India’s ‘Assange’ crusades against corruption

Source: Al Jazeera

Arvind Kejriwal has shaken the political establishment with a string of accusations against top leaders and businesses.

In a country where accountability and transparency are often thought of as the first causalities of holding public office, Arvind Kejriwal, a mechanical engineer and former bureaucrat from Haryana, has blown the whistle on India’s corrupt.

In the last fortnight, he has released details and levelled charges four times against top Indian politicians and the country’s biggest business conglomerate.

“We want to turn the power structure upside-down and make the powerful accountable,” Kejriwal, 44, a thin man with a moustache and piercing eyes, said.

India’s middle class population, which prefers to bemoan the state of chaos and corruption in the nation, have found in Kejriwal a person who is not afraid to bring forth allegations of fraud to the doorstep of India’s leaders.

It’s been a long and busy day for Kejriwal following his string of revelations and corruption charges in the past fortnight on many of India’s leading political and business figures. He disengages from throngs of his followers of the India Against Corruption (IAC), a people’s organisation he founded in 2006 encouraging public engagement.

“People of this country are fed up, and the conditions are right for a movement to set things right,” he said in an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera.

Targeting the mighty

It’s not about sensational exposures… The intent is to bring a radical change in politics and accountability.”

– Arvind Kejriwal

Charging the country’s most powerful with corruption, Kejriwal has discomforted the government. “They have found the ground beneath their feet shaken”, he exclaimed.

However, he is wary of the title India’s Julian Assange, the founder of the whistle-blowing organisation WikiLeaks now wanted by the US government for making top secret government documents available to the public, which some have bestowed upon him.

“It’s not about sensational exposures,” he said. “The intent is to bring a radical change in politics and accountability.”

Kejriwal’s accusations are based on government documents he says are proof of corruption, which he had obtained using the Right to Information Act, under which any citizen may compel the government to share information.

On October 5, Kejriwal made a public accusation against Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress party president Sonia Gandhi. He claimed that Vadra had purchased property worth millions of dollars with “interest free unsecured free loan” by DLF, India’s major construction company. DLF’s market value dropped in a single day to the tune of $580m following the accusation.

A week later Kejriwal pinpointed financial irregularities to the tune of Rs 71 lakh ($130,000) by the Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust, a non-governmental organisation for the disabled that is headed by federal minister Salman Khurshid and his wife Louise. He took to the streets with his followers saying the Khurshids had misappropriated funds allocated for the physically challenged to distribute tricycles and hearing aids for the needy across 17 districts of Uttar Pradesh. A Comptroller and Auditor General’s Report (CAG) had earlier reported the irregularities too.

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