To describe the exit of Arvind Kejriwal from the post of chief minister of Delhi as 'good riddance' will be a mild way of expressing relief. In less than 50 days of being in power, Kejriwal seemed to be interested in only one thing: staying in the headlines with the help of theatrics. If had continued, we might well have expected the sprawling Delhi assembly being abandoned in favour of Ramlila Ground or Talkatora Stadium as the venue for holding assembly sessions! Governance was nowhere among the priorities of the government, hinting how unprepared the Kejriwal company was for a job that circumstances had thrust upon them rather unexpectedly after the Delhi assembly polls last December.
Here was a much admired general who beat a hasty retreat as soon as the real fight had begun without showing even a glimpse of his capability to lead from the front. One newspaper headline described him as a 'hit and run' man. His political opponents had no doubt that his resignation from the post he held in Delhi was the first part of a scripted drama. The second part will be unfolding itself quickly as the Lok Sabha polls draw nearer. But many will be wondering what will be the country's fate if, as during the Delhi assembly polls, the Aam Admi Party, surpassing all estimates, comes to power at the Centre, naturally with Arvind Kejriwal as the prime minister. Will he govern the country the way he governed-or not governed-Delhi? Will the rule books be thrown to the wind? Will vigilantism become kosher? Will foreign relations matter? Will dissent be tolerated by the megalomaniacs, self-righteous and arrogant egoists who might come to rule us? Can any action be expected against a minister in such a government who had once faced charges of resorting to 'fraud'? What happens when another senior functionary of the party is found to have grossly undervalued a newly acquired property? What will be the AAP's definition of austerity? Five-bedroom duplex bungalow and big SUVs for 'aam admi' (common man) representatives?
The self-confessed anarchist Kejriwal has seen the middle class support to him evaporating fast after he and his party began to enact one drama after another upon assuming power in Delhi. The chief minister leading a street protest! And so fond is the chief minister of the 'aam admi' that he hurriedly runs away from them at the first 'janata darbar', promised to them, and, in fact, abandons the plan to hold daily 'darbars'. Before Kejriwal, Mamata Bannerje was considered another maverick politician who was propelled by popular vote into the position of the chief minister of a state, West Bengal. But grant this to Ms Bannerje; she has never claimed that being an 'anarchist' is a political virtue, as Kejriwal has. She is at odds with the Central government but she has not declared a 'war' on it. Of course, Kejriwal retains his admirers and the vocal and aggressive supporters. They see him as a messiah who, they say, delivered much more in less than two months than what most governments would not have been able to do even after two years: Free water, electricity tariff reduction, taking on the Central government, preparing a 'strong' Jan Lokpal Bill (ombudsman) that will spare no one as though corruption is that easy to eliminate. Drum-beating is suspected as a ruse to hide the shortcomings.
That his announcement over free water and electricity tariff reduction were criticized by well-informed people did not trouble him. Nor did it bother him that his decision to 'reward' electricity consumers who had not paid their bills was not only discriminatory but amounted to encouraging lawlessness. If it is possible to think of another messiah other than Kejriwal to appear on the scene then expect him to announce that after he comes to power those who dodge taxes would be suitably rewarded. It will be especially appealing to those who deal in 'black money'. Having cut his political teeth in the anti-graft movement of Anna Hazare, it is not surprising that one of the 'achievements' that he and his party have been touting is that corruption in Delhi is down, if not out. A quick random survey among the hawkers, petty shopkeepers and vegetable vendors showed that nothing of the sort has happened. One petty shopkeeper, who ironically praised Kejriwal for his anti-corruption 'crusade', said that he continued to pay 'hafta' (bribe) to the police as it ensured him peace and the price he paid was small!
The auto-rickshaw drivers in Delhi, always a law unto themselves, will probably be mourning the exit of Kejriwal because he had announced virtual immunity to them from 'harassment' by the police. Kejriwal took away the power of the police to take action against them for misbehaving with the passengers and, instead, asked the transport department of Delhi administration to deal with complaints from the public. First of all, the shortage of personnel in the transport department will make their task difficult. More importantly, can anyone who has had to deal with the transport department believe that its personnel cannot be corrupted? The biggest thrill that Kejriwal provided to his supporters was the naming of 28 'corrupt' politicians and accusing India's top industrialists, particularly Mukesh Ambani of Reliance, as being 'looters' who, according to him, controlled the Central and state governments and major political parties.
Obviously, Kejriwal and Company believe in absolute 'freedom of speech'; when the Lt. Governor of Delhi decided to act according to the Constitution and law, he was termed a 'Congress agent'. The media played a major role in building up Kejriwal and his party. Yet when uncomfortable questions began to be directed at him and his party leaders, they accused the media of being paid by their detractors. Who says that a man holding a 'responsible' position should be cautious about what he speaks? And you ask him to be humble and polite! The list of the 'corrupt' politicians and the accusations against top industrialists assured free publicity for Kejriwal and his party. But these accusations and disclosures would have been taken seriously if they had been accompanied by some semblance of evidence. The line taken by Kejriwal and Company is that their job is restricted to hurling charges; it is not their job to prove them. Will that logic hold if someone were to level charges against Kejriwal and his top associates?
We are supposed to believe that Kejriwal, a former Income Tax official and whose wife continues to work in that department, and his associates are the only clean public figures in the country. It is possible that for the short time that he has run a political party the funds received from known and unknown sources, in and out of India, have kept him and his party going. It may, however, be relevant to ask if he has satisfactorily answered the query about certain funds he received from abroad and even the allegation that were aired during the height of the Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement about funds being diverted to an NGO run by Kejriwal. Question overruled!