Sacking of Asim Ahmed Khan: Kejriwal’s instant justice and appetite for looking better than his party

By BV Rao

Two heads rolled yesterday (October 9), one literally and one metaphorically.

Residents of Ganga Osian Park in Sukhsagar Nagar, Pune, woke up to a stomach-churning scene. Ramchandra Sheu Chavan, 53, a local security guard, was walking the colony streets with an axe in one hand and the decapitated head of his wife Sonabai, 45, in the other.

Ramachandra suspected Sonabai was in a relationship with her son-in-law. On Friday, when his two sons left for work he had a heated argument with her. Soon he locked out the other women and children of the household and severed his wife’s head in a jiffy of savage instant justice.

 Sacking of Asim Ahmed Khan: Kejriwal’s instant justice and appetite for looking better than his party

Cartoon courtesy Neelabhtoons

That was the literal rolling of the head. The metaphorical rolling of the head happened far away in New Delhi when Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal ‘decapitated’ Asim Ahmed Khan, his Cabinet minister for Food, Civil Supplies and Environment.

When you examine these two incidents, you will find that the only difference between the two is that Sonabai is dead and Asim Khan is alive and (probably) angry.

On every other parameter, there are disturbing similarities between these disparate incidents, separated as they are by distance and straddling two different spheres (personal life and public office).

Take a look at this:

-Ramachandra Chavan, suspected his wife was in a relationship.
Arvind Kejriwal suspected that his minister was on the take.

-We don’t know Chavan had any proof of his wife’s suspected infidelity or if the demons were in his head. But he acted on his suspicion.
Kejriwal says he has an audio tape to give him enough reason to suspect his minister was on the take. So he also acted on this scrappy evidence and his suspicion.

-We don’t know how long Chavan had been harbouring suspicions about his wife. Weeks, months, maybe years. His savage justice must have been some time coming. We don’t know whether he gave any opportunity to Sonabai to say her bit.
We do know that Kejriwal found out about Asim Khan's alleged dubious deals only the previous night. 24 hours was all that he needed to rush to judgement, savage, too, if not physically at least philosophically. In Kejriwal’s own description of the flow of events, it seems like Asim Khan did not get to say his bit either.

-Chavan took precipitative action based just on his suspicions. He killed his wife and handed himself over, proudly and without trace of remorse, to the police for further investigations.
Kejriwal too took precipitative action based on what is at best preliminary moral evidence (audio tapes are not legally admissible in a court of law) and grandiosely handed over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Preening in full public glare at the thought of his ascension to high moral ground.

-There is nothing much the police investigations will unravel in Pune because it really doesn’t matter anymore. Sonabai is dead.
Similarly, in Asim Khan’s case. We don’t know what will come out of the CBI investigation (if it takes it up) but Kejriwal has snuffed out Asim Khan’s political career.
To be fair, that is what should happen if the CBI finds truth in the allegations and a court of law even admits a chargesheet in the case. But only when that happens, and not before. But it is already over, done and dusted after Kejriwal prematurely ‘hanged’ his minister publicly.

Here’s the most pernicious similarity between Chavan and the chief minister:

After dispensing with his gruesome instant justice, Chavan took the severed head of his wife and walked the streets almost as if he were showcasing a trophy. Claiming credit and basking in the attention.
Kejriwal did no different. As soon as he sacked his minister, he held a press conference where he looked every bit pleased with himself and what he had done. Since there’s no severed head to lug around, he might well have put up a bust of Asim Khan on his desk — a constant reminder to himself and others of what a tough uncompromising anti-corruption cookie he is.

Chavan’s act, it is possible to assume, came from a deep sense of inadequacy and hurt ‘manhood’ that perhaps made him 'look bad' in his own eyes and culminated in a mad moment of rage.
Kejriwal’s hanging of Asim Khan, on the other hand was a cold and calculated move to make himself 'look good'. The press conference and what he said there (“the message should be clear, we will not spare our own ministers if they are corrupt”) might ring well with his fast receding support base because that is morally the right thing to say, but morality without basis in legality is a dangerous path for instant savage justice.

Especially when it does not square up with Kejriwal’s own actions when there were similar flimsy video and audio evidences against him, and other members of his cabinet and party. His standard line then was that the tapes were doctored and the world was conspiring against him.

Yes, Mr Arvind Kejriwal is looking good today. But he should ask around in his party and government how they are feeling about a leader who won’t hesitate to stand on the corpses of colleagues sacrificed in utter haste just because that makes him look good.

Updated Date: Oct 12, 2015 23:08:11 IST