Until reason prevailed, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was not merely sitting in dharna in Delhi, he was also toying with the people’s trust and endangering their hopes for an alternative form of politics and administration. By holding the city to ransom until he called it off last evening, he was violating the mandate of those who voted for his party in the belief that he would place the public interest above political posturing. And by making the patently unjustified demand that police officers who refused to comply with his Minister’s illegal orders be suspended, he was undermining the rule of law. It is strange that he should be defending vigilantism by his Ministers. The drama began last week when Ministers in the AAP government embarked on law enforcement, in a fit of self-righteousness, against purported prostitution and drug-peddling. In one instance, their target was a group of Ugandan women, who were detained, vilified and forced to give urine samples, with groups of vigilantes hovering nearby. Forgotten here was the fact that Indian law does not permit arbitrary search and seizure, especially involving women in the dead of the night. Delhi’s Law Minister Somnath Bharti demonstrated astonishing ignorance of the fact that the law on immoral trafficking aims to rescue and protect victims of trafficking, and not to capture them. The External Affairs Ministry had to assure diplomats from African countries that the incident was an aberration, and not to be viewed as an instance of how the country treats African nationals. Surprisingly, the police are yet to proceed against Mr. Bharti; nor has Mr. Kejriwal thought it fit to drop him from his Cabinet.
Mr. Kejriwal sought to give a veneer of political legitimacy to his absurd drama by raising the larger demand that the Delhi Police, now under the Union Home Ministry, be made accountable to the Delhi government, as he wants to ensure better security for the people of Delhi. There is nothing new in this demand and it is hardly the kind of issue for which the Chief Minister should plunge the city into anarchy. Bringing the Delhi Police under the State government involves amendments to the law and a process of calm negotiation. If at all there is a political explanation for his actions, it is that Mr. Kejriwal wants to invite the dismissal of his government, or at least withdrawal of support by the Congress, so that he can face the Lok Sabha election in the garb of a martyr. It was time he put his party and his government on a proper course and called off the unseemly agitation. A certain directness, simplicity and a move away from the VIP culture did mark a welcome change, but Mr. Kejriwal should guard against the new style degenerating into antics.