|Kejriwal … picture courtesy ..Hindustan Times|
COMMENT POLITICS POLLS AAP CORRUPTION
By PREM CHANDRAN
TRUTH SHOULD prevail; and the truth is that anti-corruption crusader Arvind Kejriwal who transformed himself into a politician, entered electoral politics and ruled Delhi state for about five years altogether is no angel. Most surprisingly, he is today doing the same things he, alongside a respected Anna Hazare, had fought tooth and nail. Talk is that the AAP is taking money in crores as donations from those who seek works from Delhi government; and if Kejriwal is not directly seeking or taking it, he’s doing so through his second-in-command, Manish Sisodia. The allegation raised by an AAP candidate’s son, who said his father paid Rs 6crore to AAP to be a candidate in the Lok Sabha polls, comes on top of these, and is a serious matter.
In part, this kind of a fund collection is understandable because one cannot fight an election without money. No one expects of Kejriwal or Sisodia to sell their property and fund the AAP for its electoral fights. Yet, this kind of a fund collection is what the Congress party did on a larger scale, everywhere, which finally led to scams of the worst proportions, as in the CWG scam, the Coal Scam, the VVIP chopter scam and not to exclude the 2G Spectrum scam in which the DMK too was named and shamed. This brings us to the central question, what difference a Kejriwal makes to Indian politics? Nothing, other than that he walks on cheap slippers bought from the Khan Market, while the army of crooks in politics wear expensive ones.
The tragedy before us today is that the anti-corruption movement of year 2011 has itself come to naught. Anna Hazare who came to Delhi and acted as a rallying point had something special about him. He had a clean image, a social activist to the core, and like several other reform-minded leaders of the past from Maharashtra, he too lived a simple life and maintained a blemishless image. With Kejriwal breaking ranks and entering electoral politics, the movement broke up. For anti-corruption activists, this has come as a rude shock.
Eventually, Kejriwal proved himself to be an unprincipled politician. With no majority for the AAP, Kejriwal boldly formed a ministry in Delhi after the assembly polls in which Congress CM Sheila Dikshit was ousted from power — lock, stock and barrel. Kejriwal did so in a most surprising way. He took the help of the Congress to form the ministry even at a time when the tricolour party was seen to be the epitome of corruption – reason why it was booted out of power in both assembly and Lok Sabha polls. What Kejriwal crafted was a shaky and unprincipled alliance, which lasted just months, only for the Congress to pull the rug from under his feet sooner than later. Kejriwal made use of the sympathy factor, as a result, and in the assembly polls held at the start of 2015, the AAP made a virtual sweep of the polls and romped home to success. The BJP, by then, was a divided house, with the Modi-Shah duo keeping veterans in the sidelines. The Congress was anathema to the voters at that stage, and BJP acted wrongly on two fronts – in keeping an influential leader like Advani aside of the campaign, and in projecting former ‘super cop’ Kiran Bedi as its choice for CM. All these benefited Kejriwal.
In all fairness, it must be admitted that Kejriwal tried to run the Delhi government in a clean manner. He was not corrupt, though some of those who were part of his ministry created a bad name for his government later. Skeletons started falling from the AAP cupboard for the reason that Kejriwal depended on men who were of a different kind. The party itself was hastily cobbled, and those who rallied around him were not necessarily ones with any commitment to fight corruption or ensure cleanliness in public life.
Add to this, the problems Kejriwal posed from the BJP and PM Modi. For Modi, helping Kejriwal run the government smoothly meant the BJP will remain in the sidelines in a state which hosts the central government. Giving pinpricks to Kejriwal and putting hurdles in his way came naturally to the BJP and its leadership. With the result, the AAP cannot boast today of having run governance effectively. Rather, several things moved slowly in respect of development, infra-growth etc for the reason that Delhi has a non-BJP government at a time when the saffron party held power at the Centre.
Similar scenarios existed elsewhere under Congress governments. When the Shiv Sena took control of Mumbai since the late 1980s, the successive Congress governments at the Centre lost their interest in the Western Metropolis. Today, Mumbai is in virtual chaos while the Thackery family made material gains. So with Kolkata, where Mamata Banerjee, the fighter, ran government with little support from the Centre. She was caught by a PM ambition, and it meant a constant fight against the BJP and efforts to act as a fulcrum around which the anti-Modi forces could be united.
Kerala, which has a long history of its MPs sitting mostly on the Opposition benches in Parliament, managed yet to have its growth process go ahead because of the huge amounts of money coming in by way of remittances from Keralites working abroad, and from income generated by rubber plantations in the past. Tamil Nadu, where the two Dravidian parties ran governments for decades, progress was not affected for the reason that these two parties were part of the UPA or NDA, and thus part of the governments at the Centre. They got what they asked for.
Kejriwal is taking the AAP to the people this time by projecting his “good” record in governance. The people of Delhi, who experienced his governance from close quarters, will judge him either way. He is also pressing for statehood to Delhi, which by itself will not make much of a difference. On his rival side are “Delhi’s girl” Priyanka Gandhi and another ‘girl’ Sheila Dikshit to drum up support for the Congress in this LS polls, while the BJP has several veterans including the PM to woo the people.
Truth is also that Kejriwal is no more a rallying point to the anti-BJP forces. If he won substantial votes in 2015 from Muslims, that scenario might not exist this time. When the Congress is in form, Muslims do not need a weakling like Kejriwal to take on their principal enemy, the BJP. Year 2015 was different. Everyone thought Congress, hit by Modi, was dead as dodo. Now, despite the Congress-mukht slogan raised by the Shah-Modi duo, the tricolour party is here to stay. Karnataka has proven it, followed by the five-state assembly polls, and much before that the Gujarat assembly polls, or Punjab for that matter. Congress is very much alive. Where the Congress is defunct, like West Bengal, a regional leader still commands backing of the Muslims.
What the Muslims look for, simply, is protection. They are a simple people, and they have been wronged time and again. The cow vigilantes and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad have acted in ways as to hurt them the most, even in the years after the Gujarat riots. Modi as PM has not gone hammer and tongs at them and stressed that the Indian Constitution would be his Gita, not vice versa. There then was a time for healing the old wounds. At the same time, if Muslims fight Modi and the “Hindu party” the BJP, which they are doing with great vigour in this polls, Modi and the BJP have a right to at least be mindful of such a scenario. Let us be as much sensible. Christians, as a community, are equally intolerant of Modi and the “Hindu party”, also for the heck of it, but they sugar-coat their sentiments and act in a tactful manner. Muslims, rather, act straight. If they stab, they stab from the front.
As long as the Congress is around, the good thing about it is that it accommodates all, including very many crooks and robbers in the form of politicos, and some of them could even becomes CMs. That’s the way the Congress is. Yet, the BJP has lessons to learn from the Congress; and so with Kejriwal; he has a lot to learn from everyone around. His misadventures in Varanasi and elsewhere showed he had no ear to the ground. This is not the way forward for a mature leader.
How would an India judge Kejriwal when he, this time again, sought to ally with the Congress to fight the LS polls? The present is inseparable from the past and in fact a continuation of the past. The Congress party remained at the apex of corruption; and given a chance, it would again go berserk. A party and leader that fight against corruption cannot have the Congress as their bedfellow. Even attempting it, as Kejriwal did, presented a strange scenario. One with some principles would not go that length. Kejriwal did not understand this as he was so crazy about winning elections and wielding power. In the process, he lost his respectability as a politician and the anti-corruption movement lost not just a warrior but its very own clout too. It disintegrated into nothing, thanks largely to Kejriwal. His future could as well be in the dustbins of history. email@example.com
–The writer is a former Editor and an activist with India Against Corruption