Media savvy anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal, who rocked the Indian political and business establishment over the past few weeks with dramatic accusations of corruption, has formally launched a political party.
Calling the group the “Aam Admi Party,” which translates from Hindi roughly as the “Common Man” Party but can also be translated literally as “Mango People” Party, is a double tweak at the ruling Congress Party.
Kejriwal is a former tax officer and a former advisor in last year’s groundswell against graft in India. His aggressive and specific attacks on well-known business and political figures have used leaked documents and caused some to describe Kejriwal as India’s Julian Assange. He has recently announced his intentions to form a political party to contest elections anticipated in 2014. He has not disclosed any specific policies for his party. However, he has gained attention for a campaign of disclosures against established political parties and major business houses.
Kejriwal has attacked Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law for allegedly shady land deals. To demonstrate how widespread the rot of corruption is and his own even-handedness, Kejriwal has also accused a leader of a major opposition party of irregular business dealings, including naming his chauffeur as the director of one of his front companies. Kejriwal has also gone after major business houses such as the industrial giant Reliance Industries and the airline Jet Airways, accusing them of using HSBC to keep unaccounted cash abroad. The targets of these accusation have denied the charges and no formal investigations or charges have been leveled. Still, the weekly announcements have made for dramatic theater and Kejriwal has clearly rattled the political and business classes.
Kejriwal was one of the most uncompromising members of the “Team Anna” group of advisors who helped promote elderly social activist Anna Hazare, leader of an anti-graft movement that riveted India last year. Hazare’s group, India Against Corruption, has splintered and interest in the group has diminished. Although Hazare is trying to re-invigorate his campaign, he has stated he will not form a political party to implement his ideas.
In contrast, Kejriwal has declared his intentions to change the system from within. We’ll see over time whether being “against corruption” is enough of a basis to launch a political party once the sensational revelations give way to the realities of retail politics.
Russell A. Stamets is a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog.