Recently, a businessman from Visakhapatnam sent Arvind Kejriwal Rs 364 to buy a pair of formal shoes because he felt the Delhi CM embarrassed everyone by wearing sandals with socks at a banquet at Rashtrapati Bhavan which was hosted in honour of French President Francois Hollande.
Businessman Sumit Agarwal, who I am sure didn’t expect this to go viral, claimed that Kejriwal’s particular footwear wasn’t justified since he was representing the country and not ‘staging a dharna at an AAP rally at Ramlila Maidan or Jantar Mantar’.
His open letter said: “Kejriwal was at the President’s dinner at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, not a friend’s birthday party in a restaurant in Hauz Khas. While dressing as per one’s convenience is a question of personal liberty, some places are above personal preferences…You’re a grown man. Please act according to the situation & dress for the occasion.”
What Mr. Agarwal fails to realise is that the sandal with socks is part of Arvind Kejriwal’s chosen projection for the masses, along with his oversized shirts, sweaters, frayed pants and muffler. That’s Arvind Kejriwal’s public image, a contrast perhaps to the immaculately tailored Narendra Modi in his bandhgalas and suits. It doesn’t matter to Mr Kejriwal, what image it sends to Francois Hollande but it does matter what the masses think of him.
In a democracy, where we vote on the basis of characteristics like looks, caste and ideology (when we should simply be voting for able administrators), Kejriwal’s choice is part of his projection to the masses, just like Gandhi hand-picked his attire to irk the British and unite Indians.
In fact, it might be a little more than just the image he wants to portray. French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, who turned down the Nobel Prize in Literature, argued that all of us have an image of ourselves in our head which we tend to project to the world and want the world to accept.
Maybe, Arvind Kejriwal’s image isn’t just about what he wants to project, but what he sees himself as in his head. Perhaps, in his mind, he’s the champion of the middle-class, dressing like them.
Either way, AK would get more traction wearing sandals in front of the President of Sartre’s land than he would get wearing shoes. There’s no point harping about image and protocol because Mr Kejriwal probably doesn’t care. In his head, through the image he’s projecting, he’s bringing a revolution, which frankly has no time, place or inclination for protocol.