One of the defining moments of Arvind Kejriwal's political life is his decision in 2014 to first go to jail instead of furnishing a bail bond in a defamation case filed by Nitin Gadkari and then making an ideological about-turn by applying for bail after spending six days in jail.
What did it tell us about him? To many, it was a classical sign of a man who professes high ideals, publicly vows to fight for them but throws in the towel the moment he realises the high cost of standing up for pronounced principles.
For a moment, when he preferred jail over a bail bond, it seemed Kejriwal wanted to be the Mahatma Gandhi or an Anna Hazare — whose incarceration during the Lokpal movement had triggered a storm — of his age, someone who was ready for the tough consequences of his ideological intransigence. But, in the end, he preferred to end his resistance in a matter of a few days by making a meek compromise and surrendering his ideals.
Kejriwal is displaying a similar spinelessness while dealing with the challenge thrown at him by his former cabinet colleague Kapil Mishra. Instead of taking Mishra by the horns in public, standing up for his anti-corruption image, Kejriwal is trying to avoid a confrontation with Mishra and shadow box with some other adversary.
On Tuesday, Mishra filed three complaints against his mentor, whom he called his Guru, with the CBI, accusing Kejriwal of graft and nepotism. The sacked AAP minister presented proof of his allegations against Kejriwal in a sealed envelope.
"I've registered three complaints. The first in connection with Rs 50 crore land deal of Kejriwal's relative. The second against the cash exchange of Rs 2 crore between Kejriwal and Satyendra Jain, and third against five AAP leaders who misused funds for foreign trips," Mishra claimed after meeting the CBI.
Now, Mishra's sudden tirade against Kejriwal smacks of duplicitous behaviour and personal vendetta. That he is creating a storm only after being sacked from the Kejriwal cabinet either makes him complicit in the alleged graft — he claims to be an eyewitness — or a liar seeking to tarnish his "Guru's" image through hearsay.
But, Kejriwal's response is even more appalling. Instead of facing the charges, rebutting them, ensuring that the muck thrown at him doesn't stick, Kejriwal resorted to the classical subterfuge of starting a new war to deflect attention from the Mishra allegations when he convened the Delhi assembly to demonstrate how EVMs could be hacked.
Kejriwal must indeed be living in some La La Land if he thinks people would believe his allegations when his own credibility is under a cloud. His rant against the Election Commission may, in fact, remind many of the famous couplet, "Tu idhar udhar ki na baat kar ye bata ki qaafila kyun luta, mujhe rahzanon se gila nahin teri rahbari ka saval hai." (Don't talk about this and that. First answer how the caravan was looted. The question mark is over your leadership.)
In fact, if Kejriwal was indeed serious about the EVMs, he could have done a lot more than just passing a resolution for use of ballot papers and VVPATs. To prove his point, as many on Twitter have quipped, he could have recommended fresh elections through ballot papers. But, then, Kejriwal is more eager to create diversions than fight for his own image.
Ideally, Kejriwal should have used Mishra's allegations to re-establish some of his original credentials. Like Sita, he could have volunteered a trial by fire to prove his innocence. The best option for him to silence Mishra and other detractors would have been an impartial enquiry into the allegations. If he had the guts and gumption, Kejriwal could have asked a retired justice of the high court or a panel to look into the allegations. Had he come out clean, Kejriwal could have regained some of the lost esteem and goodwill.
But, now that he has preferred obfuscation and diversion over an agni pariksha, Kejriwal has ended up adding more fuel to the fire that is slowly devouring him and his party.
Updated Date: May 10, 2017 07:21 AM