Ma hated him. She prided herself on having tea made with fine Darjeeling leaf, with just a little milk, and very little sugar. To her, that was irrefutable proof of sophistication.
Anand Mohan Singh wanted more sugar in his tea. "Hum to chai peete hain chini ke laalach mein. Badhia chai to wahi hai jisko peekay hoth chipak jai." Now that PK has become a monster hit, this lingo may come in fashion. But to those still unfamiliar with it, Anand Mohan Singh had tea for the lure of the sugar. Good tea, according to him, was one that made one's lips sticky.
I, too, hated him. Despite being a child, I had heard rumours that he was on the wrong side of the law and in confrontation with my Sainik School ideology.
But there he was, in our home. And the 100-odd families in our mohalla, in the boondocks of Bihar, suddenly saw us in new light. The Sinhas hobnob with Anand Mohan Singh, they ought to be respected.
Only because Anand Mohan Singh, for all his activities, had also managed to become a politician and was a member of the Bihar Vidhan Sabha. A person like him might feel just at home in that assembly of crooks. But his presence in my home made me uneasy. And yet, he made me realise the importance of being a politician.
I, too, wanted to be one. Except that I did not know how to.
No one from my family had been in politics. Most of the earlier generations were landed farmers. Everyone in the latter ones was either a professional or unemployed.
Finally I gave up, because I realised that to be a successful politician in India you needed to be at least one of the following:
- Born in a family of politicians
- Married into a family of politicians
- Be a pracharak from an early age
- Kill people
It is much too late for me now, but a fourth category has reared its head:
- The Professional
And that is thanks to Arvind Kejriwal. His early life and career followed the path many of my friends, mates in college and hostel, and colleagues have taken.
Born in 1968 in Bhiwani District, Haryana, he cracked the IIT-JEE and joined the Kharagpur one to study civil engineering. He then forsook the usual thing IITians do these days, MBA, but did what many of them did back then. He took the civil services exam and made it to the revenue service. He married batchmate Sunita, who has remained in service.
Look at what he wears. The muffler, the maroon sweater, those trousers.
He is not a person like me, but he is a People Like Us.
He had the stroke of luck many professionals need for their career to take off. The Right to Information Act happened and opened a goldmine for him. Like a good professional, he made great use of it.
Latching on to Anna Hazare and their little gig at the Jantar Mantar gave them national spotlight. Anna had done many fasts before, but the choice of the location - I will not be surprised if it was Kejriwal's idea - delivered the news channels to them. A bunch of people with no political background was shaking the government, which, interestingly, was run by a professional at that time.
And that brings us to why Kejriwal leads the charge of the professional and not Manmohan Singh. Kejriwal does because he dared to step out of Hazare's secure shadow. Singh remained under Sonia Gandhi's.
Kejriwal made his share of mistakes. But he learned from them. The early attacks on Vadra and Ambani brought him more cameras, but they soon lost interest and went elsewhere. The 'breaking news politics' was fizzling out. So, in a course correction, he chose broader targets and issues that concerned people. Case in point: he was offering free Wi-Fi in Delhi while the Congress was bent on giving people subsidised sewer connections.
The biggest mistake, of course, was sacrificing his chief-ministership after 49 days. But look how quickly he has bounced back.
In fact, I wonder if he has followed more of an entrepreneur's start-up model than a professional's. You know, try this, try that, change this, change that, pivot, get funding, and run with it. Funding, in this case, would be votes or election victory.
But no matter, I have many friends who are entrepreneurs. Kejriwal remains among the people Like us.