Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his supporters, who sat on a dharna in Delhi demanding executive control over the police and transfer of some police personnel, have called off their protest action.
The action of the head of an elected government taking to the streets to put public pressure on the Central government to concede a demand had created an unprecedented situation. The Delhi police, for historical and practical reasons, has been under the control of the Union home ministry. Governments in Delhi, including the previous Congress government, have been unhappy about this and have demanded transfer of police powers to the state. The blame for law and order problems goes to the state government but the power and responsibility to enforce the law vest with the Centre. This is an odd situation. There is perhaps a case for a change of the arrangement but the tactics adopted by Kejriwal to force the issue might not find ready acceptance.
Kejriwal has claimed that he resorted to his unconventional protest because of the refusal of the Delhi police to conduct a late night raid on a house where some African women were allegedly running a drug and prostitution racket. The AAP saw this as an attempt to shield criminal elements. In another case, another minister put pressure on the police to arrest some people allegedly involved in a dowry crime. In both cases there was an element of vigilantism which goes against the norms and procedures of the rule of law. The demands made by the ministers and the method adopted by Kejrival were in agreement with the populist stances advocated by the Aam Aadmi Party on other issues. They have always made known that they would not accept the argument of limitations of the system in finding solutions to
The dharna was called off after an assurance was given that some action would be taken against the police men who, according to the AAP, were guilty of lapses. This might be considered a victory by the party. But was it? It should realise that straining the system beyond its limits would only be counter-productive. However well-intentioned the ideas and demands of a person, group or party, vigilantism and populism are not the ideal methods to get them implemented. The AAP is in a hurry to change the system. But it should think through the full implications of its actions.