Fall of the Anarchists – Part I

No one was really surprised. In fact, the media houses have been predicting that Arvind Kejriwal will resign on the 16th February when the court ruling on Lt. Governor’s stand is awaited. February 16th, give or take a couple of days, they said.

At some sections of the public he is being hailed as the martyr, the brave leader who threw his power like it meant nothing. Karunanidhi, the DMK leader who used to use every technique in the book to stay in power, had once declared that ‘Ideology is like our dhoti, power is like the towel we wear.’ Although he himself has very often thrown out his dhoti than his towel, this is what people thought Kejriwal has done, thrown out his towel and retained his dhoti.

Though it may seem like that, our first reaction upon hearing this news was, ‘how clever!’ For the past couple of weeks Kejriwal has been trying every trick in the book to kick himself out of power. Some way or the other he had hoped that Congress would pull the plug and make him a martyr. The Congress has steadfastly refused to do so, and, on the other hand, actually took the ringside ticket to enjoy the circus his government was enacting. When he realised that Congress wasn’t going to budge, he took it upon himself to turn a martyr. And the route he took to do that reeks of authoritarianism, naivety bordering on arrogance, bigotry and ignorance.

From the beginning AAP’s government has been one great experiment in chaos and anarchy. True, we have seen several bumbling first-timer governments, but never before we have seen a government stumble so often and be so clueless.

There are two ways to approach the resignation. The first approach is towards Kejriwal’s ideology and strategy and other the ways of Indian democracy.

In short, Kejriwal’s ideology has been either my way or the highway. Anyone who questions him becomes corrupt and anyone who supports him becomes honest. In this respect, he seems to hold the ISI stamp of ‘Honesty’ and ‘Corrupt’ which he can stamp on whoever he wants. There are no trials in his court, only verdicts delivered at the first appearance.

Also, on the question of corruption, he likes to portray simplistic Shankar-type picture. In Tamil director Shankar’s movies, which largely address the issue of corruption, a few people are identified as corrupt. These are mainly government ministers, some police officers and some government officials. These are corrupt people and, therefore, the villains. And the rest of the world is actually honest, and, consequently, the victims. I am currently reading the book ‘Swaraj’ written by Kejriwal. I am still half way through and plan to write a review once I finish reading. In this book, he often uses the word ‘people’ to mean ‘victims’ and ‘honest’. In a district, a collector is corrupt and people are victims; in another, a minister is corrupt and people, including the collector of that district, are victims. Somewhere else, the school teacher is corrupt and the people, including the panchayat president and the people, are victims.

These stories provide the right effect: they anger you, enrage you into questioning the system; and it is easy to miss the point, which is the collector, the teacher, the panchayat president, they are all ‘people’ anyway and are part of the system. He claims that a Panchayat president has no real power, implying that given power, he or she can deliver good. In another story, he accuses a panchayat president of embezzlement and says that gram-sabha, i.e. village council should be given real power to ‘reign-in’ the panchayat presidents.

Such simple narratives are useful for a film script. They make the audience angry, and scream for justice. In the end, the hero emerges, bashes up all the bad guys and emerges victorious. The ‘corrupt’ are defeated and the people, who are ‘honest’, rejoice that the justice has been delivered.

This is what Arvind Kejriwal’s ideology towards corruption is, something far simpler than even director Shankar’s. During his 49-day regime, he had accused the police, the central government, the Lt. Governor, the Ambanis, the opposition, the electricity board, the power-distribution companies of being corrupt. At the end of the five-year term the entire Delhi except the 27 MLAs AAP would have been declared as corrupt.

And what is his solution anyway? For instance, when asked by Rajdeep Sardesai in an interview about what he would do to reform police, Kejriwal said that he would identify corrupt policemen, punish them severely, make this as the model and the rest would fall in line. I was so shocked by his naivety that I couldn’t even laugh. And then, a couple of days later, when he went and sat on his illegal dharna, he called for policemen to come forward and join his protest. The same ‘corrupt’ police whom he wanted to reign in, whom he wanted to punish ‘severely’.

Anyway, Kejriwal knows that his is a minority government. He knows that he doesn’t have the numbers to pass the Jan Lokpal bill. Whether justified or not, both the Congress and the BJP have problems with that bill and they are not going to support it on the floor-test. He also knows that there are legal tangles even on the question of whether the Delhi government can table the bill without the Lt. Governor’s consent. The jury is out on that question and the court’s opinion is due in two days. There are pages and pages of articles written by constitutional experts about this, which means what Kejriwal has set out to do was not only doomed to fail, but was also illegal. True, that he wanted to root out corruption, but you can’t root out one illegal act with another. Well, that’s not the point. The point is he knew his Jan Lokpal is going to fail, which means, of course, the corruption is going to stay.

I think he went ahead because he wanted it to fail so that he can throw in the towel. He can claim martyrdom. Probably many of the aam aadmis would think he has been betrayed. That the panacea called Jan Lokpal could not be passed. That the entire brand of ‘corrupt politicians’ have ganged up against their lone, honest leader.

I think otherwise. I think a bigoted man has attempted to play a clever gamble. An anarchist has waged a war on Indian democracy and, thankfully, failed. I think that one of the worst state governments in India has come to an end. I hope the Delhi public is smart enough to not elect AAP again. I hope they don’t win even a single seat. They are street activists who are best to stay in the streets. Constitutional Assembly is not the place for the anarchists.