Story of an end foretold

February 17, 2014 01:37 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:26 pm IST

Sometimes, the end is foretold at the beginning. Arvind Kejriwal was quite reluctant to assume office as Chief Minister of Delhi, and the lack of a majority of its own for his Aam Aadmi Party seemed only part of the reason. The crusader against corruption did not want anything to do with the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party; it was almost as if he were afraid of being tainted by mere association with them. From the time he was sworn in, he was keener on projecting his party as a serious national-level alternative to the two principal national parties than on governing Delhi. Delhi was a stage for his theatrics, a campaign platform before the Lok Sabha election. The thrust was on politically exposing the Congress and the BJP, and not on solving the small, everyday problems of Delhi. Mr. Kejriwal obviously wanted to demonstrate what he would not be allowed to do as Chief Minister, and not what he could do as head of the government. Given the paucity of time before the parliamentary election, he must have thought it safer to approach the people as the leader of a party whose government was thwarted by political rivals than as a Chief Minister who was unable to deliver on his promises. Thus, the Jan Lokpal Bill was seen as the ideal issue over which to create circumstances for his own exit. Having built a political party of a movement that had the Jan Lokpal Bill as its rallying point, the AAP convener believed he would find popular support for staking all on the Bill. But the manner in which his government manoeuvred the Bill appeared to be aimed at inviting opposition rather than at seeing it passed in the Assembly. An honest attempt could have been made to follow constitutional procedures in pushing through the Bill, making it politically difficult for the AAP’s rivals to oppose it. The all-or-nothing attitude Mr. Kejriwal adopts on every issue can do little to further his party’s agenda of change.

If Mr. Kejriwal achieved anything at all in the Jan Lokpal fiasco, it was in tarring the Congress and the BJP with the same broad brush. For good measure, he brought in a new factor: their supposed support for the Reliance Industries head, Mukesh Ambani. The linking of the opposition to the Bill to the First Information Report lodged against Mr. Ambani on the gas pricing controversy seems a stretch, but Mr. Kejriwal was looking for a conspiracy that could tie the Congress and the BJP together. By turning the movement against corruption into a political party, Mr. Kejriwal took the first step in trying to change the system from the inside. But when he was expected to take the next step as the head of a government — even if it be of a minority government with uncertain support — he fell short.

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