Delhi orphaned by parties
Politicians, it’s said, are very thick skinned. In my two decades as reporter I did come across some of these thick skinned politicians but in most of the circumstances, when I look back, I find being thick skinned was one of the positive attributes of their character. Standing up to criticism and not getting unnerved by it is a positive attribute as far as one takes lessons from criticism. While majority of politicians are ‘thick skinned’ and take criticism in their stride, there are few who react vehemently as would, for the want of a better word, a reactionary do.
In recent times, this kind of vehement reaction to criticism has been most visible among the leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). In their short-lived days of glory, they fervidly reacted to any criticism that would be made of them in the media. They forgot Kabir’s famous saying, nindak niyare rakhiye aangan kuti chhawaye; bin sabun pani bina nirmal karat subhaye. (Keep your critic close to you, give him a shed in your courtyard; for he purifies you without water and soap). That their most abusive and arrogant reaction proved to be counter-productive is visible from the fact the organisation is in tatters with a withering top leadership.
The readers would be wondering that when the headline mentions Delhi being orphaned, how the notebook is all about politicians being thick skinned. The two are connected as all my life I have never come across a more thick skinned politician than AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal. In the context of
Kejriwal, the meaning of the word thick skinned is closer to being unabashed. Last Sunday briefing the mediapersons after meeting of the rump and resignation-ridden national executive of his party,
Kejriwal blamed the BJP government at the centre for the power cuts which the city was facing.
He claimed that in the 49 days that he was at the helm of affairs there was no power cuts. Therein lays the truth Kejriwal! You inherited a healthy state and turned it into tottering administration. On the power front, in the little more than one-and-half months you wielded the baton, you enriched Anil Ambani-led distribution company through a subsidy of Rs 300 crore but did not stay back in office to see whether they were delivering or not.
Those in administration foresaw what awaited Delhi in the summer. At a conclave organised by a media house, former commissioner of Delhi Police Niraj Kumar in fact told Kejriwal that ‘he came with a muffler and went with a muffler; he should have stayed back to see what’s it’s like to administer Delhi during the summer months.’ Not the one to take any lessons, Kejriwal without qualms took pot shots at a poor Narendra Modi, who he said that during the 10 days in office had definitely failed to bring ‘ache din (good days)’ in Delhi.
Delhi in fact today is in a miserable state. It can be said with some responsibility that the state of Delhi was definitely much better than what it is today. Under Sheila Dikshit government, the state did manage to meet challenges substantially on water and power front. There were, however, issues of power pricing, general price rise of essential commodities, charges of corruption against the Congress-led central government, machinations within Congress leadership and also anti-incumbency against the 15-years of local government, which all came together to script demise of a reasonable working government.
It was misfortune of Delhi that the principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took so long in deciding who would be party’s chief ministerial candidate. By the time Dr Harsh Vardhan was drafted, the newbie AAP was ahead of them in the campaign by many laps. BJP did stage a fight back under Vardhan but it proved to be not sufficient to get absolute majority in the house. Herein the misfortune of the city began. We got chaos for 49-days in the name of government, which left behind a trail of such destructive governance that city is still licking the wounds.
However, graver is the fact that today none of the political outfits are really concerned about governing Delhi. The Congress after the exit of Sheila Dikshit and thereafter losing all the seven seats in Lok Sabha is in too bewildered a state to even plan for a government. AAP, which had a lifetime opportunity coming its way to serve the people, decided to give it up for greener pastures believing that they could emerge a force across the country during the Lok Sabha elections. Given their performance in the general election, the chance of people reposing fate in them once again looks remote.
That leaves us with BJP, which has been trusted by the people with all the seven Lok Sabha seats from the national Capital. The party took the right decision of not getting into the cesspool of forming government last winter despite being the largest party in the state assembly as it lacked majority. Now it has a government at the Centre, through which Delhi is being seen to be administered. This has given an opportunity to the likes of Arvind Kejriwal to lay blame at the door of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh for the mess which his 49-day government left behind.
Therefore sooner the ruling party decides to clean the Aegean’s stable in the national capital, the better for it. The call on this count will have to be taken both by the Central government and the party’s central leadership. The former would have to first decide on the status of Delhi, whether to continue in the present format of the National Capital Territory or grant it full statehood. Once that is decided, schedule of elections for Vidhan Sabha should be finalised. However, before the Vidhan Sabha polls the party would have to take a call on its state leadership. In the past eight months the party has been able to project a credible face in Dr Harsh Vardhan. The practising ENT surgeon has now been inducted into Modi government as Health Minister and there are huge expectations from him to deliver on that front too. In that situation, who would lead the party?
This question has to be answered at an early date to allow residents to take a call on the formation of new government. The city cannot be allowed to continue in this orphaned state for long.
The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor,