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Kejriwal: The method in his madness

Author: Sandhya Jain
Publication: Niticentral.com
Date: February 17, 2014
URL: http://www.niticentral.com/2014/02/16/kejriwal-the-method-in-his-madness-190589.html

Arvind Kejriwal’s bare-faced lie that he has no house to go to after relinquishing office as Chief Minister and will retain his official accommodation until his daughter’s term examinations in school are over (around May), completes the web of lies he and his close associates wove when they lured citizens of Delhi into believing that they were the panacea for the city’s woes. Instead of getting down to the task of governance, the top leadership of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) unveiled its plans to use the National Capital as a gateway to the Lok Sabha to checkmate the ascent of Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

One can see, with hindsight, that the covert request for the allotment of two adjacent five-bedroom duplex flats on Bhagwan Das Road, to be used as residence and office, was made with the general election in mind, to meet the needs of the fledgling AAP. This farsightedness was aborted by the public furore over the extravagance of the accommodation for a man professing simple values; Kejriwal was forced to settle for a more modest house on Tilak Lane. He intends to stay here until the Lok Sabha election are over, because it is a far more convenient location than his wife’s Government accommodation in Kaushambi, Uttar Pradesh.

Such action suggests long-term strategic planning by powerful forces, which doubtless explains the windfall monies that regularly fall into AAP’s coffers almost every week. Since political parties of longer public standing have never had it so easy, there is a legitimate case for a close scrutiny of its accounts.

Kejriwal’s assertion that he has no house is easily disproved. As recently as November 2013, Arvind Kejriwal and his wife declared moveable and immovable assets worth Rs. 2.10 crore in an affidavit to the Election Commission, while filing his nomination papers from the New Delhi Assembly constituency. Their assets include two flats at Indirapuram, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, and one at Shivani, Haryana, in the name of Arvind Kejriwal, and a house in Gurgaon in the name of Sunita Kejriwal.

Freed from the distractions of office and Assembly, Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP can now focus on the Lok Sabha election. They believe they have an emotive issue in the ‘sacrifice’ of the 49-day Government for the sake of the Jan Lokpal Bill, even though Delhi already has a Lokayukta. The plan is to contest over 350 seats, an indication of jaw-dropping wealth and a level of confidence normally associated with those backed by dollar power to bring about regime change in third world countries. Kejriwal will strategise and lead the party’s Lok Sabha campaign; most pre-poll surveys give it a 7-8 per cent vote share and a similar number of seats, provided the fiasco of its governance model in Delhi does not hurt its chances.

In just two weeks of assuming charge, the AAP made some bizarre moves on the issue of electricity and water, the main popular issues that brought it to power in Delhi. It had claimed on the basis of a study that the private distribution companies had escalated tariff by a whopping 55 per cent due to the complicity of the Sheila Dikshit Government. Instead of taking steps to reduce the tariff, Kejriwal cavalierly offered free electricity to households consuming up to 400 units per months – the cost of which will be borne by the taxpayer; the constituency that voted him to power was later slapped with an 8 per cent surcharge. On the water front, he dangerously announced free water up to 700 kilolitres per month per household, with the proviso that crossing the threshold would result in paying for the full amount consumed. Since the truly needy sections of society lack piped water or metered connections, this won the disapproval of all thinking citizens.

By his third week in office, Arvind Kejriwal was itching to quit the office of Chief Minister. On January 20 and 21, he shocked the whole country with an organised display of anarchy, sitting in ‘dharna’ outside Rail Bhavan to demand the sacking of some police officers to divert attention from Law Minister Somnath Bharti’s illegal raid against Uganda citizens for allegedly running a drug racket, which was medically established as false. Instead of asking Bharti to step down, Kejriwal announced a ‘dharna’ at the North Block office of Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to demand that Delhi Police be brought under the Delhi Government; when Section 144 CrPC was imposed, he resorted to ‘dharna’ outside Rail Bhavan. Vital roads and some metro stations were shut down and citizens inconvenienced for two working days.

Unfazed, Kejriwal invited the public (in reality party workers) to join the ‘dharna’ and threatened to stretch it for 10 days and abort the Republic Day celebrations by overrunning Rajpath. He not only wantonly violated the law and made a mockery of Constitutional propriety, but is responsible for the violence that occurred, in which one policeman was injured and a woman journalist heckled and slapped.

By Republic Day, conscientious citizens were tiring of Kejriwal’s unending dramatics. President Pranab Mukherjee availed of his annual address to the nation to State that “Election do not give any person the licence to flirt with illusions. Those who seek the trust of voters must promise only what is possible. Government is not a charity shop. Populist anarchy cannot be a substitute for governance. False promises lead to disillusionment, which gives birth to rage, and that rage has one legitimate target: those in power”. The President also warned against forces aiming to create a fractured mandate in the Lok Sabha election and leave the nation “hostage to whimsical opportunists”.

By this time, there were several ominous signals about AAP’s intentions. Its founder-member Prashant Bhushan called for a referendum on Army presence in Jammu & Kashmir. The backlash forced Arvind Kejriwal to disown the statement, but Prashant Bhushan went ahead and called for a referendum on the deployment of security forces in Maoist-affected areas! These assaults on the unity and sovereignty of the nation are not accidental; Binayak Sen, held guilty of colluding with Maoists and sentenced to life imprisonment by a Raipur court in 2010, is a prominent member of the AAP. Political scientist and psephologist Yogendra Yadav, is connected to Maoist groups, specifically late Vinod Mishra, general secretary of the CPI-ML and the brain behind the ‘red terror’ on West Bengal campuses during the 1970s.

The tragic incidents with youngsters from the North-East, particularly the tragic death of Arunachal Pradesh student Nido Taniam, coupled with pressure from MLAs Vinod Kumar Binny (expelled AAP), Shoaib Iqbal (JD-U) and Rambir Shokeen (Independent) exposed Kejriwal’s willful neglect of his official duties. This punctured his plan to engage in theatrics until the Election Commission announced the election schedule and imposed the code of conduct behind which he could hide. The original plan was always to lead the Lok Sabha election as sitting Chief Minister of Delhi; Binny made that impossible and forced him to cut his losses. The Lokpal Bill is not a legitimate issue on which to squander the Government and waste the massive expenditure involved in the Delhi election, but it provided a convenient escape route.

The final denouement was utterly contrived. Ordering a CAG audit of the accounts of power discoms was fine and met a long-standing demand of resident’s welfare associations. But a sincere leader would also study how a State like Goa is selling power at Rs 1.20 per unit, without losses!

Ultimately, the die was cast with the startling decision to confront the Centre on the issue of gas pricing and lodging FIRs against the Union Petroleum Minister and chairman of Reliance Industries. It has reinforced the view in some quarters that Delhi should return to its old status as a Union Territory.
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