India’s rising political star, Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal, a man who didn’t have an iota of political experience before his party’s extraordinary election victory in December, is smashing and stumbling his way through the first weeks of office. He has led a sit-in to protest corruption in the police force, causing traffic jams, alienating some supporters, driving off some prominent colleagues, and prompting his rivals to accuse him of running a government from the streets. Celebrated only a week ago for his earnest honesty, Kejriwal is now tacking flak at home and abroad for, as one joke on Twitter has it, being “so honest that no woman has ever asked him ‘Do I look fat?'”“A measure of his sudden success,” as the Economist reports, “is how intensely Arvind Kejriwal provokes either cheer or dismay.” One thing you can’t say about his party, the AAP, is that it hasn’t given India’s political establishment a firm shake-up.Kejriwal can claim some early successes. He slashed power tariffs in the capital and plans to give residents 20,000 liters of free water each month. He set up a “corruption helpline” to encourage citizens to fight graft. He has dominated the news cycle and captured the attention of the entire nation. After a stunning drive to gather supporters across the country, his party plans to contest parliamentary seats in 20 of India’s 35 states and territories. “Crucially,” the Economist reports, “it will stand in all 80 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh (UP), a huge northern state of over 200m people that is sure to shape the overall result” of the national election, scheduled for April.But governing is not the same as promoting a popular movement. And winning an election in Delhi is not the same as winning a national election. “The further Mr Kejriwal and his colleagues stray from campaigning against corruption, the likelier they are to make enemies—or put their foot in it,” says the Economist.Already the enemies are lining up. Hindu thugs smashed windows at one of the AAP’s offices near Kejriwal’s home after he said the Kashmiri Muslims deserve a say over the military force in their state. He drew criticism for proclaiming that he was an anarchist during the sit-in in Delhi. Prominent columnists have called his economic policies a “disaster” for India. “If you can’t govern, just quit,” the Finance Minister said at Davos.AAP’s leaders have wildly differing agendas; so do its supporters. “AAP was born on an angry vote,” Arun Jaitley, a senior leader of the opposition BJP, said. “What is on display now is an attempt to convert populism into an ideology and a governance model. It is already being pulled in different directions.”The AAP’s early growing pains will take time to work out. It was never going to be easy.
The Kejriwal BacklashWelcome to Indian Politics, Common Man