Not an Academician Lost in the Big Bad World of Politics

People ask me all the time whether I am basically an academician lost in the big bad world of politics. To tell you frankly, I was never an academician in the real sense of the term. Yes, I have worked for an academic institution and drawn a salary. But for the last three decades, I have always been a political animal who strayed into the world of academics.

I have previously been part of people movements such as the Samata Yuvjan Sabha and the National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM). Not all of these movements were successful, but I had enjoyed that work. In many ways, the Aam Aadmi Party also is a similar people’s movement.

Those days, I also used to forecast and conduct opinion polls for India’s elections. In 2004 and the years that followed, I was part of the efforts to create alternate platforms wherein people such as Medha Patkar and Swami Agnivesh were involved. We did not reach far but all those years were learning experiences for me. I realised then that even though there were various social movements and leaders in India, all of those causes could not be brought under one umbrella only because they were all ‘social’ in nature. At the same time, I understood that that social efforts could not convert into serious ‘politics’ just with one cause or issue to talk about.

With AAP, our banner so to speak is corruption but we are also tackling various other issues. For instance in Haryana, where I am campaigning, the issues I talk about are better quality education, better healthcare, farmers’ issues and also the fact that liquor is so freely available here.

When Anna Hazare came along, he brought hope and it was refreshing. There was already a huge wave among the masses against politicians and their corruption. People were on the streets, protesting against the chain of scams that they were sick of. All of it showed that change was needed.

I kept writing about this new movement and that is when Arvind Kejriwal contacted me. I did not join him immediately. I first spoke at the Ramlila Grounds at Delhi on a few occasions. I stayed with the group but as an outsider, attending their meetings and saying what I had to. I finally joined them when I drafted the letter that was sent to Kejriwal to end his fast. The letter did its job and the political party was formed. I joined the party, saying goodbye to my University Grants Commission job.

Today I am doing 100% of what I have always wanted to do but never did in the last thirty years. Earlier I was doing this just 30-40% of the time. I am no academician lost in this big bad world of politics. I am here because I want to be here and because I believe in the change needed. Previously, people used to ask me why I spent so much time with Medha Patkar and Aruna Roy. I used to tell them that it was because of the issues and people I wanted to be associated with.

I have been closely associated with the Right to Education as well. But I can say that even after so many years, the RTE has not achieved what it was meant to achieve. Only one part of the RTE is currently being implemented, which is to not fail students. What about the other part of lifting the quality of our teaching and raising the standards? The government has focussed on building schools and classrooms, not real students.

Today, much of what I do, I have always wanted to do. I can dream with this party. The performance of the party even in this little time has gone far above my expectations. To me, the AAP is successful because it has managed to change things and shake them up.