Millennium Post

Leading towards new India?

Somnath Bharti not only suspects that at least some Africans are drug-peddlers and prostitutes, he also thinks that a section of the media is on Narendra Modi’s payroll. Manish Sisodia, on the other hand, advised journalists not to act as spokespersons of the police when questioning Bharti on his mission to cleanse Khirki, a suburb of Delhi, of wrong-doers.

Like his ministerial colleagues, Arvind Kejriwal gave his considered opinion during his dharna in the heart of the national capital that while some newsmen are okay, others are aligned to the Congress and the BJP. According to the chief minister, he received a call from the reporter of a television channel, who said that his boss had told him to write negative stories on the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), but he could not find any critics of the party. ‘So, he got a few to speak against the government. Is this journalism?’

The reason for the chief minister’s ire is his belief that he and his party are beyond criticism not only because they are in the right, but are also pursuing a noble cause to rid the country of corruption and reform the system. Ipso facto, anyone who questions them cannot but be in the pay of political opponents. The critics may also be the part of a conspiracy, as the chief minister’s charge against the television channel shows.

What is noteworthy about the AAP is that nearly all its allegations are unproven, whether it is about the drug and sex racketeering in Khirki or the motive of the women’s commission of Delhi or the TV boss. Since this preference for shooting from the hip has served the party well in the past, vide its allegations against Robert Vadra, Salman Khurshid, the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and others when it was in the opposition, the party still seems to believe that merely muddying the waters can yield political dividends. But, the fact that it has to act more responsibly when in power has escaped its attention.

Not only that. Its penchant for tarring all its opponents with a black brush is a continuation of the habit from the time when, as members of Anna Hazare’s team, Kejriwal and Co acquired a pompous, self-righteous attitude. What this sense of rectitude apparently fosters is a Manichean vision of the world, where everything is seen in black and white with the crusaders in the lily-white apparel of angels and their adversaries enveloped by the smog of moral turpitude.

It is this pious attitude which made Anna’s supporters praise him in extravagant terms – Anna is India, India is Anna – and the man himself trashed not only the existing system, but also the voters, describing them as bikau or purchasable with liquor and sarees. Kejriwal is motivated by the same holier-than-thou outlook. But, having attained power, he is facing several disadvantages. One is the fact that some of his ministers are unsuitable for high office. As Bharti’s behaviour shows, he is not the epitome of sobriety. That he levelled unsubstantiated charges against the media after being muzzled when he threatened to spit on Arun Jaitley and Harish Salve suggests that he is not an asset to his outfit.

The other is Kejriwal himself. Once described by Anna as ‘power hungry’, Kejriwal has demonstrated more than once that he is temperamentally a disruptive element. This trait in his character was as much evident when he asked, in seeming innocence, ‘what’s wrong with blackmail?’ during Anna’s agitation, as now when he declared himself to be an ‘anarchist’. This attitude of permanent disaffection made him threaten to disrupt the Republic Day parade by calling thousands of his supporters to jam the Rajpath. He also mocked the day’s celebrations by saying that they were watched only by VIPs.

Arguably, Kejriwal is the first self-proclaimed insurgent who has ascended to the seat of power. Others holding similar views, like the Maoists, have chosen to remain outside the system. It is unclear whether the AAP’s objective is to break the system from within, as the communists threatened to do when they first came into power in the mid-1960s. But, what is evident is that the party and the chief minister will tie themselves up in legal knots in the coming days.

Their problems will stem not only from Bharti’s threatened use of salivary glands against his opponents, but also Kejriwal’s distinctive interpretation of the constitution with reference to sit-in protests in areas where prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC are in force. The judiciary will have to mull over at least two illegalities. One is whether a chief minister can break the law and the other is whether a minister can ask the police to enter a house without a search warrant.

In the AAP’s view, such steps are permissible because of the party’s crusading zeal to set things right. The drawing of a parallel by an AAP functionary between Gandhi’s salt satyagraha and Kejriwal’s dharna underlines this approach. However, there are others, like the Shiv Sena, who have seen in the dharna the gyrations of an Item No. in a Bollywood film.


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