Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A 'Victory' or Retreat, Mr. Kejriwal?

It looks eating his own words is the favourite dish Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal relishes the most. He enjoys it the most when sprinkled with the flavour of hypocrisy on it.

Announcing the termination of his 30-hour old dharna near the Railway Bhawan, New Delhi Mr. Kejriwal claimed it a victory of Delhi people. But what for? He was not fighting for a cause dear to the Delhi people. He had staked the prestige and honour of his government and party only for establishing the superiority of his two ministers whose conduct did not behove the office they held. It is not the function of a minister to order raids or conduct the same themselves. Or to catch hold of people, more so women, whom they suspect to be involved in any kind of crime. It is neither the duty of a minister to decide the course and manner of a police operation and command officers to act or not to act in a particular manner. They cannot grab the law in their own hands like a jhadoo, their party election symbol, and instead of using it to sweep the floor start beating people with it. This whole gimmickry has cost the people very dear. It put out of gear the normal life. It disturbed peace and tranquility in the country's national capital.

On the first day he exhorted party workers and supporters to keep off the dharna. Next day when he felt that his whole Cabinet alone was not strong enough to make Union Government bend, he issued a call to his MLAs to bring, in thousands, people to the dharna site. The people of Delhi already suffering the pangs of his dharna because of snarling traffic jams paid no heed to his appeals. Ultimately, as per media reports, Delhi AAP had to 'import' about 400 people from Haryana to give semblance of peoples' support.

Mr. Kejriwal also seems to be suffering from occasional bouts of selective amnesia. He had started off his protest march which culminated into a dharna outside Rail Bhawan with a demand that five police officers should be suspended pending probe for, in the words of AAP leaders, "dereliction of duty" for not acting on the diktat of Law Minister Somnath Bharti etc. Mr. Kejriwqal had accordingly declared that there could be no compromise on this demand under any circumstances. He rejected the advice of Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to maintain the dignity of office he occupies. He also turned down Mr. Shinde's suggestion to shift his dharna to the Jantar Mantar. "It is me", Mr. Kejriwal declared at noon on January 21 to the clapping of his horde, "and not Shinde where should I sit on dharna". He threatened that the dharna would linger on as long as even 10 days till his demands were met. When pointed out that this would hinder the Republic Day celebrations in the national capital, he remained unrelenting. When some political parties accused him of spreading anarchy, he proudly acknowledged himself to be "an anarchist". He retorted: "Politics cannot be played sitting in five-star comforts but sitting on the roads with the people". He forgot that administration cannot be run sitting in dharnas on the roads. Instead of maintaining law & order and obeying the laws of the land Kejriwal himself became a threat to law and order in the city.

But by the afternoon the 'proud anarchist' seemed rattled by lack of public support for his un-public cause, no-nonsense attitude of the Union government and Lt. Governor and, above all, the unkind weather. The solid ice of his arrogance of power melt away even in this bone-chilling cold. He became panicky for a face-saver. He, according to reports, wanted that at least these officers should be transferred, if not suspended, from their posts. The Lt. Governor stood his ground. He was kind enough not to humiliate the chief minister too far and gave a lollypop of sending just two police officers on paid leave for, according to reports, only three-four days. And this, Mr. Kejriwal took as a "great victory" for the Delhi people which for he himself was an ignominious humiliation. Kejriwal & company have let down their own government and Delhi people — those very people who catapulted them to power. The defiant Kejriwal who had the guts to ignore Union Home Minister condescended to relent as a show of respect to the Delhi Lt. Governor.

Kejriwal cabinet took oath of office swearing in the name of God/solemnly affirming that they "will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established" and "will do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution and the law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will."  They violated this oath and the Constitution by sitting on a dharna in defiance of prohibitory orders under section 144 and by calling upon policemen on duty to shed their uniform and join their protest dharna.

Mr. Kejriwal claimed that this 'victory' was a great step forward making Delhi Police hark the voice of the elected government of the people. His assumption is erroneous. On the other hand, his government's unbecoming behaviour has spoiled the case for handing over the reins of Delhi Police and responsibility for law and order to the "elected government of the people". The irresponsible and self-assertive conduct of the Kejriwal government has justified the denial of this right to the Delhi government. One shudders at the very thought of the prospect of what havoc lay in store for the people of Delhi had Kejriwal government full control over Delhi Police and law & order as other State governments have, particularly with the republic day celebrations just a few days ahead. It would have proved — there is no exaggeration to say — to be "a live bomb in the hands of a child".

Mr. Kejriwal's conduct has all the more been depressing for those who were discovering in him the qualities of being a good prime minister. Do these people stand by their impression of him? That is the question.                                                            


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