A big movement tends to draw people from outside the activist class and creates a new activist class. This is what the AAP movement has done. If you come to our office, then you realise people from a very diverse background have come in. Honestly, the one big gain for me after coming to this party – and it allows me to sleep well every night irrespective of whatever else keeps happening – that every day I get to meet people who are fired by idealism – like someone telling you that he was preparing for the IAS examination but has postponed it for two years, or that he has closed his shop for three months, or that he has given up his job in the US and wants to do something for the country. Whichever way they understand it, even if their understanding is flawed, even if I have lots of questions, even if I am opposed to some of their naïve, simplistic beliefs about how this can be done, but the fact is here is positive energy coming into your public life.
Apart from the issue of corruption, what is the idea you think has moved them?
One thing that amazes me is the power of nationalism. We tend to believe, and academics have convinced themselves and everyone else as well, that nationalism has died the death in India.
You mean the idea of belonging to an entity called India.
Yes, in the high academic circles, this is mocked at. People talk about us having moved beyond the nation-phase etc. What amazes me is that how much of the legacy of our freedom movement still survives in the collective unconscious of this country. You know the willingness to say desh ke liye karna hai (we have to do it for the nation). Now, this metaphor lends itself to narrow misuse as well, because it lends itself to a BJP-style of thinking, because it lends itself to a very shrill anti-Pakistan rhetoric, but once properly oriented to thinking about the people of this country – like saying India means its people of India, that India includes Manipur – then this energy can be very creative. The simple sense of pride about the country, and it is particularly so among those who have been abroad for a little while – now bit of it gets diverted into the VHP-kind of things, but I also see a very creative aspect of it. So I’d say a lot of it is driven by nationalism, and a good part of it is a simple-minded desire to do good to society. Every collectivity in the world has people who want to do something good out there. There’s a lot of that element as well.