Tuesday, January 21, 2014
The New Year has been full of excitement and fun in Delhi from the very start. In the run up to Delhi Assembly Elections, it had become quite clear that Congress would be defeated but there were strong indications that BJP would form the Government in Delhi. What no one cared about was the Joker in the pack – the Aam Admi Party. The comical campaign style adopted by an unassuming Arvind Keriwal who looked more like the Asian paints logo rather than a Neta was something Delhites had never witnessed before. Starting by exposing the mightiest in the Government or out of it – 15 ministers, Robert Vadra, Ambanis et al, Kejri went on fanning public anger and serving a motley fare of entertainment like, clambering over electricity poles and restoring connections to defaulters and yet asking them not to pay their bills endeared him to one and all. No political establishment has ever evoked so much excitement in the media and the masses. No Party in India’s history was ever borne quite like the Aam Admi Party - comprising wholly of non-politicians, commoners and professionals driven by anger against a corrupt, inefficient and callous regime. Imbued by strong hatred against the VIP culture of this regime, they revengefully made humble ‘Jharu’ their Party symbol.
At first, all major Parties discounted Kejriwal and his AAP as no more than a band of backstreet urchins. And lo! Arvind Kejriwal, the man they all had derided so contemptuously, was not only enthroned as Delhi’s Chief Minister but the fierce anti-corruption crusader suddenly turned soft and received support from the same very Party he had called ‘mother of all corruption in the Indian politics’. He had earlier sworn on his children that he or his Party would never have any truck either with Congress or with BJP since they both patronise corruption. He went on to affirm vociferously, “Today I swear on my children that we shall never give or take support from Congress or BJP.” He was quick to recant that oath without any sign of regret.
Agreed, politicians are not known to be apostles of truth. They all speak untruths but Kejri is not a politician – at least that is what he claims. People expected to remain truthful, transparent and ethical in all his dealings. He had entered the fray riding on high principles to clean up the politics in the country. He had vowed to bring power to the people by giving meaning to Democracy (‘of the people, for the people, by the people’). He sold hope to the masses who had become disillusioned with the available political options. Dressed more shabbily than his peon and flaunting his crumpled trousers, dirty shoes and carelessly worn shirt, he came in like the next-door neighbour for the aam admi of Delhi slums. With the Jharu as his Party symbol, he became the mascot of the hard working and most exploited class of people. His Magsaysay award, his associates and their credentials indicated emergence of a new vision and hope for the much needed change in the way India governed itself. From the very beginning, they were ‘different’ in everything they said or did, although there are quite a few mavericks in the herd too! Yet, in the reign of scams, rapes and audacious crimes people saw emergence of a crusader who would vanquish corruption and usher in the golden age! Kejri was always sharp and direct in his assault. His abhorrence to politicians and their practices had no parallel. Remember him waving papers and shouting, “here’s the evidence….Shiela Dixit and her associates will be in jail if FIR is registered in seven days”! The crescendo he raised overshadowed the best of Bollywood box office hits. His blitzkrieg kicked up so much of battlefield din and dust that for a while it screened the Modi tsunami of good governance campaign that swept far and wide across India.
Today, awakened Indians can see through the overt rituals and symbolic gestures, which have meaning only if earnestly practised in real life. The khadi kurta and loincloth were a poor man’s attire in times of the British Raj. It was adopted by the freedom fighters to symbolise their solidarity with the masses of rural India at that time. With the passage of time, cultural gap between the Neta and the people has widened so phenomenally that today the appearance of a Khadi clad politician inspires more repugnance and fear than confidence and goodwill. While corruption is rampant in all departments, brazenness and arrogance have become hallmarks of India’s VIP culture. Kerjri, a Bania by birth and an accounts man by trade, moved aggressively to cash it all. He was ruthless and unsparing in his tirade against the very vyavastha of governance that had degenerated to a self-serving clique of Politico-bureaucratic nexus. He was quick to declare that if elected, he and his ministers/MLAs would continue to live in the same mohallas where they had thus far lived. They spurned beacon lights, luxury cars and personal security.
Kejri’s AAP lot had set its high standards on their own volition. They roused popular expectations as if they would transform the system overnight with an alchemist’s touch. Alas, that was not to be. Their veneer of ‘aam admi’ – honesty and simplicity – started falling apart soon after assumption of power. Kejri and his coterie remain obsessed with their demonstrative activism even when they are at the steering wheel. Ensconced within the Secretariat building they feel suffocated. The on-going dharna betrays their hypocrisy. Casting away all respect for Rule of Law, they have defiantly refused taking action against the delinquent law minister for his open brazenness who also stands already indicted by the judiciary. And yet, making transfer of a couple of police officers involved in unsavoury inter-action with the same minister an issue, the entire Government stops working and sits on dharna! Ego has taken over governance in Delhi whereas prestige should never have been an issue for Kejri and his team because they flaunt simplicity and boast of being servants of the people.
For them there is no better place than Ram Lila grounds or Jantar Mantar to run the Government and hold the Assembly sessions. Kejri wants to do it all himself and his hypocritical side has started showing. The unmanageable crowds in his first Janata Durbar made him flee for safety and he had to abandon the idea at its birth. Kejri had to give up the luxurious 10-bedroom twin-apartment residence after adverse media publicity. The much-hyped style of conducting ‘Referendum’ or ‘participative democracy’ is no different from the manner in which Khap panchayats congregate and take decisions of their choice. All parties hold rallies, localised meetings and enlist similar support to the agenda they espouse. AAP ministers have come in news almost always for wrong reasons like Rakhi Birla joining issues with street children playing cricket for inadvertently letting their ball drop on the minister’s car; Somnath Bharti, the Law Minister, first indicted by the Judiciary for ‘tampering with the evidence’ in a case and later kicking up a un unsavoury controversy by raiding houses of some foreigners from where nothing incriminating has come to light. No political party in the country – not even Faruq Abdullah’s National Conference or Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party – agreed the weird of Prashant Bhushan’s repeated suggestion about pulling out the Army from J&K and holding referendum/plebiscite there.