Demonetisation: Arvind Kejriwal must end noisy street politics and return to work
When you get a nihilist like Arvind Kejriwal as a chief minister, your state plunges into smog-encompassed chaos
I don't care about Arvind Kejriwal — and it doesn't matter for me at all even if he is a "chief minister" — as a politician. A veteran (former) academician who watched his theatrics since the days of the ill-fated India Against Corruption told me that the Aam Aadmi Party was "the most dangerous infection on India's body politic and society".
Think about it: his first stint as Delhi’s chief minister was remarkable for setting the ignoble record of a sitting chief minister taking to the streets like an irresponsible anarchist, his aide-de-camp Somnath Bharti’s infamous "midnight urine test", and in general, doing everything but discharging his constitutional duty of governance. Small wonder then that he decamped in haste, earning widespread public ire as a "bhagoda".
And as we see, even in his second innings, he’s back on the street.
It takes hard work, patience, and calmness, and an ability to deal with, sustain and digest monotony, to govern. The easy route is what Kejriwal is familiar with: constitutional nihilism (for example, his notorious confrontation with Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung which could have been avoided), campaigns targeting the Prime Minister, maintaining radio silence on the record number of AAP MLAs being arrested and disqualified and the "internal inquiries" that have unfailingly absolved even the most criminal of his party’s elements.
Indeed, when you get a nihilist as a chief minister, your state plunges into smog-encompassed chaos. The October cover story of Open magazine, dedicated to the “unravelling of Kejriwal” exposes how he has almost turned Delhi into a surveillance state. The story also claims that AAP “made possible a near impossibility in traditional Indian politics: it drastically lowered old entry barriers to parliamentary politics that had been raised over the decades by parties that tended to handpick poll contestants either from prominent families or party cadres".
But the route that AAP took to lower "old entry barriers" to politics was marked at every step by cynicism and flagrancy: it continues to regard itself above the Constitution. No wonder that it continues to attract disgruntled elements from across the spectrum comprising of existing political parties, wheeler-dealers, journalists, and NGO do-gooders. Indeed, it’s reasonable to say that Kejriwal’s style of operation resembles that of the head of an NGO-in-perpetual-protest.
This style of operation initially helped him score spectacularly but this is a gift that stops giving sooner than later as he must’ve learnt (or has he?) when he launched his tirade against PM Modi’s demonetisation. This latest version of anti-Modi stance truly marks the moment "when life came to a full circle for Kejriwal": the doughty anti-corruption crusader has now transformed himself as a champion of anti anti-corruption. And his newfound best comrade-in-arms in this endeavour is Mamata Banerjee, the "first angry respondent" against Modi’s demonetisation announcement. Together, they have embarked on a “historic fight” against the move.
Indeed, with good reason, because both have much to worry about.
The PM’s demonetisation exercise is believed to have choked the supply of illegal money in the upcoming elections. To give only the latest instance, we can examine some of the deadly revelations (also see this Firstpost story for example) emanating from West Bengal’s Malda district as a great hub of fake currency and black money, which has now been rendered useless. Needless to say, this will have an impact on future elections, not just in West Bengal but across India. Indeed, it’s an open secret that the use of illicit money to bribe voters has almost become de rigeur in Indian politics.
Former chief election commissioner, SY Qureshi reportedly said last week that political parties start mobilising money months before elections are announced. However, “As elections are due in early 2017, the money must have begun to circulate already,” he said. But a bribe of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, even if distributed already, will be of little use now.
But Kejriwal’s woes run far deeper. In July this year, the Income Tax department raided the house of AAP MLA Kartar Singh Tanwar and found Rs 130 crore worth of unaccounted money. After smarting under this for a month, Kejriwal hit back with a promise that he would “put an end to 'raid raj'".
One could also cite the cases of AAP MLAs Amanatullah Khan (his office was raided by the anti-corruption officials with regard to a recruitment scam), MLA Gulab Singh and MLA Ritu Raj Govind. Helpfully, The Indian Express has provided a complete (and perhaps growing) list of all AAP MLAs “on the wrong side of the law".
Meanwhile, the fleetingly short public memory — the same public which was once seduced by his only poll promise of sending “all corrupt politicians to jail” — has helped ensure that his promise lies permanently in cold storage. The most recent instance of Kejriwal trying to pull his cleaner-than-thou act on Captain Amarinder Singh on Twitter grandly exploded on his face.
But then even that doesn't seem like a cause for Kejriwal’s current worry. Could it be that that Kejriwal and his outfit have run out of cash? Why else would AAP pull out of the upcoming Mumbai and Chandigarh civic polls within a week of demonetisation?
And even as I write this, Daily Mail has reported an explosive story captioned “Black Day for Kejriwal” in which, among other things, Kejriwal’s ex-colleague blogged about his former boss’ relationship with a “colleague 16-years younger". However, Firstpost cannot independently verify the claims made in the blog. On the same day, UNI reported that Rajya Sabha MP Subhash Chandra has sued Kejriwal for criminal defamation.
And if this was not enough, in a classic case of fools rushing in where angels fear to tread, Kejriwal’s foolhardy move of trying to instigate people against demonetisation (watch this video) has earned him the spontaneous public sloganeering of “Kejriwal chor hai” (Kejriwal is a thief).
That should ideally tell him a thing or two but then he epitomises the classic proverb that says that you cannot wake up a man who pretends he’s fast asleep.
The author's views are personal.
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