Of the many predictable things about Arvind Kejriwal's dharna at the residence of Delhi lieutenant-governor Anil Baijal, perhaps the most predictable is its timing. It was expected that in the run-up to the 2019 general elections, Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) would pull off some stunt to divert the attention of Delhi residents from their non-performance and non-governance (whatever be the reasons for it), including water and electricity woes during peak summer season.
Kejriwal and AAP are attempting to extract sympathy by projecting themselves as victims of the system. Victims of the system! The never before heard theory of a chief minister being the victim of the system he is working in! This alone can help rid the AAP of their problem of not delivering to Delhi on its big bang promises.
So, as the general elections approach, expect the desperation within the AAP to prove their persecution by their bête noire, the BJP, through Baijal's office to only increase. But desperate measures have the knack of often not being well received by the recipient. Which is what happened with the AAP's dharna this time.
First, people were amused to see an air-conditioned dharna for the first time in India’s political history: Four of the most senior AAP government functionaries, including the chief minister, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, and two cabinet ministers, Gopal Rai and Satyendar Jain, reclining on a sofa in front of a humming air conditioner.
The photographs of this dharna — to protest the IAS officers' "strike", allegedly at the instigation of Baijal — were sent to everyone. Gone was the heat and dust of Ram Leela Maidan or the Delhi streets. This time, the site of the AAP dharna was an air-conditioned room. This alone nullified AAP's efforts to create an atmosphere of its revolutionary days — before it came to power in Delhi — and put its members on the warpath against an "evil adversary". But it didn't work out this time.
Second, the people of Delhi didn't seem to buy the idea of people in power protesting against the administration. Usually, it is the powerless who protest against the powerful. Hence, this protest looked unnatural and Delhi citizens gave it a cold shoulder. To be a minister, one must have the ability to handle bureaucrats. A minister's inability to do so is a mark of failure. The bureaucrats seemed to have had the upper hand against the AAP ministers and they rather smartly held a press conference to reiterate that they were never on strike. Which also punctured the AAP’s efforts to gain sympathy.
Third, it gave the Opposition the ammunition it needed to go after the AAP all guns blazing. BJP leaders and some AAP deserters sat on a dharna inside the Kejriwal's office, which drew the attention of the media. Here, they gave sound bite after sound bite against the AAP. It also gave an opportunity to Sheila Dikshit to claim she had done maximum development work for Delhi while there was a BJP government at the Centre and wondered how a chief minister could blame the L-G for not delivering to the people of Delhi.
But it was the Delhi High Court that seemingly put the final nail in the coffin of the AAP dharna when it asked the party's lawyers: Who authorised the sit-in at Baijal's office? While a dharna cannot always be authorised, the fact remains that Kejriwal and the AAP simply barged into Baijal's office and refused to leave until their demands are met.
Which also raises questions of trespassing and holding to ransom a constitutional head. The court will take up the matter in a few days and pass its orders, but as of now, this much is known: This time, the people's court in Delhi ruled against the AAP and forced it to call off its dharna. This is the only way it could have ended: With Kejriwal tucking his tail between his legs.
Yeh public hai, yeh sab jaanti hai (the public knows all). It can very well distinguish between a dharna and a drama!
Updated Date: Jun 19, 2018 18:55 PM