THEY were the ‘Great Upcoming Seven’. People perceived them to epitomise a sea change in good governance, anti-corruption and an administration that worked only for the welfare of the citizens. They promised true and clean democracy if they were voted to power. The people believed them. They enthusiastically gave them power, not once, but twice. But the unravelling of the seven-some began even before they grabbed Delhi in 2013 and 2015. In fact, now they are only two, actually one-and-a-half, left. The other five went their own ways–one successfully to a Governorship, one back to basics, one unsuccessfully floated a new party, one back to social work, and the last one continued with his lucrative practice.
More importantly, in the process, all their promises, visions, mission, noble ideas and pledges went down the drain. Arvind Kejriwal, the least known of the then Fearsome-Seven, emerged as the worst kind of dictatorial Chief Minister of Delhi. He possibly ran two governments that were as corrupt, if not more, as the worst ones we have seen in the past. Governance became a synonym for backslapping, backed by huge budgets for propaganda through the media. It became a substitute for regular verbal and physical duels with the Centre Prime Minister and home ministry, and the central bureaucracy such as the Police, municipal corporations, Lieutenant Governor and Chief Secretary, and DDA.
Kejriwal’s Man-Friday, his left-hand man, is more of the Chief Minister’s shadow, rather than a man with ideas and ideals. The CM proposes, Manish Sisodia, the deputy CM, disposes in a manner that reeks of the ugliest form of governance that one has witnessed in recent times. He too appears, obviously less than Kejriwal, on TV and radio, and in hundreds of outdoor and newspaper advertisements. Like his mentor and master, he takes semi-truthful and false credits for what has or has not happened in Delhi. In reality, Delhi has emerged as one of the most polluted cities, the city’s infrastructure is creaking, its healthcare is in shambles, and corruption is the same, if not higher, than before.
Two more issues about Kejriwal need to be highlighted here. As he emerged as a one-man-show, a leader who takes the decisions that others follow, he assiduously got rid of his would-be competitors, i.e. five of the Super-Seven. Anna Hazare, the self-claimed Gandhian with whimsical ideas, was shamefully sent back to his village in Maharashtra. Kiran Bedi, the former IPS, floundered till she joined hands with the BJP, and became a Governor. Yogendra Yadav raved and ranted, and formed his own political party. Aruna Roy went back to work in the villages. Only Prashant Bhushan, the lawyer, stayed in the limelight. His PIL factory continued on an overdrive, as his lawyers worked overtime.
The other is the fantastic and unrelenting use of the media, quite like Paul Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda in the Third Reich from 1933 to 1945. Ever since he came to power, Kejriwal spent whopping amounts on advertisements and promotion. For example, the budget for information and publicity was more than `500 crore in 2015-16, `200 crore in 2017-18, and more than `250 crore in 2018-19. As media owners, hungry for a slice of this money pie, went over backwards to take a ride on Kejriwal’s propaganda vehicles, journalists, who reported on city’s issues and government, became in-house AAP workers. They excitedly promoted Kejriwal and his party.
As Delhi prepares for yet another assembly election, it is time to wake up and smell the political coffee. It is time to get up, and take a stance. It is time to decide the future of AAP, as the voters did with the corrupt Congress and BJP. Six years of falsehoods, six years of selling dreams that turned into nightmares, six years of misrule needs to end… now. Delhi, the Capital of 1.4 billion people, needs a true leader, one who can hold the governance torchlight high, and improve our lives.