(Also consider reading my related opinion piece, On Public Corruption in India.)
Mehboob Geelani has an interesting profile of Arvind Kejriwal, a well-known Indian social activist and anti-corruption crusader most often associated with the Right to Information (RTI) Act. By many accounts, Arvind is the main strategist and mastermind behind the Jan Lokpal bill that is at the heart of the currently raging anti-corruption movement whose populist (and problematic) figurehead is Anna Hazare.
Full disclosure: Arvind and I were batchmates at IIT Kharagpur. We lived in the same hostel, Nehru Hall, for four years and have met many times since, especially during my two years in India, 2004-6. Even in college he was articulate and self-confident, and had a quiet intensity about him. He was Nehru Hall's mess secretary in his second year and was very active in Hindi debate and theater, serving as governor of the Hindi drama society in his final year. I liked him well enough. For me, he was also a fellow Hindi belter, relatively few in Kharagpur.
I can't however recall any specifics that foreshadowed his later firebrand activism, moral outrage, impassioned oratory, media savvy, and organizational acumen. Perhaps I simply failed to recognize the cues in college, or perhaps he did blossom later on, leading him to quit his corporate job and switch to a civil services career, an uncommon vocation for an IITian. Based on a 2005 conversation and hanging out with him during a movement against water privatization in Delhi, I can say that the man has derived much inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi. He told me that he would never run for office. In recent years, I have come to admire his personal integrity, courage, and dedication to fighting injustice, especially the kind that can be addressed by bringing transparency and accountability to governance.
Though Hazare is the recognised face of an anti-corruption campaign that began with his fast on 5 April, Kejriwal is the architect of the movement—the man journalists swarm to, seeking an interview. At press briefings, he often sits next to Hazare and helps the self-styled Gandhian handle tough questions: Kejriwal whispers into Hazare’s ear or scribbles key points on a piece of paper lying between them. When questions are posed to Kejriwal, he responds like an impassioned professor explaining a complicated problem—piling detail upon detail with the supreme confidence that his answer is the correct one. His essential message never changes: only a powerful independent anti-corruption agency, with wide-ranging authority and minimal government interference, can cure the plague of graft—and anything less will fail.
The ideas that would eventually lead to the Jan Lokpal Bill—and plans for a mass mobilisation to support it—had been on Kejriwal’s mind at least since September 2010, when public frustration with the inept preparations for the Commonwealth Games erupted into fury over evidence of widespread corruption. India’s middle classes, who already saw the event as a tremendous waste of money, were further enraged when the Games delivered nothing but international embarrassment and a multi-million rupee scam. Kejriwal, however, saw an opportunity to mobilise public opinion against corruption, and began to plot the course that would lead “Team Anna” into a high-profile showdown with the ruling United Progressive Alliance coalition. He spent his days consulting with experts and prospective allies, from lawyers to bankers to former bureaucrats and religious leaders, as well as his colleagues in the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI). He devoted his nights to drafting and revising a bill to create a new Lokpal: an independent body vested with the extraordinary powers—to investigate, prosecute and sometimes even judge—that Kejriwal thought necessary to prevent any politician or bureaucrat from obstructing the agency’s work.
More here. Also check out an interview with and four speeches by Arvind: What is the Jan Lokpal Bill? (2011), Team Anna answers your Qs (2011), War Against Corruption Rally (2011), India Against Corruption rally in Guwahati (2011), Against Water Privatization (2007).