It’s ironical that the man whose career is built on activism and who once famously declared that he is an anarchist, despite holding the antithetic office of Delhi chief minister, has got activists barred from assembling and raising slogans outside his residence.
Has Arvind Kejriwal finally shed the common man persona and laid the first brick of building his own ivory tower?
Kejriwal’s government that rules the National Capital Territory (NCT) imposed Section 144 of CrPC outside the chief minister’s residence at Civil Lines for the month of August. The Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of Civil Lines, who imposed Section 144, reportedly wrote, “The coming month of August has many festivals such as Independence Day, Raksha Bandhan, Parsi New Year and Janmashtami. People, in general, used to visit the chief minister and officer’s residence during festive seasons. Therefore, it is apprehended that any demonstration, protests or dharna will create public nuisance and serious law and order problems.”
The SDM is an administration official under the Kejriwal government.
Have one-and-a-half years in power erased memories of his recent past from the chief minister’s mind? Has the comfort of power made him fearful of the people of his own ilk, who resort to demonstrations to get their voices heard? How else would have the world heard the voice of this diminutive go-getter, who resorted to peaceful demonstrations and dharnas to rouse an entire nation under the leadership of social activist Anna Hazare, not too long ago?
And it was during his first stint as Delhi CM when he had staged a dharna outside Rail Bhavan in New Delhi in January 2014, sleeping on the pavement covered in a quilt in a much-publicised act, a first for democratic India. That’s when he had proclaimed, “I’m an anarchist.”
Has the chief minister of Delhi finally realised that the view of the sloganeering, demonstrating general population of the country looks petrifying from the other side of the power divide?
It is quite common in India for people to demonstrate and stage dharnas outside the residences of chief ministers of various states. The only exceptions may be chief ministers like J Jayalalitha of Tamil Nadu or Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati of Uttar Pradesh. Is Kejriwal drawing inspiration from these semi-autocratic counterparts?
The imposition of Section 144 finally underscores one extremely vital aspect of Kejriwal’s personality, which was not so evident when he was an activist with the India Against Corruption movement.
He has an autocratic streak, as is affirmed by many who have worked closely with him and by those who were expelled from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for voicing dissent against Kejriwal.
Whether a founding member of the party or a grassroot worker, any dissenting voice within the party has always been met with expulsion. The intellectual faces of AAP, Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Prof Anand Kumar and Prof Ajit Jha, who later formed Swaraj Abhiyan, all had to face a similar consequence.
Prof Ajit Jha, a former member of AAP’s national executive and at present heading the party formation committee at Swaraj Abhiyan, calls this a “peculiar phenomenon” of Kejriwal. “It’s unthinkable. He’s not bothered about the reputation he has earned. An autocratic streak is a minor crime. To achieve his ambition, he can take any path,” says Jha, who was expelled from AAP for questioning Kejriwal.
In a detailed write-up on the then blue-eyed boy of Indian politics, Financial Express had written in 2013: ‘Those who have worked with Kejriwal through the RTI activism years and earlier admit he does have an autocratic streak. For example, Kejriwal and long-time associate Manish Sisodia took the key members of the Anna movement completely by surprise when they announced their decision to form AAP, in July 2012. A member who was present at the announcement said, “We were on a fast for the Jan Lokpal Bill and sitting together when Arvind and Manish said they were forming a political outfit. We asked why this was not discussed with us, and he said he did not need to.” A social activist involved with Kejriwal during the RTI movement says he showed a similar trait even then. When he had made a decision, it was final and no amount of argument from any quarter would change his mind. Having worked with him, I can only hope he takes the collective along with him, he says.”
Right now, the chief minister is clearly not thinking ‘collective’. If he distances himself from his support base in this fashion, how long will the ‘collective’ — that gave him 67 out of 70 seats in the Delhi Assembly — stay with him?
Is this aam aadmi (common man) slowly turning into a khaas aadmi (VIP)?