A month of meaningless spectacles

American statesman and former president of United States, Thomas Quincy Adams once famously said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” In the current context, the quote fits most appropriately for the politics of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and the expectations people have of him.

The Delhi chief minister is an extra-ordinary politician and this is best defined in his relationship with the media, which created; first a social movement under his leadership and later unleashed a political campaign. I do not want to fault either the media or Kejriwal for this though. He raised his voice against corruption of the Congress-led government in Delhi and conned both the media and people into believing that he could clean the Augean’s stable.

What worries me, however, is the media’s role as watchdog vis-à-vis the Delhi government. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has just completed a month in office and there is not even an attempt to critically scrutinise the performance of this government. As senior journalist Shekhar Gupta recently said on the micro-blogging site Twitter, “Kejriwal the first real rock star of our politics. Even his day-to-day health niggles; cough and raised blood sugar are national headlines.”

I find it appalling that valuable space is being given to whether the chief minister would have air conditioners or not in his huge bungalow. How do the health, dietary habits and habitat preferences of a chief minister qualify to be a hard news, I solemnly wonder.

This trend is worrisome as during the period that the chief minister was away recuperating in a Bengaluru ayurvedic clinic; people in the city, who had voted him to govern, died of swine flu and strike by the doctors. Delhi is battling an outbreak of epidemic-like spread of flu but what steps did the AAP government take to control the spread? In these past few days the only act of the government’s health minister, which got reported, was the reconstitution, rightly or wrongly, of the Delhi Medical Council.

The AAP-led government would do well to realise that governance doesn’t mean just political accommodation, as evidenced in its acts of creation of Delhi Dialogues Commission and appointment of a crowd of parliamentary secretaries. Without entering into the constitutional validity of these appointments, the message from these moves makes it amply clear that the priority of the government was to consolidate the chief minister’s position within the party, which is facing a debilitating fight between different factions.

I may be charged of making a mountain out of what the media thinks is not even a molehill, since I belong to a rival political party. However, I realise the onerous responsibility on us to raise questions on forums other than the legislative assembly, where the AAP commands a brute majority. In taking my point forward, and without proposing to be politically mean, I just wanted to check-up their 70-point manifesto.

The media is already out giving space to AAP’s propaganda as Delhi government’s achievements. In between the claim and the result there lies a shadow. They have gone to town, claiming that they have given relief on steep power tariffs and water supply within a month of coming to power.

The test of any government is to provide adequate power and ensure that water will arrive in the summer months. We would have to wait for the summer cycle to start before giving accolades on its ‘achievements’. The state government has also tried to usurp the achievement of the NarendraModi-led union government for facilitating the issue of licenses to e-rickshaws and pass it as its own. The issue of license has been made possible through an act of Parliament and is not an instrument of state government.

More importantly, the government must realise that the city’s transport system did not just constitute of his support groups like the auto and the e-rickshaws. There are larger issues to be addressed like procurement of buses for the Delhi Transport Corporation and strengthening the enforcement wing of the transport department. None seem to be on the horizon of the new government. Most interesting has been the government going back to people asking how best they could provide free wi-fi. This is essentially going back on their promise.

The chief minister managed an escape from Delhi’s polluted air for 12 days. The World Health Organisation has ranked Delhi as the most polluted among 1,600 cities globally. What worries me, however, is that the Kejriwal-led government has so far not even taken note of it or announced measures to address air pollution. In the area of education, the government has gone ahead with ‘populist measures’ like issuing notices to private schools, but it’s government-run schools, which are crying out for attention.

After twelve days of treatment, Kejriwal is back in Delhi and he would be planning to keep his house in order to deliver better governance in the long term. He knows the burden of the huge promises his party made during the run up to the elections. Innovative steps distinguish between a leader and a follower and Mr. Clean will have to showcase those cutting edge solutions for Delhi by which he wants to transform it into a model city.

(The writer is Chairman, Education Committee, South MCD and general secretary, Delhi BJP)
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