Public speaking feedback for Arvind Kejriwal
Dear Arvind Kejriwal,
Today’s “Historic Speech” disappointed me. I am glad of the main outcome – that you are planning to contest against Narendra Modi. I agree that Modi needs to be defeated soundly. However, today’s speech could have been far more. I know you are not obliged to cater to expectations, but I do hope you will give these some strong thought.
There is an urgent need to pause and reorient. Granted that Aam Aadmi Party and you are under a constant barrage of challenges, both natural and man made, the fact remains that doing the wrong thing will be more damaging than a delay in doing the right thing. Somewhere, the traditional politics seems to be rubbing off, and this is not a welcome influence. It is the politics we are trying to escape. There is a tenseness today that was not present before, and to me it speaks of having little time to center and speak from purpose. In my view, this is urgent. Some space needs to be created to say what you want to say, instead of trying to beat a failed model at its own games.
The freshness of Aam Aadmi Party was its lack of focus on religion and other “identity bank” gimmicks. This is the party where Shazia Ilmi did not need to contest from a “Muslim area”. Yet today’s speech, in such a crucial moment visited Ram, Harishchandra, Eeshwar, Khuda and what not. It is not a core area of AAP, and it took up time that should have been spent on core issues. There is no need to “prove” anything about AAP’s secularism, it is self-evident. Belaboring the point actually looks like an opportunistic mention of God, which I am dead certain was not the purpose, or it would have been tried well before this point.
Arvind, technology is a wonderful thing. A good mic will pick up your whisper. There is no need to stress your throat with trying to reach the audience with voice alone. More importantly, when you try to speak loud, you start talking like a speech – possibly an automatic reflex, which is not your best style. Your best style is the hundreds of speeches you have given that inspired people. Informal, straight talk. Countless interviews. The difference is visible. In one, you look relaxed, open, candid. In the other, you look tense, defensive, shrill. You need to get back to the old style. It brought you this far and served you well. It will take you through. No need to turn into a neta overnight.
Prioritizing content for historic events
Today was a historic event. This was the day the common man’s party decided to put up its candidate against the other leading politician (Rahul Gandhi being the first one). It was a speech that will get referred to, brought up again as a landmark in Aam Aadmi Party’s history. It should have been spent on content you want to make immortal. Swaraj, Jan lokpal, people ruling themselves through a party that serves as a conduit for their voice. Sure, there was a need to explain why Modi must be contested, but the rest of it – Akhilesh Yadav and Gujarat model and such could have been left out to make space for the priority – the foundations of Aam Aadmi Party and what makes it the common man’s party. Criticism of Modi and Yadav and so on is really common. And there are abundant opportunities to do it. Interviews are a great place for that, for that matter. You didn’t need to waste a historic event on the garbage AAP are planning to throw anyway. I confess I was waiting for a mention of Swaraj right till the moment the video ended. It never came.
No one is saying that UPA and NDA are not corrupt, or that their evils must not be placed before the people, but you failed to recognize a milestone in the history of Aam Aadmi Party and to use it strategically to state once more what unprecedented ideas it is offering to the people. It was even a time to speak of the candidates – a large number of whom are social activists, professionals in diverse fields, clean honest people few have heard of if you leave out the few famous names. Aam Aadmi Party has a visually impaired candidate as well as legends like Medha Patkar. Long suppressed people finding voice through Aam Aadmi Party like the anti-nuclear power protesters at Kudankulam or a victim of the state like Soni Sori. There is so much to tell people about why the Aam Aadmi Party is in their interest! This HISTORIC SPEECH should have at least touched these subjects – however briefly.
The people of Varanasi
This part is wishful thinking. I acknowledge that you have no means of reading my mind, and while I hinted on Twitter, I never made a proper suggestion that this be done. But, stating for the record, so that it may be included in future speeches in Varanasi:
Varanasi has inadvertently become the battleground of a National fight. Yet the people have local needs. You touched on their problems, but more was needed. An acknowledgment was needed that it is becoming a hot spot for helicopter candidates, including yourself, and of course, Modi. An apology would be appropriate that the people deserved to have their heros in the fight, but circumstances had brought it to this. The people deserved candidates who were dedicated to their region and its development specifically, if contesting from there. And you should have promised that you would see them as your own special people and give them that dedication, even though the AAP candidate was not a local in this instance. A belonging of the heart, if not your actual address and a promise that you would be there for their problems specifically and long term, and they were not being taken for granted for the larger good, while being deprived of their right to be represented in the Lok Sabha by a leader directly committed to their well being.
This sensitivity has usually been present in the party, and I can only think that like an over burdened horse cannot discern a leaf added to its burden, an overburdened person cannot perceive things not specifically mentioned. In this matter, I acknowledge that I failed AAP too, because I noticed, yet did not suggest.
PS: I also think you need to ditch the gareeb-max immediately. False modesty serves no purpose. Statements like “main to bahut hi aam insaan hun” etc are not required. Any person who understands the country and current affairs knows that what you achieved is nowhere “mamuli”. I understand your point that it is not about you as a person, but the process of change, but better expression needs to be found for that. Perhaps something like [Note: This is just an example]
“I was able to succeed, because the need I fought for resonated with many. There are many people who fight for change and lose and are forgotten. I just happened to come along at the right time, saying things many people needed to be said and the spark I lit took on a life of its on and is a wildfire. People didn’t lose interest or lose hope – or maybe some instinct knows we are facing the abyss and there is no other real choice. It grew and grew and is still growing.“
It is more accurate and honest than pretending that you did nothing. What you did has value. Incidentally it has enough value that you are asking for votes on its basis. Calling it insignificant does not help stress the importance of what is happening. False modesty is counter-productive at this point. Don’t brag, but don’t deny so obviously that it makes no sense either.