What we are witnessing in Delhi today is historic – for the first time since Independence a legitimate political party has refused to play by the rules that all political parties in India have battened on for sixty-five years; for the first time a State Government has taken on the Central Government at its own doorstep; for the first time a Chief Minister and his entire Cabinet are sitting in protest in their own capital; for the first time their own police force is ranged against them in their thousands.
The immediate reason for this may be the demand for the suspension of five police officials, but the actual reason is more basic, and fundamental to any democracy — accountability of the rulers to the ruled.
The rulers are not just the politicians and the bureaucrats – they are also the larger constituency that benefits from the present status quo: the industrialists, the TV and news organisations, the “cognoscenti”, the “glitterati”, the South Delhi socialites, the “intelligentsia” that makes a nice living by appearing nightly on TV panel discussions: in short, all those who are comfortable with the status quo.
They have, with the assistance of disgruntled elements like Kiran Bedi and Captain Gopinath, unleashed a veritable barrage of abuse and condemnation against Kejriwal and his party over the last week, terming him a Dictator, Anarchist, Chief Protestor, Law-breaker and so on.
It is because they feel genuinely threatened by the forces that the AAP has unleashed, the ethical standards that it has prescribed and demonstrated, the personal examples that its leaders have shown. Because they know that if these paradigms become the norm of a new India then the sand castles that these privileged reside in shall come crumbling down in no time.
And so they accuse Kejriwal of not following prescribed conventions, protocol or procedure and thus encouraging anarchy. Let us look at just three of these alleged transgressions:
1. Law Minister Somnath Bharti asking for a meeting of judicial officers of Delhi. What is improper about this? Isn’t the judiciary a part of the government – funded, staffed, appointed by the state.
Yes, it is operationally independent of the government (as it should be) but it is certainly not a holy cow whose performance cannot be questioned, or monitored, by the people of this country through their elected representatives.
The judiciary is meant to serve the people, just as the bureaucracy is, and it cannot have internal accountability only. An elected government has to have the right to review its performance, especially given the pathetic state of the disposal of cases in courts.
In my view Mr. Bharti was within his rights to take a meeting of judicial officers to assess the shortcomings of the system (which is the first step to removing these shortcomings). Yes, he could have routed the request through the High Court, but this was a trivial error and certainly not the grievous violation that the media made it out to be.
To the contrary, the Law Minister should be lauded for his initiative in seeking to address the issue instead of washing his hands of it as ALL LAW MINISTERS OF THIS COUNTRY HAVE DONE SO FAR, as if the collapse of the judicial redressal system was no concern of the government!
2. Subsidies on water and power to small consumers in Delhi (something for which Kejriwal has been contemptuously branded a populist). Really?
The Central Government dishes out more than 160000 crores worth of subsidy every year on just three schemes (Mid-day Meals, MNREGA and Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan). Just about every state gives subsidies on water and power.
Here’s something Mr. Arnab Goswami and his kind should consider: the Golf Club in New Delhi which has about 4000 privileged members (all of whom are now arraigned against Kejriwal) has been given 250 acres of the most expensive real estate in the country worth 60000 crores for a paltry lease of about Rs. 15 lakhs per annum.
The annual return on Rs. 60000 crores should be at the very least Rs. 6000 crores: in effect, what this means is that every member of the Golf Club is being given a subsidy of Rs. 1.50 crores every year! The same is the case with the Gymkhana Club, another watering hole for the rich, the famous, and the now scared.
According to the latest report of the RBI, the total non-performing assets (NPA) of the Banks in India is more than Rs. 1.60 lakh crores.
NPA is just a euphemism for what the Vijay Mallyas and the Captain Gopinaths of the world owe to the aam aadmi (and refuse to pay) while flying all over the world in their private jets and pontificating in TV studios on the correct form of governance. Is it “populism” if indulged in by Kejriwal, and “entitlement” and “economic surge” when practiced by others ?
3. Somnath Bharti’s (Kejriwal’s Law Minister) mid-night visit to Khirkee village has generated so much misinformation, ignorance of the law, reverse racism and hypocritical harangues that it is sickening.
Shorne of all this, what does the entire incident amount to? Merely this: a Minister, in response to complaints by residents (which are on record, as is the police inaction on them for months) of a locality personally visits the spot and asks the police to take immediate action by raiding the building where illegal activities are taking place.
The police refuse and insult the Minister. This is the essence of the matter.
All the rest – search warrants, lack of female police, racism, urinating in public, cavity search(!) [the latest addition to the shrinking vocabulary of Ms. Meenakshi Lekhi] etc.- are red herrings and a smoke screen which no doubt the judicial Inquiry Commission shall see through.
How was the Minister wrong in asking the police to take action? Is it a Minister’s job to simply sit in an air-conditioned office and write on files? (a question which Kejriwal has asked and to which we are still waiting for an enlightened response from Ms. Barkha Dutt and gang).
Does the police require a search warrant to enter a place where they have reason to believe that illegal activities are going on? Really, Mr. Salve?
If so, then how do you explain their barging into the house in the Batla House encounter and shooting three people, WITHOUT A SEARCH WARRANT? Or their constant nocturnal forays into the poor whore-houses of GB Road whenever they are short of spending money?
No, sir, the opposition to Kejriwal from the BJP and the Congress, from the Arnab Goswamis, Rajdeep Sardesais, the Barkha Dutts, the Kiran Bedis, from the Editors of English dailies, from the captains of industry, from the Single Malts and Bloody Marys of Gymkhana and Golf Clubs, does not stem from any illegality or impropriety on his part, or from any ideological differences between them.
It stems from their complete and total failure to comprehend what Kejriwal is and what he stands for. It stems also from the deep social divide between the upper crust of society( who are happy with the status quo where their money, power and contacts can ensure them a comfortable life) and the masses below them who have to daily bear the brunt of the system inspired corruption, harassment, inconvenience and indignity that the present dispensation guarantees them.
This (hitherto unacknowledged and invisible) divide becomes clear when we compare the editorial slants of the English and Hindi channels in the coverage of the ongoing protests: the former are virulently anti AAP and only pop up panelists who support that view, while the latter appear to be more understanding of what AAP is trying to do.
Those who are denouncing Kejriwal for being an autocrat, anarchist, activist and for protesting at Raisina Road are missing the most obvious point of his movement – THAT KEJRIWAL WILL NOT PLAY BY THEIR RULES ANY MORE.
As they say in Las Vegas – you can’t beat the house, because the dice are loaded against you. Everyone wants him to play with their set of dice which they mysteriously call the Constitution and the CRPC!) but Kejriwal wants to play with his own dice, hence the confrontation.
They want him to pass a joint resolution of the Assembly for bringing the police under the Delhi govt.-he’s smart enough to see that the resolution will be thrown into the same waste paper basket where presumably the Ordinance on protecting convicted MPs was consigned by Rahul Gandhi.
They want him to be a good boy and take his dharna to Jantar Mantar where all civilised protests begin and inevitably end, while the govt. of the day can get on with its gerrymandering uninterrupted-he knows that unless he disrupts the comfortable existence of the bourgeois he may as well relieve himself in the Yamuna for all the difference he will make.
They want him to sit in the Secretariat and be guided by his bureaucrats and lose all touch with reality- he won’t fall for this Pavlovian routine. They desperately want him to become one of them, red light, siren, gun-toting commandos, Lutyen’s bungalow and all- he knows that if he falls for this he loses his USP and becomes just an intern in this hoary club of gnarled sinners.
They want him to follow the script co-authored by all the political parties of the day, not one excluded, because this script contains an agreed-upon plot, wherein politicians make noises but don’t act against each other, wherein corruption is just a sound-bite, where dynastic succession is a silently accepted sine qua non, where no one is interested in finding out whether the hundreds of proved Swiss bank accounts contain anything other than Swiss chocolates – Kejriwal, however, wants to write his own script with substantial inputs from the aam aadmi, not from the Ambanis or the Radias or the Shobhna Bhartias.
They want him to talk about corruption but not do anything about it, something Manish Tewari’s poetic flair would term “willing to wound but afraid to strike”, an attitude as old as Chanakya and Kautilya which offers all of us a catharsis via the good offices of Arnab Goswami and little else- but Kejriwal is no respecter of Machiavelli or Chanakya, his vocabulary is limited because he can only call a spade a spade, he is colour blind because he can only see in black and white (the shades of greys can be left for the likes of Manu Singhvi), and therefore he insists on striking, not just talking.
Is there any cause for surprise, therefore, at why the present dispensation, both in and out of government, is rattled by this five foot four inch “insect” from Ghaziabad? He is neither fish nor fowl, he defies understanding.
The establishment has made the supreme mistake of trying to counter him by quoting the rules of the game (loaded in the former’s favour, naturally!) they are past masters of- but Kejriwal has changed the rules, and now they don’t know how to control him or neutralise him.
For the time being only Kejriwal knows the new rules, and he is springing them on the carpet baggers one by one, catching them by surprise all the time.
Forget the English TV channels-they rarely get anything right. Forget the Manish Tewaris, the Kiran Bedis, the FICCI spokespersons, the Minakshi Lekhis- they are either scared witless or rank opportunists. What they all do have in common, however, is that they have failed to see how the common man-the aam aadmi-are gathering behind this dimunitive man with the perpetual cough.
The sincerity, integrity and commitment of this man is phenomenal, his capacity to harness the anger and frustration of the people is limitless. His defiance of accepted conventions and interpretations is not anarchy – it is nothing short of a revolution. When the people have had enough of injustice, callousness and indignity, they will not play by the rules of the rulers-they will make new rules.
The French Revolution would not have happened if the existing rules had been followed. Tehrir Square would not have happened if everyone swore by the old rules. Changing the rules, Mr. Home Minister, is not anarchy – it is the beginning of a people’s revolution.
The sooner we realise this the less pain in the transition, the less violence. No matter how the stand-off in Delhi ends – capitulation by the Home Minister and the Police, withdrawal of support by the Congress, imposition of President’s Rule, police violence on the protesters and their eviction – one thing is certain: Kejriwal is going nowhere.
He, and his paradigms, are here to stay and haunt our rulers. With his uncanny understanding of the pulse of the people he has re-written the rules of politics and governance.
There are now only two options Kejriwal has left the ruling class – either they change, or the people will change them.
|The author retired from the IAS in December 2010. A keen environmentalist and trekker he has published a book on high altitude trekking in the Himachal Himalayas: THE TRAILS LESS TRAVELLED.
His second book- SPECTRE OF CHOOR DHAR is a collection of short stories based in Himachal and was published in July 2019. His third book was released in August 2020: POLYTICKS, DEMOCKRAZY AND MUMBO JUMBO is a compilation of satirical and humorous articles on the state of our nation. His fourth book was published on 6th July 2021. Titled INDIA: THE WASTED YEARS , the book is a chronicle of missed opportunities in the last nine years. Shukla’s fifth book – THE DEPUTY COMMISSIONER’S DOG AND OTHER COLLEAGUES- was released on 12th September 2023. It portrays the lighter side of life in the IAS and in Himachal.
He writes for various publications and websites on the environment, governance and social issues. He divides his time between Delhi and his cottage in a small village above Shimla.
He blogs at http://avayshukla.blogspot.in/