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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Manohar Parrikar And Arvind Kejriwal: 'Political Twins'?

By Navneet Achaungar | Panaji

They aren’t exactly like those twins in a typical Manmohan Desai blockbuster film who are separated at birth. But the more you look at Goa’s maverick Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and Delhi’s new political messiah Arvind Kejriwal and appreciate their methods, the more similar they appear.

The duo, who mercilessly slayed the political beast called the Congress in their respective states in a manner that few ever have, are both alumni of Indian Institutes of Technology. Parrikar, the metallurgist passed out of IIT-Bombay in 1978, while the younger Kejriwal cleared his graduation in mechanical engineering from the other prestigious IIT-Kharagpur in 1989. 
“There are the obvious parallels of IIT education, a yen for the simple life, both give the impression of being representative of the common man from the middle class, yet promising to lift the poor and release the constraints from the rich,” says Bevinda Collaco, a Goa State Planning Board member. 

Focussed, sharp and politically stolid the technocrats over the last two years electorally demolished the ruling Congress in their respective states, reducing the party to a single lame digit. In Goa’s 40-member unicameral legislature, the Congress was reduced to nine MLAs after the 2012 rout, while, in the comparatively bigger 70 member legislative assembly in Delhi, the Sheila Dikshit led party was shrunk to an even smaller digit: eight. 

Kejriwal’s refreshingly honest and innovative campaign, his magical broom symbol, his power cut protests and aam aadmi caps received nationwide attention because he was courting the capital. But last year, tucked away in Goa, Parrikar’s campaign was no less innovative and radical in its own way. 

If Kejriwal put on a ‘Gandhi topi’ to bring the Mahatma’s idealism back in fashion, in Goa Parrikar put on a pair of Bermuda shorts to woo the Catholic vote. There is one image which stands out in the entire election campaign which the BJP undertook in Goa. A front page photo in one of Goa’s leading dailies had a smiling Parrikar posing in a pair of Bermudas with his hosts in a Catholic home, where the caption suggested he was retired for the night. 

Goa is definitely not a communally polarised state and the majority Hindus and the Catholics, have been living in a civilised segregation for hundreds of years and Parrikar’s night-in-Bermudas in a Catholic home, among other overtures, was a radically bold statement for the BJP which has historically had an itchy relationship with minority communities across the country. If Kejriwal can suddenly surface in Delhi’s nondescript alleys eating chaat with his supporters, Parrikar too is a street chaat guy. 

Chances are you will bump into him often at a roadside food and milkshake corner in his hometown Mapusa, around midnight where he shares sugarless fresh juices and fruit plates with his closest buddies. Appearance wise the clean cut Kejriwal, with his pronounced side-parting also has a similar thing going with Parrikar, who often looks like a disheveled but easy smiling Amol Palekar. Both have made their largish bush-shirts and scuffed sandals their trademark. 

And despite their stringy footwear both are ambitious young politicians, who are hungry and in a hurry. “Both have a strong belief that they can run a State efficiently. Both are also very wily characters who know exactly how to use the media to achieve their ends. Where they differ is Manohar Parrikar cannot take criticism gracefully, but Kejriwal can,” Collaco further says. 

However, Parrikar’s reign, post the poll euphoria could serve as a lesson for Kejriwal if his party ever wrests power in Delhi. With the BJP-led coalition government’s administration failing to deliver on its many hyped pre-poll promises like cracking down on the mining mafia, reining in the casino industry and corruption, Parrikar’s image as a ‘saviour’ is scarred, many believe irreparably. 

US-based techie Chinmay Bhandare is an active commentator on political affairs in Goa. He believes that Kejriwal, like Parrikar had promised so much that the sheer responsibility of delivering them is crushing. “Both these leaders would make excellent leaders of opposition. 

But they might end up being victims of the crushing burden of the Utopian expectations they have set for themselves by their rhetoric,” he says. Delivering on his rhetoric is exactly what Parrikar has been unable to do once he tasted power. If Kejriwal follows suit, the same broom which swept aside opposition in the December polls, might threaten to do the same to the Aam Aadmi Party.
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