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Disruptive forces: Is Arvind Kejriwal the Donald Trump of Indian politics?

Six decades into Independence, it is a trifle disconcerting to remind ourselves of India's basic model of governance but these are extraordinary times.

Impetuous political ambitions have led a still-nascent Aam Admi Party and its dictatorial chief to launch stunning guerilla warfare on our carefully-laid democratic structures. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious, of course, but in trying to take the shortest cut possible to the corridors of power, Arvind Kejriwal has repeatedly shown a stunning disregard for power's normative principles. This is worrisome.

 Disruptive forces: Is Arvind Kejriwal the Donald Trump of Indian politics?

File photo of Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

As the AAP boss searches for (and hopefully finds) inner peace in the precincts of the Himalayas, the small window of respite from his vituperative political strategy is a good opportunity to take a second look at the foundation of the Indian State.

Based on the Montesquieu model of separation of powers, India's executive, legislature and judiciary each enjoy separate, independent powers and areas of responsibility.

Though there have been arguments to the contrary (most notably by Pratap Bhanu Mehta under the article The Inner Conflict of Constitutionalism in the book titled India's Living Constitution: Ideas, Practices, Controversies), it is generally perceived that the Indian judiciary interprets the Constitution as its final arbiter and acts like a guardian in protecting the fundamental rights of the people, as enshrined in the Constitution, from infringement by any organ of the state.

In light of the above statement, now consider the reactions that have been issued by AAP's senior members since the Delhi high court on Thursday ruled that Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung is the administrative head of Delhi and all decisions taken by AAP's ministers must be communicated to him.

Its senior leader Ashish Khetan appeared to question the high court's judgement and termed it "anti-people", running dangerously close to being booked for contempt of court.

Khetan also drew a false equivalence between the powers enjoyed by the CM of Delhi, a Union territory, and the Prime Minister of India who leads the executive branch of the government and is also the chief of government, chief adviser to the President, head of the Council of Ministers and the leader of the majority party in the Parliament.

This goes beyond the usual hurly-burly of disagreements between political parties. This is either a basic unawareness about the structure of the Indian State or a wilful subversion of it through cynical means.

AAP has since said that will approach the Supreme Court, as it has every right to, but what it cannot do is cast aspersions on a ruling passed by a court of law.

Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, in a media conference, said: "The high court says Delhi is merely an Union Territory. If as per Constitution Delhi is only an UT, then why was it amended to make Delhi an UT with legislature. If Delhi was to be run by the Lieutenant-Governor, then why was the Constitution amended to have a state Assembly? Why was a provision made to have an elected government? We were targeted as we tried to rid the city of corruption."

It is unclear whom was Sisodia blaming when he said "we were targeted as we tried to rid the city of corruption." His party colleague and AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha chipped in: "A democratically elected government cannot be undermined. This isn't a fight for supremacy, but democracy".

The question is, who was undermining "a democratically-elected government"?

Acting on different petitions arising out of the turf war between the LG and AAP, a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath on Thursday dealt with the central argument of AAP government that due to Article 239AA Delhi is more than just a Union territory. The bench said this Article does not "dilute" the effect of Article 239 which relates to governance of a Union territory and Article 239 of the Constitution continues to be applicable to Delhi.

As a report in Times of India points out, the high court was categorical in its ruling that the Constitution provided for demarcation of powers between the Centre and the states. According to Part VIII of the statute book, union territories will be governed by the President acting through an administrator. The court also agreed with additional solicitor general Sanjay Jain, who represented the Centre, that no order can be issued by CM Kejriwal or his ministers without the LG's approval and every decision must be routed through him.

This, at first glance, would appear as a blow to the ruling party in its power struggle with the Union government-appointed official but it is important to note that this is "nobody's victory", neither was it a "slap" on anyone.

This goes beyond the usual hurly-burly of disagreements between political parties. This is either a basic unawareness about the structure of the Indian State or a wilful subversion of it through cynical means.

Najeeb Jung pointed out after the verdict: "I have no option to go against even a comma of the Indian Constitution… This is nobody’s victory. Arvind Kejriwal and Najeeb Jung don’t exist. It is not that we will give sweets to each other today. These are things that the HC clarified today."

The irresponsible statements by AAP's senior leaders is perfectly in line with the brand of politics sans gravitas that its leader Arvind Kejriwal represents. His authoritarian wielding of power, even when his political positions are exposed as deeply hypocritical, leaves no place for criticism, only blind adulation.

For instance, only Kejriwal — a product of dharna politics — could have issued a ban against demonstrations in front of his official residence in the national capital, and still expect to be taken seriously. The National Capital Territory (NCT) government imposed Section 144 around the CM's residence on the ground that "any demonstration, protests or dharna will create public nuisance and serious law and order problems".

In is another matter that Jung on Thursday termed SMD's order as "illegal" and said that only officers of DCP rank and above can issue order under Section 144 of CrPC under the Police Act.

In another country, and in a different context, Americans are currently in the throes of extreme confusion over the rise of Donald Trump. In a series of controversial statements, the latest of which was over purported use of nuclear weapons, the Republican Presidential nominee has sent his political rivals, foreign policy traditionalists and even his own party members in a tizzy, prompting US president Barack Obama to issue a statement on Tuesday that Trump is "unfit for the role of president" because he "doesn't appear to have basic knowledge around critical issues."

Trump's rival Hillary Clinton during the recent Democratic National Convention raised a rhetorical question, asking voters to "imagine Trump in the Oval Office facing a real crisis."

Americans won't have to look too far to imagine what such a disruptive force would look like in a position of power.

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Updated Date: Aug 05, 2016 15:21:58 IST