A day after the visiting U.S. President left, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) met in Delhi to not only discuss the Delhi riots that have killed 20 but also decided to submit a memorandum to President Ram Nath Kovind against the Delhi Police’s inability to contain the riots.
On Tuesday, the party’s chief spokesperson had appealed to both the Centre (Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah) and Delhi’s elected Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to immediately restore peace in the city , parts of which have been torn apart by ugly communal clashes.
“Do not fail this country just because you belong to different political parties,” said the Congress’ communication chief Randeep Surjewala, who claimed to made the appeal “on behalf of the people of Delhi”.
Learning from mistakes
For a party that was handed a resounding defeat in the recent Delhi Assembly elections, with only three of its 70 candidates managing to retain their security deposits, it isn’t a case of the party trying to reach out to the people who didn’t vote for them. Rather, it could be case of learning from their past mistakes. In December 2012, when the gruesome Nirbhaya gang-rape incident took place, most Congress ministers and leaders were not only found wanting but seemed almost insensitive to the massive protests that broke out. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was nowhere to be seen and the party’s former chief minister, the late Sheila Dikshit, was jeered when she went to Jantar Mantar to light a candle and express solidarity.
In fact, in the unforgiving world of social media, Mr. Kejriwal was reminded of his June 2013 tweet just as critics of Mr. Modi juxtaposed pictures of Delhi burning with those from Ahmedabad, where the PM was busy hosting President Trump and his entourage at the ‘Namaste Trump’ event. “Sheila Dikshit’s response after each rape — ‘what can I do? Delhi police not in my control’. Do we want such a helpless CM?” Mr. Kejriwal had tweeted on June 27, 2013.
The city replied soon after and Mr. Kejriwal has since been elected for a third term in a row. Now that he is in power, has he done anything to shake off this helplessness?
While it’s true that the Delhi CM does not control Delhi Police in a way that he can order them to take action but the Indian Institute of Technology graduate-turned-politician surely understands that a riot cannot be controlled only by firing bullets. Communal riots need a pro-active leadership reaching out to community leaders, forming peace committees of prominent citizens in a mohalla (locality), appealing for peace by going out as far as possible to the affected areas.
Has his government done any of this?
On Tuesday, Mr. Kejriwal had convened a meeting of all MLAs , in which some of these points, such peace committees and peace marches, were mooted, and directions were issued to District Magistrates and Sub-Divisional Magistrates of the affected districts in Delhi.
On Tuesday, Mr. Kejriwal attended an all-party meeting with Union Home Minister and Lieutenant-Governor Anil Baijal ; appealed for peace by sitting at Rajghat, Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial; met the injured in a government hospital in east Delhi; apart tweeting his satisfaction that U.S. First Lady Melania Trump had attended a happiness class in a Delhi government school.
Describing the situation as alarming, Mr. Kejriwal on Wednesday once again tweeted that he would asking the Home Minister to call in the Army. But an elected Chief Minister and his Cabinet colleagues should have led from the front, beyond Twitter and social media.
As Delhi continues to be tense and counts its losses, it is clear that both the Centre and the Delhi government will have to share responsibility for the grossly inadequate response from the authorities.
While the Centre seemed too taken up with the visit of the U.S. President visit and ignored the fallout of statements made by Aam Aadmi Party-turned Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra’s open threats of communal disturbance , Mr. Kejriwal’s poor political response is a reminder of his June 2013 tweet on Delhi’s “helpless” Chief Minister.