Stirring the pot

It is possible that Kejriwal wouldn’t be too unhappy at losing power as chief minister of half a state, as he has bigger stakes before him.

Congress leader Veerappa Moily and BJP’s Arun Jaitley have nothing much in common and as conventional adversaries belonging to two principal rival political parties they trade charges against each other whenever the occasion demands – mostly for public consumption – but Moily and Jaitley have almost identical views on one man most politicians in the country have begun to hate: Arvind Kejriwal.

After Kejriwal named Moily as one of the ‘corrupt’ leaders who ‘sold’ the country’s interest to Mukesh Ambani over the gas prices, Moily called Kejriwal a ‘mad dog’ who knew nothing about governance. And when Kejriwal resigned as Delhi chief minister after failing to introduce the Aam Aadmi government’s Jan Lokpal Bill in the Delhi Assembly, Jaitley launched a scathing attack on the AAP’s alternative politics, terming it “populism, demagoguery and falsehood,” and declared with unconcealed glee, “Thank god, the nightmare is over.”

Unfortunately for Jaitley and his ilk, one nightmare may be over, but a bigger one is about to unfold. Given the hard reality of having only 28 MLAs (which slipped to 27 after the expulsion of Vinod Kumar Binny) in a house of 70, the AAP government was never going to last, but Kejriwal’s hasty decision to challenge the Congress and the BJP over Jan Lokpal Bill, ensured his early exit only after 49 days as chief minister.
It is possible that Kejriwal wouldn’t be too unhappy at losing power as chief minister of half a state, as he has bigger stakes before him. Soon after its spectacular showing in Delhi elections, the AAP had made it clear that it had national ambitions and would contest the coming Lok Sabha elections. The AAP spokespersons have scaled up the number of seats the party would contest from a modest 20-25 to around 200 and it has already announced its first list that includes known personalities such as Medha Patkar and Yogendra Yadav.

It’s too early to foresee the kind of impact the AAP will have nationally, but the early surveys giving the party a majority of seats in Delhi, will definitely kindle its hopes. The very fact that the AAP’s alternative politics has attracted great enthusiasm from Haryana to Kerala and from Maharashtra to West Bengal, will mean the AAP could well upset a number of applecarts, even if they don’t win too many seats.

Kejriwal’s unconventional brand of politics has become a thorn in the flesh for both the Congress and the BJP. Soon after coming to power in Delhi, the first thing the AAP government did was to offer free supply of drinking water to sections of people and considerably lower the power tariffs, accusing the previous Sheila Dikshit government of being hand-in-glove with the independent power producers. The lowering of power tariff in Delhi found its echo in Haryana and Maharashtra immediately, forcing the governments there to take similar action.

FIR against Dikshit

The Delhi BJP constantly harangued Kejriwal to take action against the misdeeds of Dikshit government as promised by AAP during the election campaign, hoping to drive a wedge between the AAP and the Congress, which had extended support to the government. The maverick that he is, Kejriwal did file an FIR against Dikshit and others, unearthing one of the Commonwealth Games scams, thus silencing the BJP.
Kejriwal’s next target was the country’s richest man and most powerful industrialist, Mukesh Ambani. The UPA government’s third biggest scam after the 2G spectrum and the coal allocation scandals was the undue favour shown to Ambani’s Reliance Industries over the pricing of gas being produced from KG Basin. CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta waged a lone battle against the frauds being committed by Reliance. He pointed out how the company had deliberately reduced production at KG Basin,  demanding higher price from the government, which resulted in costly imports from abroad to meet the domestic demand. He wrote over a dozen letters to prime minister Manmohan Singh seeking action, but all that he got in return was stony silence.

Ambani’s influence over the government runs so deep that he got the gas price revised from $ 2.34 per million metric British thermal units (mmbtu) in 2004 to $ 4.20 in 2006, and double it to $ 8.4, with effect from April 2014 even in the face of stiff opposition from petroleum and natural gas, fertilizers and finance ministries. Two petroleum ministers who strongly opposed the hike, fell by the way side, before Veerappa Moily was brought in to give the approval. This daylight robbery which will burden millions of consumers in the country to enrich the coffers of one company, has not been opposed by the BJP or any other political party, indicating where their loyalties lie.

Three days before quitting office, Kejriwal upped the ante on this issue as well by filing an FIR against Veerappa Moily, Mukesh Ambani and others and taunted Narendra Modi as to why he had not spoken out in defence of the common man. Kejriwal has also drawn fire from “Mr know-all” P Chidambaram, who has argued that “the choice was between buying one unit of gas at $ 14 per barrel (?) in the global market and giving the domestic producer $ 8 price.” Apart from wrongly comparing apples and oranges, Chidambaram resorts to a complete lie to silence others who “don’t know the basics of economics.”

Now that he has been freed from the burden of office of chief minister, Kejriwal will have time to travel around the country, campaign for his party’s candidates and pose many more inconvenient questions to the established political parties. More than the Congress which is already down in the dumps, it’s the BJP and Narendra Modi who will be worried about the AAP eating into their votes in the Lok Sabha elections and upsetting the final outcome. As the elections near, will there be a new twist in the tale? 

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