New Delhi: Is Arvind Kejriwal's campaign against corruption, where he calls all political parties and politicians corrupt, weakening the Indian state as a political entity? Prime minister Manmohan Singh felt so, when he spoke of the climate of "negativity” generated by the anti-corruption campaign some days ago. Thinking politicians and bureaucrats are veering around to that view, especially with the media hyper-ventilating Kejriwal's smallest sneezes. This writer's own opinion is more circumspect. India will take a lot more to weaken. At the same time, it must be admitted that Vadragate and the allegations against Salman Khursheed and Nitin Gadkari have shaken people's confidence in the system. There is immediate and telling need for damage-control, and it is not coming from the most affected quarter, which is the political establishment.

Why did Arvind Kejriwal's allegations against Robert Vadra, Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law, pick speed, and gain controversial salience? The allegations were around for years, and Robert Vadra's fast and fancy lifestyle suggested the crash was near. But it needn't have come to that except for UPA's lowered immunity to charges of corruption after 2G, CWG, Coalgate, Adarsh and so forth. When the scandal concerning Robert Vadra and DLF broke out, Congress rushed to his defence in panic. Cabinet ministers, including P.Chidambaram and Veerappa Moily, sought to whitewash Vadragate. It was too late. Kejriwal had dared to take on the Nehru-Gandhis, and the media felt powerfully energized by his courage. Taunting within the media of those who were perceived to be soft on Vadra set the rat pack after him, and he has since been on the run. Take a bet, but he shan't be very visible in this F1 season in Noida. Alongwith another persona non grata, Vijay Mallya, he will keep a very low profile among the vrooming monsters.

Rather than complain against negativity, Manmohan should have ordered an investigation of DLF's sweetheart deals with Robert Vadra. It was not a simple case of two private parties transacting. There were allegations of fudged balance sheets. A nationalized bank loan was falsely insinuated. An upright Haryana IAS officer, Ashok Khemka, had declared some Vadra-DLF deals mala fide. And media exposure has since implicated the Congress government in Rajasthan of taking decisions that have brought windfall profits to Robert Vadra's real-estate companies. There was enough for the Centre to order an inquiry, especially if the idea was to choke the negativity that the prime minister expressed concern about. But the PM did nothing. Presumably, he could do nothing, because it involved Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law. In the event, he ceded the advantage to Arvind Kejriwal, who capitalized on it for his own political ascent. Politics is war by any means. Politics also knows no vacuum. And once Kejriwal showed the way, the media grabbed Vadragate and hasn't let go.

Meanwhile, Salman Khursheed has proved himself unworthy of being Union law minister by hurling threats at Arvind Kejriwal for the exposure of his shady trust. The PM should have taken prompt action against such scandalous conduct but typically did nothing. The allegations against Khursheed's trust did not originate with Kejriwal but from a news TV sting, itself based on Uttar Pradesh government inquiries, triggered by the forged signatures of several officials for government approvals and grants. But Salman Khursheed continues. So who is responsible for the negativity?

And, then, there is the case of Nitin Gadkari. Since he became BJP president, he has been confronted by some allegation or other. Maybe these have to do with rivalries within BJP, but they don't assist the party's image with the public. The public is only interested to know if Nitin Gadkari is clean, and that has never been adequately and authoritatively forthcoming. Now with Kejriwal's allegation of Gadkari's 100-acre trust made possible with an understanding with the scam-tainted nephew of Sharad Pawar, Ajit, tongues haven't stopped wagging. Gadkari is making the pathetic round of TV studios protesting his innocence, but it does not wash with the people. His tenure as a minister in Maharashtra is turning up skeletons. What should BJP have done? Gadkari should have been shown the door. Clearly, he is hurting BJP's prospects in the next election, and destroying its anti-corruption plank. For inexplicable reasons, RSS is backing him.

The political establishment, including the ruling and opposition sides, believes Arvind Kejriwal's campaign will exhaust itself. This was the cynical view expressed by Mulayam Singh Yadav. This may happen, because Kejriwal has nothing to offer beyond anti-corruption activism, and since several of his top associates are deeply compromised. But see where this places the electorate. It does not trust the ruling establishment after 2G, Coalgate, Vadragate, etc. The principal opposition party, BJP, is suspect because of Nitin Gadkari and Digvijay Singh's loose talk of the alleged corruption of A.B.Vajpayee and L.K.Advani's kin. And now, Arvind Kejriwal has been shown to have dodgy links with cash-rich foreign donor agencies and NGOs.

India has survived worse. But nonetheless, it stands at terrible crossroads currently. The confidence in the system has been shaken. It could lead to voter indifference and apathy hurting you and me.