An Anarchist at Work
Arvind Kejriwal, the self-proclaimed anarchist, is passionate about fighting political battles on the street by holding dharnas and rallies even while in office. Instead of vindicating the trust reposed in him and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) by the electorate of Delhi by governing the State with a single-minded devotion and unflinching determination, he keeps descending on the unwary people with alarming regularity for fighting street battles against perceived injustice. His idea of fighting for a cause is to badmouth and vilify symbols of authority such as the Prime Minister and the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.
Armed with a Rs 500-crore plus publicity budget, Kejriwal has no qualms or compunction about using the taxpayers’ money for self-promotion as well as for demeaning the NDA government at the Centre by alleging that the latter has been creating road blocks in the smooth functioning of his government. Using the same funds, he has also been falsely claiming that Lt Governor Najeeb Jung is acting in cahoots with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to thwart his plans and policies. Furthermore, Kejriwal has been peevish and petulant about Delhi Police for not falling in line with his strategic program for making Delhi a safe place for women what with the department being directly placed under the control of the Home Ministry at the Centre and not answerable to him.
During his first stint of 49 days as the Chief Minister of Delhi between December 28, 2013 and February 14, 2014, he staged a rally to protest against then UPA government for not agreeing to place Delhi Police under his command. His rally was full of dramatics like sitting in the middle of one of the busiest thoroughfares of the city, signing important files and letters on the roadside, spending a whole wintry night on the road complete with his trademark scarf, blanket, etc. He also had home-cooked food on the road, all to the amusement of the gawking public; and the inquisitive TV cameras lapped up every move and word of his with unabashed gluttony for sensationalism.
Kejriwal even exhorted the policemen, who were present at the scene for controlling the protestors and crowds, to shed their uniform and join the protest. For a good measure, he declared without an iota of hesitation, throwing propriety to the wind, that he was an anarchist. On January 21, 2014, he threw a veiled threat that he would continue his protest on the street till the Republic Day and also flood Rajpath with lakhs of supporters and disrupt the Republic Day celebrations.
Self-promotion and Vilification of Rivals
Humongous hoardings dotting the city’s skyline, radio and television broadcasts singing his paean, liberally funded, not with party funds but with public funds, scream out in silent agony over the gross misuse of power and position and Kejriwal’s thirst for publicity. Surprisingly, all these self-promotion and vilification of political rivals are being done with public funds that could have been better utilized elsewhere for the good of the public. The recent instance of his name being displayed in big bold letters at the Independence Day celebrations organized by the Delhi government was yet another occasion that betrayed his megalomania.
Kejriwal has not missed out a single opportunity to cross swords with Lt Governor Jung over issues like the appointment of Home Secretary, Secretary (Lands), Chief of the Anti-Corruption Branch, Chief of Delhi Women’s Commission, revision of circle rates, etc. While disputing the authority of the Lt Governor, he seems to be unmindful of the vast body of powers vested in the latter by the Constitution on account of Delhi enjoying the unique status of a Union Territory, which has its own Legislative Assembly and government, headed by a Chief Minister.
Kejriwal would rather have the rules of the game redrawn by having the country go back to the drawing board, upgrade the National Capital’s status to a full-fledged State, place the Delhi Police department under his direct control, grant himself unfettered freedom to make appointments of senior officials in the State and, above all, replace the Lt Governor with a benign Governor devoid of meddlesome authority to rain on the unfettered freedom of the Chief Minister to act as per his own grandiose scheme!
Shades of Anarchy
His ministerial colleagues and party functionaries have studiously followed Kejriwal’s example by resorting to vigilantism and activism, blissfully unmindful of the legal position of the issues involved or constraints like human rights and social niceties. Far from reining in his errant ministers who do not hesitate to fall foul with the law in the course of their spirited public display of their passion for fighting injustice, he seems to spending much of his time and energy on suppressing voices of dissent within the AAP. He went so far as to have his senior party colleagues and ideologues Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, unceremoniously thrown out.
While doing so, he did not fight shy of badmouthing them as a parting gift. So much for the inner party democracy in the scheme of things of the “anarchist” operating within the ambit of democracy! He always seems to be itching to break the mould of the democratic institutions that have been founded in line with Constitutional provisions in the first place and have been functioning as per established norms and recast them in terms of his own ideas. This is a startling fact that the people of our nation would have to take into account while reckoning his bid for power in the future course of his political life and career.
Craving for Power
When the lure of office overtakes the will to serve the country and more and more powers are all that one hankers after on assuming a position of power, there sets in the process of degeneration of a politician of ideological conviction and moorings based on value-based politics, into a mere powerbroker. Arvind Kejriwal, the enfant terrible of Indian politics, is a self-proclaimed nonconformist. He dubbed all the major political parties in the country corrupt, and majority of politicians thieves, when he descended on the national scene in 2010 as a member of Anna Hazare’s team, which raised the threshold of the people’s awareness of corruption and black money as major stumbling blocks in the way of the nation’s development and progress.
Kejriwal accused politicians who allowed themselves to play into the hands of unscrupulous corporate houses, tax-dodging industrialists and businessmen, of murky dealings and opaque monetary transactions responsible for the generation of black money. He decried the inadequacy and inefficacy of the existing political system to tackle the situation and advocated its replacement with alternative politics. He recommended transfusion of new blood into the body politic, and accused major political parties like the Congress and the BJP of not being sincere in their publicly avowed support for the Jan Lokpal Bill, which is aimed at ending corruption in public life.
Although initially he was reluctant to join electoral politics, later on he succumbed to the taunts of the parties that came under his relentless attacks. These parties dared him to form his own party, capture power and pass the Jan Lokpal Bill. Kejriwal who had not been in any case happy with the ways of the movement called ‘India Against Corruption’ launched by his mentor Anna Hazare, threw down the gauntlet, announced his intention of pursuing active politics and founded the Aam Aadmi Party in 2012.
Notwithstanding the fact that it has been voted to power in Delhi twice in a row, AAP has not vindicated its courage of conviction by introducing in the Assembly either of the two Bills to which it owes its existence – the Jan Lokpal Bill and the Swaraj Bill. Kejriwal resigned as Chief Minister the first time after a brief period of 49 days, as a protest against a lack of support from the Congress and the BJP and objections from the Lt Governor. However, his gambit of presenting a picture of injured innocence boomeranged and had a negative impact on his image.
He was variously described by his detractors as a quitter and defeatist. His bluff was called when he received a sound thrashing at the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in the Varanasi constituency where he had contested against no less a political stalwart than Narendra Modi, Prime Ministerial candidate of BJP, the hot-shot favourite for storming the citadels of Delhi. Instead of vowing the world as a veritable giant-slayer, the improbability of beating the tallest leader of recent times made him bite dust and he reconciled to returning to the battlegrounds of Delhi from which he had exited only some days ago in a feigned show of righteous indignation towards other parties, which did not support him in his fight against corruption.
Caught in a Tight Spot
When Delhi went to polls again early this year, Kejriwal went back to the people of Delhi who had trusted his nascent party and voted it to power albeit as a major coalition partner and repeatedly apologized for quitting office. He sought people’s forgiveness and assured them time and again that he would never again resign if voted to power. In addition to the major poll plank of passing the Jan Lokpal and Swaraj Bills, he promised a slew of welfare schemes and populist measures and a plethora of freebies. Apparently, the people of Delhi had accepted his walking out of power as a sign of political immaturity and made up their mind to give him the benefit of doubt. Resultantly, the tide turned in his favour once again, and the people returned the AAP to power – this time around with a brutal majority.
Kejriwal’s bluff having thus been called, he found himself in an unenviable position of being caught between a rock and a hard place. Having bagged 67 out of 70 seats, he secured a steamroller majority which, coupled with his promise to never again to walk out midway, precluded him from faltering on delivering on his pre-poll promises. Well, at least that was the general perception of the electorate as well as political analysts and observers.
Grievances and Complaints
However, lately Kejriwal seems to have become much too harder a proposition for the people of Delhi to contend with than they had bargained for. There has been no dearth of windmills for India’s very own Don Quixote to go tilting at. Having put the Jan Lokpal and Swaraj Bills on the backburner, Kejriwal lost no time in preparing his own laundry list of feigned grievances and complaints that prevented him from fulfilling his promises and serving the country. Topping the list were the issues of upgradation of Delhi as a full-fledged State, placing Delhi Police under his direct control, and grant of unfettered freedom to the Chief Minister for the appointments of senior officials.
Chief Minister Kejriwal was sore that his proposal for the appointment of senior officials were scuttled by Lt Governor Jung. Was it not obvious to the nation that the troupe of officials appointed in preference to those of his personal choice would not be beholden to him and would, therefore, not cooperate in carrying out his schemes and programs?
The Delhi government’s budget hardly has any scope to accommodate the cost of snazzy dreams woven, and alluring promises spun in the manifesto of AAP. While the Prime Minister and Lt Governor were expected to gladly turn down Kejriwal’s requests for release of more funds, the Indian mainstream media (MSM) worked overtime to project Modi in the wrong light.
Furthermore, the AAP strived to convince the voters that the good work executed by the Delhi government were not getting enough coverage in the Main Stream Media (MSM). It was important that the good people of Delhi be informed of his government’s tireless good work for the betterment of their life, he argued. An obscenely fat budget was, therefore, put in place to project Kejriwal as a people-friendly Chief Minister, who ceaselessly promoted people’s welfare.
Ambition and Future
As of now, the ire of Kejriwal is aimed at Prime Minister Modi and Lt Governor Jung. Having decimated the Congress, making its hopes of staging a comeback in Delhi a distant dream, Kejriwal perceives the NDA government as the Evil Empire and Narendra Modi as his arch enemy. He has already given the nation, much to its consternation, a taste of his vituperative outpourings of the “manipulations” of PM Modi in thwarting his grand schemes and the readiness of Lt Governor Jung to play the “willing catspaw.”
What the people might, however, find amusing is the fact that although Kejriwal was a rank outsider till recently, he must have had an overview of the constricted maneuverability of individual politicians and governments within the confines and parameters of the system and yet went ahead and made tall promises of populist schemes and a plethora of freebies with nary a thought to constraints of administrative and financial powers as a Chief Minister and limited availability of funds.
Meanwhile, now he is peeved about the Prime Minister and the Lt Governor standing in his way! While he hogs all the glory for himself for doing whatever little he has already done as per his party’s poll manifesto, the blame is conveniently parked at the doors of the Centre and its representatives watching over his moves. Whether such a flagrantly convenient but uncooperative attitude is acceptable to the people is a moot question. Playing the superhero and Sad Sack in turns suits him splendidly, and he does it with ever so much alacrity! Whether it washes down well with the people is what remains to be seen.
A review of the structural set up of political institutions and the distribution of powers among Constitutional authorities in the country may well be in order. A national debate among major political parties, with the active participation of regional representatives and bureaucracy, would be the best bet to ensure a meeting of minds in the matter so as not to leave the room for any more grouse in future. All these would be feasible only if there is a preliminary agreement to take the process forward among the stakeholders who need to be identified. Till such time, prudence and the collective national instinct for survival call for the maintaining of the status quo and not rocking the boat by the avaricious and the impatient pack, led by Arvind Kejriwal.