Kapil Mishra vs Arvind Kejriwal: Aam Aadmi Party chief will find it hard to regain moral authority

Caesar's wife must be above suspicion. If the person concerned is Arvind Kejriwal he must be much more than Caesar's wife. Wasn't he the white knight who once promised to tear down the ugly edifice of corruption in the country? Didn’t he take the plunge in politics with the iron will to demolish the corrupt? It’s rather normal for politicians to have charges of corruption levelled against them, but if the person is Kejriwal the impact gets amplified by extraordinary degrees.

That’s why Kapil Mishra’s allegation against the Delhi chief minister assumes rare gravitas. It’s still not known whether the ‘proof’ of wrong-doing he has against Kejriwal will stand scrutiny.

Sacked Delhi water minister Kapil Mishra pays tribute at Mahatma Gandhi's memorial before addressing the media at Rajghat in New Delhi on Sunday. PTI

Sacked Delhi water minister Kapil Mishra pays tribute at Mahatma Gandhi's memorial before addressing the media at Rajghat in New Delhi on Sunday. PTI

It might be difficult to prove that health minister Satyendra Jain actually helped the latter’s brother-in-law in a Rs 50-crore land deal; or the Aam Aadmi Party government deliberately sat on the alleged Rs 400-crore tanker scam probe to protect the accused, which includes former chief minister Sheila Dikshit.

Moreover his allegation that Jain handed over Rs 2 crore to Kejriwal at his official residence may be a case of my-word-versus-your-word. In fact, Jain has already told the media that he was not present at the place on the given day – May 5 - and challenged Mishra to substantiate his charge with evidence. There have been so many episodes of wild accusations involving AAP leaders that it is difficult to take their words at face value.

Yet Mishra’s case is different. His attack carries the sting that might leave Kejriwal's image hurt forever. Never earlier was the insider attack on the leader so direct, so vicious. The very fact that such attack is there is proof that he has lost respectability in the party and some don’t see him as indispensable for their survival. Worse, he is being increasingly seen as a factional leader guided by a close coterie – Mishra referred to two persons influencing him today.

"It's not the same Kejriwal we worshipped once. The chief minister's job has changed him...,” he said. It cannot be said with certainty whether he is playing the BJP’s game or of someone else in the party or his grievance is genuine, but what he said could well be the voice of thousands of idealism-charged volunteers who stood by Kejriwal when decided to join politics. He is obviously not the same person and nobody can tell for sure who is now.

His is a classic case of failure of leadership. Not only has he lost the spark as a leader who could inspire those around him but also one who could wrest back control after noticing damage. A sure-shot recipe for disaster is when the leader is seen to be part of a clique and part of the machinations it indulges in to cut others to size. In such a case, his capacity to tower over others and be the uniting force disappears. The AAP suffered from flight of talent and intellectual heavyweights such as Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and others long back, now it is left with mediocre leaders who can survive only through undercutting others. Kejriwal should take the blame for the state of affairs. He ushered it in.

It is difficult to tell now whether he has any genuine followers, particularly in the top of rung of its leadership, left at this point. Mishra has been suspended from the party in a quick move. It has been a familiar response of the leadership against anyone it finds uncomfortable. But how many of them can it afford to throw out? Someone else will be out there tomorrow crying corruption or levelling worse charges. Kejriwal appears clueless about handling the situation. He has promoted too much distrust within, now he himself is trapped.

The real issue troubling AAP is not corruption – it’s a convenient prop for disgruntled leaders – but too many people trying to make their best out of their presumed proximity to Kejriwal.
Can he reassert his moral authority and emerge the leader he used to be? No, unless he frees himself from the coterie culture and becomes independent once again. But given the way he has been approaching the problem that keeps cropping up every few weeks it appears difficult. Kapil Mishra has exposed his weakness.

Updated Date: May 09, 2017 08:07 AM

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