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The importance of being Arvind Kejriwal

Kejriwal raised huge hopes for those beset by corruption. But, he has not learnt the basic rules of politics and his failure will mean the death of a dream

img-july15-7THE recent developments in Delhi are a textbook case study of how a Union Territory should not be administered. The ‘shock and awe’ strategy adopted by the national government acting through the administrator and the uncompromising attitude of an overzealous NCT government, both elected decisively by the electorate, have shown the way to wilfully destabilising the equilibrium of an imperfect governance structure.

It is amply clear from the constitutional provisions that the real power to administer the National Capital Territory vests in the Lieutenant Governor (LG), either directly as in the case of public order, police and land, or indirectly with the aid and advice of the council of ministers. It is further amplified by the Government of National Capital Territory Act 1991, which came into effect on January 2, 1992. There it is explicitly mentioned that the LG is empowered with discretionary powers in the matters relating to public order, police and land. It is also said that if a question arises as to whether any matter is or is not a matter related to these three subjects, the decision of the LG shall be final. That does not, however, render the elected government non-functional.

Thus, it appears from the Constitution and the Act made under its provisions that, effectively, the dispensation regarding proper administration of Delhi requires a collaborative, and not confrontational, relationship between the LG and elected council of ministers headed by the Chief Minister. In case of conflict between the two, the LG can, with the approval of the President, overrule the CM and his ministers in every matter. Mature politicians, who have held representational status in Delhi since the promulgation of the Act, understood the gravity of the fact that the NCT should not be considered a state. The national capital area cannot be governed contrary to the requirement and wishes of the national government. It was mainly for this reason that the demand for complete statehood of Delhi was not acceded to by any national government. I recall that in 2000, when the proposal of creating three new states was being considered, the demand of full statehood of Delhi was debated at various fora within the government and rejected.

Kejriwal should realise that the ideology of social activism needs to be tempered with the idiom of public governance with a view to delivering public goods and services

Arvind Kejriwal could not understand this simple fact. He started as an agitationist and an antithesis to the established order, and this has not been diluted despite his rise to the apex of the establishment. His antics of coming out on the streets of Delhi while being the CM of Delhi was the high point of his unflinching adherence to the agitational approach, ostensibly in the interest of the common man.

To him, every act and decision of the Central government is either highly suspect or patently wrong. It is not difficult to understand his psyche for anybody who has known him in his previous avatar of a civil servant and a social activist. It must be said to his credit that his statements bordering on obstinacy have helped him in maintaining his popularity. He is still seen by many as the steadfast, inflexible and unyielding champion of the common man.

In 2012, when Kejriwal was spearheading the credible movement called India Against Corruption (IAC), he decided to enter politics with the avowed objective of cleaning the stables from within. Since the IC Centre for Governance was an active collaborator in his fight against corruption, he asked me during one of our several meetings whether he should join politics. Citing the example of another brilliant civil servant who resigned from the civil service and floated a political party in the state with very little success, I advised him not to join politics. In fact, I told him that he had virtually emerged as the face of social activism against corrupt politics at the national level and therefore should carry on his battle against corruption unabated. His impact could be seen from the fact that at the height of the IAC movement, the IAC’s technology provider had a database of more than 20 million ‘unique numbers’ at its computers in Mumbai. Besides, in my assessment, he could at best have become a Member of Parliament or a minister in politics, whereas he had acquired unparallelled recognition as a fighter for the right cause.

In politics, fighting with the perceived enemy in public space does not always help. At times, it has been shown in many situations in our country, one has to work with the enemy for a bigger cause

In my view, therefore, in his joining politics India would lose a great champion of clean politics and good governance, one who had the potential of raising the hopes of the masses. Obviously, I was proved wrong as he achieved the near impossible feat of winning more than 95 per cent of the Legislative Assembly of Delhi in his second chance.

NEVERTHELESS, having an unassailable majority in the legislature is no licence for foolish governance. Popularity alone does not make one an able administrator. Kejriwal has proved it by his conduct and decision-making in the last one-and-a-half years. In his first tenure of 49 days, he exhibited puerile impatience and unacceptable behaviour as the head of a government. He resigned on an issue of little substance, not being endorsed by the Legislative Assembly to table the Lokpal Bill without the permission of the Central government. In the first four months of his second tenure, he is trying to obfuscate his incompetence to govern by resorting to daily bickering with the LG as well as the Central government.

img-july15-6In a TV advertisement currently ubiquitous on almost every channel, a simple housewife is shown referring to Kejriwal as the great saviour of the common man. There is no mention in the entire ad of the AAP outfit or government. Whether we see it as the height of self-delusion, or as battling a bigger adversary with his own armour, is a moot question.

I could understand his mental state of not being able to serve the people due to pinpricks by the LG, but his futile shadow boxing through questionable actions regarding the bureaucracy has exposed his immaturity. In politics, fighting with a perceived enemy in public space does not always help. At times, it has been shown in many situations in our country, one has to work with the enemy for a bigger cause. Kejriwal has not learnt these basic rules of politics. Perhaps he should realise that the ideology of social activism needs to be tempered with the idiom of public governance with a view to delivering public goods and services.

Where will it lead?

by Ashok Nath

WE have seen so much brouhaha in Delhi about the spat between the LG and CM. It’s literally a storm in a tea cup. Few people understand the true position, least of all legal luminaries who get paid for their pontific opinions in lakhs. Their only stance is that since there is a democratically elected government in Delhi, it must have a say in running it. Everybody forgets that Delhi is a Union Territory like Puducherry. Not a state.

I worked with S Balakrishnan, a legal wizard, who drafted the Bill for the NCT of Delhi. He confided in me that a lot of pressure had been brought to bear on him to devise a system to meet the political aspirations of the people of Delhi. Local politicians were demanding statehood. How could two elected governments function from the same territory, he asked in frustration. Nowhere in the world is there such an arrangement. The capitals are administered federally.

“I have been asked to make jam out of oranges and karela, is it possible?” he said. Later, after he had almost finished the first draft, he told me: “You take it from me, within 15 years or so some megalomaniac politician will demand full statehood.” Talk about prescience!

Now, in 2015, we are faced with such a person. Can one imagine what would have happened in Delhi during his previous avatar when, as CM, he was ready to sabotage the Republic Day Parade? If he had the Delhi Police under him, under statehood rules, it would have definitely led to a clash between Delhi Police and the Army. Anarchy! Delhi is not only the Capital for the people of Delhi. It is the Capital of 1.2 billion people of India. Delhi has many diplomatic missions, international agencies, institutions like the Supreme Court, High Court, Election Commission and, of course, Parliament. Delhi is neither self-sufficient in water or electricity.

I shudder to think what would happen if Delhi were a state and, with his convoluted and paranoid mindset, Kejriwal gets offended or imagines somebody is about to get him. Shut off power to the Supreme Court or Parliament? If Kejriwal is so power-hungry, why can’t he fight elections in a full-fledged state so that he can enjoy all the power he wants at leisure?

I would like to end in a lighter vein. When the question of statehood for Delhi was being discussed, Balakrishnan asked me with an impish smile, “If Delhi becomes a state, who do you think will unfurl the National Flag at the Red Fort on August 15, the PM or CM?” This was a joke all these years, but with Kejriwal leading the mob like a bull in a china shop, I’m sure he will definitely stake a claim to even this national and solemn ceremony.

Yet, my faith in the fable of David against the Goliath of accumulated corruption in government is still alive, though many commentators have given up on the audacity of hope kindled by Kejriwal in his IAC avatar. I believe that we did not see a more credible initiative of cleansing the filthy stables of indifference and sloth in state apparatus before he appeared on the scene. He has not been accused of any personal misconduct till now. He was no messiah, but his vision of utopia was lapped up by millions of middle class people across the country. They saw a new politics germinating in the wilderness of cynicism. And they still believe, though less convincingly, that he remains their best bet. His failure would perhaps mean curtains for social activism as a means of making a difference in managing governance.

VOL. 9, ISSUE 4 | JULY, 2015

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