Did Arvind Kejriwal really gain from AAP`s protest drama?
Aam Aadmi Party`s (AAP) recent showdown with the Centre over its demand for direct control over Delhi Police and the unmindful utterances of its leaders has disappointed many, especially in the middle class, which had seen it as a credible alternative to Congress and the BJP.
AAP`s Rail Bhavan `drama` has eroded the credibility of its founder and former RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal, who as the chief minister of Delhi has achieved little, mainly due to his escapist attitude and double standards while dealing with issues of importance.
The party`s regular flip-flops have also ended Kejriwal`s honeymoon with the national media, which played a pivotal role in his party`s emergence as a credible entity in national politics. Both national media and Kejriwal had used each other to the hilt - the former for boosting its viewership as AAP was ``trending``, while Kejriwal used media to further his political ambitions. But after the AAP government started to flounder, media has now started to question Kejriwal`s response to issues, especially the ones which were allegedly engineered to keep his party in the spotlight.
Clearly, the excitement over the emergence of a new political party on the block seems to be vanishing fast and AAP`s popular image of being a viable alternative to Congress and the BJP has taken a serious beating. Ironically, the party, which many saw as a `ray of light at the end of a long and dark tunnel` has none but itself to blame for the decline.
Undeniably, aligning with Congress, after labelling it as “most corrupt”, to form government in Delhi was their first big mistake. The haste with which Team Kejriwal conducted a referendum to get people`s mandate on the issue to take a moral high ground proved that they were not different from `power-hungry` politicians.
It was a well-orchestrated move from the rookie party and was aimed at getting people`s sympathy in the event of Congress withdrawing its support to the AAP government - something which prompted the main opposition BJP to call it a B-Team of Congress.
The party then dilly-dallied on the issue of austerity - no use of red beacons and bungalows for ministers. Under intense pressure from the media, Chief Minister Kejriwal defended himself and his colleagues by arguing that his official residence is much smaller to what was allotted to his predecessor Sheila Dikshit, and that his party will use officials vehicles but with no red beacons.
Its decision on the issue of providing 660 kilolitres of water per month and electricity at highly subsidised rates also faced criticism as it came with a rider that those families which exceed the upper limit will have to pay for the full usage. No doubt, the Chief Minister`s decision was noteworthy, but it left several questions unanswered as to how those families, which do not have legal electricity and water connection will be covered and whether the state government will bear the excess burden if it was to implement the same, especially in view of its promise to write off outstanding bills and penalties running into several crores.
The over enthusiast Chief Minister faced further embarrassment when his much-publicised first ‘Janata Durbar’ collapsed, forcing Kejriwal to almost abandon the initiative.
In a bid to be “different”, the party probably forgot that before AAP, several chief ministers have been successfully conducting such meetings and there was never such a fuss.
However, these were still non-issues for the party, which often shielded itself on the pretext of being inexperienced. But what seriously dealt a major blow to Kejriwal’s party is the vigilantism shown by one of its senior leader and Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti, who triggered a storm over the infamous Khirki midnight raid.
Despite the fact that Ugandan women have recorded their statement against Bharti, the AAP leadership has continued to defend its Law Minister. Kejriwal was also accused of staging the midnight dharna in front of the Rail Bhavan with the only objective of easing the pressure on Bharti by demanding action against the policemen who had allegedly refused to cooperate during the raid.
In his over enthusiasm, the Law Minister had asked the policemen to raid a house where some Ugandan women were residing. Had Bharti, a lawyer by profession, forgotten that residential premises cannot be searched without a warrant and that women cannot be arrested at night? Delhi policemen’s refusal to follow Law Minister’s instructions was labelled by AAP as “dereliction of duty” and as an attempt to lower the dignity of an elected representative.
Had Bharti shown some maturity and approached the deputy police commissioner`s office to report the alleged illegal activity going on in his area and sought his cooperation in a time-bound manner, things would have been surely better. More tragically, the Chief Minister, instead of taking corrective measures, saw an opportunity for yet another agitation over Delhi’s statehood and control of the police force.
The Chief Minister, who is under oath and duty bound to uphold the sanctity of law and respect institutions of democracy, took to the street, declared himself an anarchist, became a law breaker, held the entire city for ransom and threatened to disrupt Republic Day parade. He termed the occasion as an event where people come to enjoy tableaux that pass through Rajpath. Kejriwal even called upon his government employees to leave their place of duty and join the stir.
And all this at a time when two other top AAP leaders, Kumar Vishwas and Prashant Bhushan, continue to foment trouble for the party through their bizarre suggestions and objectionable utterances. Surely the manner in which AAP and its leaders have been conducting themselves is highly condemnable. One can easily imagine what would have been the country’s reputation at the world level had Kejriwal decided to extend his agitation, leaving Centre with no option but to forcibly evict agitators led by none other than a elected chief minister.
After the intervention of Delhi’s Lt Governor, Kejriwal ended his 33-hour long dramatic street protest and called it a victory of people, but everyone knows he got nothing in return as none of his demands - Delhi statehood, control over Delhi Police and suspension of policemen - was met.
The `so-called` deal under which two cops were asked to go on leave only served as a face-saver for Kejriwal, who desperately needed an escape route to come out of a tricky situation. AAP’s electoral success has made Kejriwal and his team over confident, making them think too much of themselves - the party has decided to contest from 400 seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. Before harboring the ambition of ruling the country, they should have channelized all their resources in providing good governance in Delhi and delivering their poll promises.
Kejriwal & Co. needs to understand that getting a political mandate to rule a state does not make it the sole custodian of the common man. They need to understand that the AAP was voted to power in Delhi to change a governing system that has been bent and twisted by corruption and not to bend it further in some other direction for political advantage.