Sunday, July 22, 2012

Kejriwal's Coterie: The Backstory

This Friday, I wrote this piece for India Today's online edition. In short, it says Arvind Kejriwal and a small band of associates are working to promote themselves through the India Against Corruption movement. And that they are taking decisions – including holding a fast of their own this 25th July – without consulting other IAC core committee members.

Since then, I've got several comments from Mr Kejriwal's fans accusing me of running a 'hit job'. So let me explain the genesis of this story and how I went about reporting it. Then you can decide whether this was a hit job or an unbiased report.

Last April, I reported on Anna Hazare's first fast for the Jan Lokpal Bill at Jantar Mantar. There, I met a former colleague who had quit the news business to volunteer with IAC. She appeared very content; happy to be "making a difference". We met again in August when I reported on Anna's longer 12-day fast. Then too, she seemed completely in love with her volunteer work for IAC.

We didn't speak again until May this year. I had since switched jobs. My friend called again but I was about to leave for an outstation assignment so I promised to call when I got back. I forgot to do so when I returned 10 days later. 

About two weeks ago, she called again. This time we met. During the course of the conversation we drifted towards her work at IAC. She told me several IAC volunteers - including her - had grown disillusioned with the way the movement was being led by Arvind Kejriwal. She detailed the personality clashes, cancelled core committee meetings and even alleged financial impropriety. I asked if there were others who felt like her. Within two days I had about 10 phone numbers and email addresses of other unhappy volunteers. 

Each one I spoke to provided letters and even audio recordings of conversations they'd had with Arvind Kejriwal. They had complained about the direction IAC was taking. In all but one case, he didn’t respond. When he did to one, he said all the information being sought could be found on IAC’s website. This is the same man who once led the RTI movement.

When I completed my interviews with the dissident IAC volunteers, I got the feeling that some problems stemmed from ego clashes with members of Arvind Kejriwal's "coterie" (a word used by many volunteers). I have deliberately ignored allegations that seemed to stem from such purely personal matters. The ones I have incorporated into the story were corroborated by other volunteers and thus, I felt, were fit to use.

No story of this kind would be fair without a response from the "accused". I contacted three IAC core committee members and another person who was closely associated with them. 

The latter was former Chief Election Commissioner JM Lyngdoh. He had helped Kejriwal draft the Jan Lokpal Bill. He declined to speak, saying that airing his differences would weaken the movement, which he felt was on its last legs anyway.  

The first core committee member I spoke with was Kiran Bedi. She requested my questions via email. She responded within 1 hour. I want to personally thank her here. She had just lost her sister to cancer - something she only told me about in her reply - and still took the time to respond.  This was incredibly gracious of her. The main thrust of her reply was nothing was seriously wrong with the IAC.

The second CC member I spoke with requested anonymity in exchange for talking about IAC. This person had been among the first few to be invited by Kejriwal to join the IAC's CC. Like Kiran Bedi, this member also rubbished allegations of financial impropriety. When I asked this person why the last financial audit was already 3 months late, the response I got was “Just because it’s late, doesn’t mean there’s something wrong”.

However this CC member admitted that Arvind Kejriwal's "yes men" were proving to be “detrimental” to IAC. The person admitted that several voting decisions on the CC were being influenced by the sheer number of Kejriwal’s people. I was even told of detailed steps discussed by the CC to reduce the associates’ influence. The person said the associates did not know how to run a public campaign and laid blame for the “Mumbai debacle” on their insistence to host more rallies even at the risk of public fatigue.    

The last person I contacted was Arvind Kejriwal himself. When we spoke, he said “I am in the villages and reception is bad. Could you email the questions to me?” I did; detailing every allegation that had been corroborated with other volunteers and the core committee member.

I then sent Kejriwal a text saying the questions had been mailed and that I had got a delivery receipt for them (this was Saturday afternoon). I got this reply one minute later: “I won’t be able to do it before tomo as I will reach home late nite”. I replied: “No problem sir. My deadline is Monday at 12 noon. Thank you”.

On Monday, I had not yet got a response. I sent him a reminder at 9:30 in the morning. No response. At 2:45 pm, well past my deadline, I sent another reminder. I even asked him to at least reply by evening so I could incorporate his side into the story post-facto. Still no response. That was the last I communicated with him.

The story went live on Friday. There is no doubt Mr Kejriwal received the questions and my reminders. I got delivery confirmations for all of them. He has chosen silence. The volunteers and the core committee member have said what I have to say.

29 comments:

  1. may be your allegations are right, but why did not you chose the way mr.lyngdoh chose? he has shown the wisdom that any such comments will harm the movement which perhaps lack in many media persons.

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    1. So true Rujuta...this is not the time to sit in judgement of Kej and TA. They are wrking against a ver powerful dangerous and dirty opponent..exposing themselves and their fam to great risk..the least we can do is spport. relatively minoe grouses seem petty at this stage and are self defeating.

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    2. @ Pierre ,why are u comparing ego problems of someone who is trying to fight corruption / and just a 3 month audit problem : ~ why dont u compare it in proper perspective with these corrupt dynasty which is shielding 1.5 trillion stashed in swiss banks.
      I fail to understand wehther u are projecting Kejriwal and company and Anna hazare as DESH DROHI as if they have engaged in mass loot by creating a CWG or A DEWAS or A 2 G . Your piece is laughable to say the least .

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    3. OK Pierre, so there is a "coterie". As we work towards a goal, there is bound to happen a group that emerges on the basis of cohesiveness. Gandhi had one too. This is a very immature way of suggesting that why should there be people who Arvind Kejriwal trusts more than others. It is just human to develop a boding with some. Are you suggesting that you have been equal to everyone you met in your life? Such stupid insinuations only show your overreach to gather visibility. Anyways, rather than talking about personal preferences, don't you think you could have used this space to focus on the issue of corruption?

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    4. of course no harm in having a coterie, but if that coterie is undermining movement's ineterest for sslf promotion, what would u say? And why no repsonse to the questions from the reporter. Like KIran Bedi did.

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    5. Mr.Pierre, whatever it may be going on we should not spread the filth but we should either remove it or we should not get any shadow over our ongoing campaign.We are the part of the movement neither mr.Anna nor mr. Kejariwal run such a movement without we the Indians.So If you think that you are a part of this campaign against corruption think about the things how can make better.Due to our this kind of contradiction many people who were opposing us from starting have got succeeded in their plan.Now be a true indian and do good whatever you can do for it.Let us be determined ourselves.Who the hell stop us to remove the filth. Be Wise like one of our hero Lingdoh. As You are saying that I am not a volunteer but a reporter I humbly request you please be volunteer this time this is not the matter of professionalism but its the issue of saving the country.If You are honest in yours please don't do this negative reporting.Kam se kam Bharat maa ke liye kuch to karo.......... Jai Hind Jai Bharat.

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  2. Hi Rujuta, I appreciate your comment but I am not a volunteer. I am a reporter. There was a story here that needed to be told.

    The movement is fighting opacity; it's fighting for transparency. It appears a handful of people are tarnishing its reputation. At least that's the allegation that has been substantiated in numerous interviews. How the movement handles this is their call. In my story I point out some ideas they have thought of.

    As for me, personally, I believe it is important for people to have information. Information allows us to make better decisions.

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    1. What u claim as "information" is actually just the word of a few un named people!... funny kind of reporting u seem to be doing...anybody can make a "vague" report like this and post it all over the place! why should we believe u as against people who have staked their lives and careers...tested over a period of time?

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    2. The ex-reporter he is referring to here, by all means can be none other than Shazia Ilmi who worked with STAR News. She has been blazing guns against this government since the very day she joined IAC movement. But interestingly, for some reasons best known to her only, she chooses be a part of PM's Media Entourage to Mexico last month for which there has been strong opposition from Arvind Kejriwal and other members of the Anna's Core team. So, this is about the credibility of this "shroud journalist" and his source. What else he wants us to expect from him. Loser!

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    3. @ pierre , do you support the massive loot of our nation by a corpus of corrupt criminals who sit in high offices of power .

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    4. Hi reporter... I'm neither a fan of kejariwal nor am I against him. But after reading ur report I'm tend to support him.. U r reporting so many bad points about a leader of a movement... Which only gonna increase the support of the movement.. Coz we all know how bad the govt handling this movement and how much corrupted this govt is, not this govt.. It's any govt in India.. Which is due to the system not coz of any single party.... U wanted to write a story everything negative about kejariwal but not a bit about how worse the Indian politics is... Which is more important? A change in the system or

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  3. Why we need an absolute character and not a human being to lead us the path of a corruption free India? Why?
    I wish God bless you with similar courage to find and reveal some truthful information about other side of the picture, i.e. Sonia and his 15 heroes.

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  4. First of all, I doubt your intentions - for, what s the reason that you are raising this issue just before Fast is to start. That means your objective is just to mar the movement. Please tell - for when have you been offered Congress ticket?

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  5. Another thing is - whosoever alleges financial irregularities in Anna camp - I logically call him a 'fool' - as Anna puts it - go to Yerwada 'Pagal-khana'.

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  6. If you courage, do a story against any big politician like Pranab Mukherjee.... expose the truth of death of any RTI whistle blower....You talk about reporting..... reality is you have got a easy and soft target....You said Arvind didn't replied....Kabhi kisi politician ko email karo aur reply na aaye to fir story karna.....This world is not perfect man....

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  7. These kind of wanna be self-proclaimed reporters perish in their own loathe, in time. They think that the codswallop they serve to us from some unnamed personals and credulous sources will make us believe what they want us to. Be apprised that in today's time when vast amount of trustworthy KB available over internet about almost everything is just a click away even from a 5th grader, only a fool can think of fooling us. And that very fact puts even a common man on par with stupid "reporters" like you fed and patronized by the impotent political class.

    Inestimable Poonam Pandey(s) like you in a hope of seeing the ray of limelight die the death of a premature delivery everyday.

    You are so lucky that internet is modest enough to take the crap from stinking spineless creatures like you.

    RIP

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  8. You may like to watch 'the lives of others'. You may be thinking that u r an honest journalist or you just trying to bring out facts or may be saint or sth or bla bla.

    Some times, things don't have answers for questions, just like for your questions, as there are differences in opinion with AK, so what's big deal, wherever there is movement there is leader and not all can agree, one may need to dictate and take things forward or else it will never happen.

    Why do u look for people, people are not important be it anna or AK or kiran bedi, the Matter/issue is important. Isn't that movement is imp or that bill is not imp, can you deny from that fact, tell me ?

    I don't understand what the fun behind blaming people.

    Didn't u read, Mediocre talk about people, best talk about idea/work. I hope u get it.

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  9. While don't deny the possibility that there may be serious problems of direction and influence of coteries within the movement, why do we have such completely different set of rules for those in Government and those outside it?

    If I were to compare the allegations against IAC/Team Anna (financial impropriety, audit 3 months late, etc.) with the allegations against politicians, it would be like comparing a person who slapped someone with a mass murderer.

    If our media persons expected even 10% of the probity that they expect from IAC from public figures, our politicians would be under a lot more pressure to be transparent.

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  10. you have written: 'Be Respectful of Others,' but you yourself, by using the word, 'Coterie,' have fallen flat on your face on that. ...Anna is not India, much though I like and respect him! If Arvind wants to start a seperate group, and if others are with him, WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT?

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  11. Sir
    Are you supporting the Movments Of IAC if yes than why do you want to hamper this movement .If you are against it than carry on whatever you are doing .

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  12. How much money you get from Congress for publishing such kind of stuff. I want to become a reporter like you and want to make good money just like you.

    Will you be my mentor?

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  13. To me, Arvind Kejriwal or Anna Hazare have my blind support because of the cause. The cause is supreme. Nothing else matters. We are not electing these leaders. Am following them because I agree with the cause and want to see an accountable and responsible political leadership in the country and desire a change of the system. I hink everything else is not relevant. I am determined to remain blind to everything else that have no relevance to the cause.

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    1. i appreciate and completely agree the cause is supreme, and for the cause itself it is needed that team Anna, shows transparency, keeps movement's interest above sycophants or coterie.

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    2. i appreciate and completely agree the cause is supreme, and for the cause itself it is needed that team Anna, shows transparency, keeps movement's interest above sycophants or coterie.

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  14. For anyone who claims to be fighting for transparency and democracy, I am appalled that you think it's OK for Arvind Kejriwal to ignore serious questions about a people's movement.

    The questions I asked him are not mine. As I wrote, I have copies of several letters and emails written to him by many IAC volunteers over the past year. The questions are from those letters. He has ignored not me, but people who have given IAC their time, energy, sweat, tears and funds.

    Only sycophants don't question their leaders and follow them blindly everywhere. Since all of you seem to hate the current government, I suggest you learn a lesson from them: how sycophancy destroys something from within.

    There's an old saying: "There's none so deaf as those who will not hear".

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  15. Pierre, Since you are honest and not sycophant will you investigate where Kripa Shankar Singh is hiding ? To whom was he supplying money ? What is the role of BJP MPs in looting mining reserves ? Whether the allegations of the ministers and MPs are incorrect ? How is the wealth of MPs increasing, although they spend 24 hours a day in politics and not business ? Why does common man remain poor ? Why is the parliament and assemblies billionaires club ? Why is the government acquiring farmers land like Britishers used to do ? Why is it that every young politician is a heir of some political dynasty ? Why is Pranav Mukerjee being promoted when the economy is in crisis ? If he was so capable why was he not made PM ? What do think the Gandhi sycophants are going to do next ? What is the amount of money spent on elections ? Has some one bought the coupons which political parties claim to have sold for raising money ? Do political dynasties like the Gandhis stock their black money abroad ? What is the state of indigenous technology ? How many PhDs do we produce in a year ? Why do deserving poor children find themselves in a school in a sorry state when politicians dumb heirs can afford to get MBAs abroad ? What is the state of healthcare ? There are lot of issues for you to investigate. Reporters like you are obssessed with coteries, insult to institutions, how-could-he-say-that, is-his-like-Gandhi, why-does-he-not-contest-elections, does-he-have-sycophants, did-he-cheat-his-friend-while-playing-lukka-chuppi-when-was-10, did-he-ever-kill-a-mosquito ... Come to the point, my friend. People are angry over corruption and injustice. They are questioning the oligarchic political establishment. Question today is not about Arvind or Anna or their blind or not blind followers, the question is whether we will have equal, just and honest India. Reporters have turned a deaf ear to people's sufferings, aspirations and questions .. or do they have a vested interest in status quo? I hope and pray this is not the case. Don't be a reporter, my friend, be a journalist.

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  16. As reporting on everything is the only thing which needs to be done to prove your intention on any specific report.
    See the facts,

    I am surprised how people are targeting this reporter, for what...

    Specially I am amused to see that many people have a view that it does not matter what are the means... absurd.

    Don't we ridiculed congress leaders because they only listen to 10, Janpath, then why these double standards...

    What is the target? Being in a transparent system or just change the current government. If system is not going to be changed, govt. changing will not bring any good to society.

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  17. Anonymous (who commented on 24 July, 2012 20:56) I'd be glad to investigate this.

    If you have any leads and wish to contact me securely via email please see this link: http://is.gd/dy4Otk (You'll need to use PGP encryption on your email).

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  18. kejriwal ko ab kisi ki jarurat nahin han toh anna kya cheez han ab aam aadmi kejriwal ka sath ha isliya vote for aap arvind kejriwal pm 2014

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