Millennium Post

Kejriwal’s politics of theatrics

When AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal was sworn in as Delhi chief minister, a surge of excitement shot through the country, which witnessed a new chapter in Indian politics. Huge expectations were raised by the success of the Party, which has succeeded in resonating the anger of people. Its votes come from both the middle class and the poor who were fed up with the governance deficit. But within a month it has lost some of its sheen already and unless AAP can transform itself into a political party with vision and a long-term philosophy it will lose the aura further.

 This week has shown that the chief minister has one solution for all problems. Take to the streets and claim victory even when you have to climb down. However, the same sections that voted for AAP are now questioning the AAP’s ability to govern, as what they were looking for was governance and not political drama.  The chief minister in the past three weeks has realised that he has no powers over the police, NDMC, DDA or even the MCD – the very things his predecessor Sheila Dikshit has been cribbing about during her 15 years of rule. Delhi Police is accountable to the Parliament and the MPs, who are also elected representatives. There is a constitutional provision whereby the budget of Delhi is sanctioned by Parliament and not the state Assembly. The MCD is in the hands of the BJP. DDA is directly under the Lt. Governor. So Kejriwal is now faced with his limited capacity to deliver.

Why did Kejriwal decide to sit with his cabinet near the Rail Bhavan and confront the centre on the issue of police for 33 hours spending one night on the streets? It is obvious that he had enacted this political drama after thinking through. First of all, after becoming the chief minister he is eyeing 7, Race Course Road if there is a hung Parliament. This is not only evident from the slogans shouted by Kejriwal supporters (Humara PM kaisa ho, Arvind Kejriwal jaisa ho), it is also evident from the way Kejriwal organised and staged this dharna. It would suit him better if his government is dismissed or loses majority so that he can concentrate on the national elections. That is why he tried his level best to push the Congress to withdraw its unilateral support to the AAP. He was also trying to create a law and order situation where the Delhi’s Lt. Governor would have no option than to recommend dismissal of his government. But the Congress did not fall into this trap and came with a face saving formula for both.

Secondly, Kejriwal chose the Delhi police as his target knowing very well that people of Delhi are not very impressed with the Delhi police, particularly after last year’s Nirbhaya gang rape.  While people may be unhappy with the police there was not much public support or the media support for the way the AAP tried to create law and order and traffic problems. This strategy boomeranged.
Thirdly, Kerjiwal’s attempt to sit in dharna and try to clear files or hold cabinet meetings on the roadside did not find favor with the public.  While many may support his intention, the method he used was not much appreciated, as he did not keep up the dignity of his office and the cabinet. You can’t run a government on slogans. Fighting corruption, for instance, is necessary, but it cannot be the basis for governance. Winning elections may be one thing but delivering governance is another thing.

Fourthly, according to insiders, the rebellion within the party led by Binny was due to the efforts of Modi and there was a move to break the AAP party. Now that Kejriwal is back on the streets, this would be difficult. Perhaps Kejriwal had prior knowledge of these efforts to break his government and might have chosen the dharna route.

Therefore it is time for the AAP party to settle down, find its feet and get on with the work rather than staging political dramas. As it is, Kejriwal cannot do much as he will be bogged down in facing the national elections and expansion of his party.  Secondly, with the ambitious plans to go national, the AAP party should also build up more leaders. As of now it is still a one-man party even if some prominent persons like Medha Patkar, Meera Sanyal, Gopinath, Mallika Sarabhai and Balakrishnan have joined the party. It has to find more cohesive policies and credible leadership.  This is indeed the first challenge.

The second and more important challenge is to give an appearance a responsible party and not have a motley crowd.  The language used by the AAP ministers is condemnable and the Party should have its own code of conduct for behavior in public. The third is to find an economic model that will deliver not only a clean government to its people but also a continuously improving standard of living and growth. The AAP chief’s rejection of the FDI is already creating ripples in the business community.

Thirdly, Kejriwal needs to be reminded that he is in power and his ally is the Congress, which is
leading the UPA at the centre. Rather than shutting down metro stations and instigating the agitation, Kejriwal could have gone for a legal and constitutional means to resolve this issue with the Congress. The AAP party seems to be mixing issues by crossing the constitutional limits. To force its arrogance on the people could be a costly mistake. As some body has remarked Arvind Kejriwal must convert the poetry of politics to the prose of governance. Can he do it?

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