Millennium Post

Is this death of a dream?

If any thing can go wrong, states the Murphy’s Law, it will. Delhi administration is an example. Everything was wrong when fifteen years ago, BJP was in power. It was completely in chaos when Mrs. Sheila Dikshit was repeatedly given the mandate to govern. It is arguably worse when the anti-corruption crusader Arvind Kejriwal assumed the responsibility. The National Capital Territory of Delhi, half way between a Union Territory and a full-fledged state seems to have been ideated by devotees of the Murphy’s Law.

Sounds confusing? Just look at the spat between Somnath Bharti, the Delhi Law Minister and Vijay Pal, the hapless Station House Officer of the Malviya Nagar Police Station. Bharti, who now has replaced the entrepreneur Sunil Mittal’s claim to the brand, seems to be justified. As people’s representative he has a right to vigil in his constituency and make life easy for its residents. In his such a well publicized nightly round, Bharti asked accompanying SHO to raid female residents to unearth drugs and perhaps prostitution rackets. Pal read the rule book to the City’s Law Minister, who himself is a lawyer. How could Pal turn so audacious? The Police in the half-state of NCT Delhi do not report to the Delhi Government. Had it been the Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, would the SHO have behaved similarly?
Officials do look askance at the law if rightly encouraged by the relevant bureaucratic set up. We have seen it in allotment of coalmines, spectrums or contracts for Common Wealth Games. But Somnath Bharti wanted to gatecrash without any authority. Naturally he had to face the barrier of law, not a very unfamiliar territory for the lawyer Bharti. But the activist in him did not rest till the case could draw to a conclusion of his choice. In his newly won enthusiasm he forgot the Murphy’s Law.

But Bharti was not alone, so did his patron and leader Arvind Kejriwal. He entered the scene as a pinch hitter and camped at the green near the Rail Bhavan. What he winked at is the oath of allegiance to the Constitution he had taken less than a month back. The activist Kejriwal overpowered the Chief Minister who was expected to follow the laid down procedure of governance. The elementary mistake of jumping in for a ‘dharna’, without exhausting the other administrative options available, got compounded by the inclement weather and unseasonal rain with biting cold.

What could be the reason for the consummate communicator Arvind Kejriwal slipping so badly over the Bharti episode?  Could it be that the Delhi election result had made him feel above the Constitution and administrative system of the democracy? Was he so certain of uninterrupted support from the media that he jumped recklessly throwing all prudence to the wind? Or was it his eagerness to contest and win the national general election that he wanted a massive publicity as the people’s leader? The mistake Kejriwal committed shows him as a man in hurry.

Delhi’s new kid on the block has communicated its utter immaturity to handle even a city’s administration. The middle class support base that could have been his even without asking for it, at least in other urban centres, will now be scared. The fledgling party has also surrendered its moral high ground as pro-women and gave opportunity to the existing women bodies like the Delhi Commission for Women, an autonomous grantee institution, set up under a 1994 Act. Law Minister Bharti is busy fighting the body over assault charges filed by the Ugandan ladies who were attacked by the vigilantes under Bharti’s leadership. The Court has also taken cognizance of the incident and asked Police to file FIR against the minister. To make matters worse, the fledgling party failed to digest the media criticism - imputing motive in the questions of media persons. In sum whatever could go wrong in the communication process of the Aam Admi Party has been going wrong.

No wonder that the annual rich men’s assembly in Davos took note of the incidents in Delhi. Predictably the rich and the powerful, who control investment in any country, would not be amused at the anarchy unleashed in the Capital. If some AAP supporters find sardonic pleasure in such mentions they failed to read the key message. The world since the collapse of the Berlin Wall and also Soviet Union has changed. Even the last vestige of communism, China, is now a booming capitalist economy with communistic pretensions. While the objective of giving voice to the aspirations of the poor and the deprived can never be disputed this needs to be carefully modulated to the needs of a market driven economy.  Headlong rush for investment, brushing aside the aspirations of the poor, brings in disaster, as was seen by Buddhadev Bhattacharya-led CPI(M) in West Bengal. Similarly ignoring the need for investment and business, too, will breed stagnation and poverty.

 AAP took the risk in search of support from its core constituency of migrant workers doing odd jobs and living in slums in the urban agglomerations of the capital. Those who came in search of their livelihood in the national capital are caught between the Scylla and Charybdis. They are harassed in their daily chores by police, lower bureaucracy and the rent seekers in their slums. They saw in AAP an escape from the daily pain. But if the anarchy that was seen near the Rail Bhavan continues and spreads, their very livelihood will suffer. These people are survivors of a daily struggle and are no fools. Sooner than later they will shun anarchy. AAP has planted a seed of distrust in its core support base. Unless the party retraces its steps, a novel experiment in Indian politics will end. Will activists in AAP realize the same and mend their ways? Or is the Indian democracy destined to follow the Murphy’s Law?
The author is a communication consultant
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