal. She cannot derive any comfort from the misery of Salman and Louise Khursheed whose NGO is being raided by Uttar Pradesh government agencies under pressure from Kejriwal's high-voltage campaign.

In a philosophical sense (but not in the way that Manmohan Singh meant when he indirectly attacked Kejriwal), his campaign could be categorized as negative. Kejriwal's campaign cannot be deemed negative but could be categorized so. "Categorized" in the sense it is used here is non-pejorative, almost secular in character, inoffensive. Kejriwal's campaign is of utmost national importance. His targeting of Robert Vadra and thus his assault on the dynastic power structure of Congress is critical to the survival of Indian republican democracy. If Congress dynastic politics is weakened, family-run parties that have mushroomed and prospered across India will feel threatened, and thus could bring change for the better.

But Arvind Kejriwal and his team should be poised to take advantage of the coming change, to be positively capable of becoming that change, which only an entity, in which they subsume their own identities, such as a political party with a distinct vision and ideology, can enable. But where is such a political party? What is Kejriwal's unique and distinct ideology, other than fighting corruption, which is not an ideology at all, but an ethical programme, whose chief principles all of us are supposed to embed in greater or lesser measure? What is Arvind Kejriwal's vision for India? We have no idea.

Although political parties do abandon their vision and ideology in the course of competitive existence and especially when they come to power, that does not mean you can found a political party without either. Congress today is scarcely what its founders conceived, and indeed, it lives on whilst M.K.Gandhi wanted it cremated upon India attaining independence. To be sure, it is a perverse shadow of what it once was, destroyed by dynasticism and corruption and zero vision. But Congress is a habit nevertheless that voters cannot overnight shed. BJP, for its part, was founded on Jana Sangha ideology and vision and keeps afloat because of them, despite the best efforts of its central leadership to sink the party. The communist groups go back to Marx, a profound thinker who crafted the first principles of a socialist state system. Arvind Kejriwal cannot ignore or deny all this history.

And for all those who have succeeded with power politics outside mainstream parties, there are an equal number or more who have failed. For a successful Mamata Bannerjee, you have Arjun Singh, N.D.Tewari, Madhavrao Scindia, G.K.Moopanar, etc, who failed to lead their own parties durably. They did not have Mamata's staying power or street fighter's resolve. Political formations come to fruition, if at all, after great toil. Ask the others, such as Prakash Singh Badal, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Bal Thackeray and Navin Patnaik. For most of the past fortnight, Kejriwal has been in protest mode, moving from Delhi's power heist to Robert Vadra to the Khursheed trust. With news TV's backing, Kejriwal has become a star anti-corruption campaigner. It is unlikely that his busy schedule of street protests has spared him time to give serious thought to his political goals. Political parties take years of conception and decades of political investment, hard work, nursing and risk-taking to become viable. Arvind Kejriwal should soon find himself floundering in this region.

Which is why he should stick to what he knows best, which is to paralyze governments on the issue of corruption. India needs to be cleansed, and Kejriwal is well up to the job. But he should listen to his mentor and to his better judgment and abandon the idea of entering politics. He will fail in politics, and his failure will rob India of its doughtiest anti-corruption crusader. In politics, news TV will not be his ally like now, and he will lose his superstar status. He will go from hero to zero. Arvind Kejriwal has a good thing going. Public opinion is on his side. He should stay there.