It pays to be patient


Why Kejriwal should understand that!

An enduring literary myth is that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is the ultimate starcrossed tragedy of true love. Wrong. It is merely a tragedy of true impatience. Romeo, proving once again that men are the stupid sex, kills himself because he assumes Juliet is dead, when all she has done is taken a helpful sleeping sedative, very useful indeed at moments of high stress. Juliet is then forced into her grave by a playwright in search of a high voltage ending. If Romeo had been patient, he would have aged into a toothless tease in Verona while Juliet washed her grandchildren’s nappies. Nice, but no story.

It is impatience which ends in tears.

Politics includes its share of theatre. Every politician knows that. Love is not a political word, so relationships are based on mutual benefit. The dalliance between Congress and Arvind Kejriwal’s party augured well precisely because it was not high morality: the two planned to use each other.

Congress needed a surging Kejriwal as their last big, if indirect, bet against Narendra Modi. The party has abandoned hopes of forming the next government; its senior spokesman P Chidambaram said as much at Davos when he projected a split Lok Sabha after the next elections. Congress is not worried about being replaced by BJP; it gets antsy only at the prospect of Modi as PM. Congress thought Kejriwal could fracture BJP numbers.

Kejriwal thought he could use Congress to get the PM’s job for himself. It was his due, after all, as this century’s scarf-wrapped Mahatma. There is nothing wrong in ambition. It is a democratic virtue. But ambition requires nurture and care.

But with elections due soon, Kejriwal became a man in a hurry. An impatient teenager is someone in love. If you are in late middle age, you must be in politics. Kejriwal was also smitten by a very Delhi disease, ego-elephantiasis. The head swells to such an extent that it becomes an obstacle between you and the next rung on the ladder of upward mobility. Kejriwal thought that the distance between the office of a Delhi chief minister and the PM’s chair could be covered in a quick sprint because both are in the same city. This is a marathon. You have to pace yourself carefully.

The battle for prime minister of India is fought in Gorakhpur and Nashik and Jhumritaliya and Chapra and Kasargodh; not just on a capital spot called Khirki Extension. Words change their meaning once you leave the pampered limits of Delhi. Water in Andhra is not 700 litres of freedom, drowned by punitive tax if you take a drop more. It means whether the flow from Krishna and Godavari will reach Seemandhra if Telengana is formed. Many thousands of villages would not understand subsidised electricity for pampered consumers; they have to see a bright bulb first.

A good book of proverbs would help Kejriwal. Cut your coat according to your cloth. Look before you leap. This sort of pithy wisdom has been distilled from centuries of human experience. In the first week of January, Kejriwal was a messiah, not least for the media. By the last week, he was being called mad. Neither epithet is correct. He was not a prophet then, and he is not insane now. He was shrill in his accusations then, and he is hyper in his self-righteousness now. His purpose then was power; his objective now is greater power. But when you rise by accusation, you can wilt from it as well.

Kejriwal is not even a proper anarchist, although he seemed to savour the idea when publicly provoked by the thought. He wants to control the system, not kill it. Anyone, or anything that stands in his way becomes ipso facto anti-people: this is the sort of argument populist dictators love. When India’s largest media house had the temerity to question Kejriwal’sdharna in defence of an indefensible law minister, there were demonstrations by his party.

If you want to be a Mahatma, you have to learn from Gandhi. The apostle of non-violence had problem ten weeks after he led a bedraggled, impoverished India, armed with nothing more than faith, to victory in 1947 against the greatest empire in history. When Pakistan, another serial addict of impatience, invaded Kashmir in October 1947 a British journalist asked Gandhi, sarcastically why he did not try non-violence in Kashmir? Gandhi was unfazed.

Non-violence did not extend to submission before evil. A state had to do its duty. He compared the first Indian contingent that saved Srinagar to Spartans. Those who do not understand the responsibility that comes with office cannot last in power, nor will they be forgiven by the people.

And impatience has ruined more plans than true love.


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