More confrontation, less governance

More confrontation, less governance
The recent elections to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) was won decisively by the BJP. The talking point was the poor showing of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by its supremo Arvind Kejriwal. It could be recalled that Kejriwal, previously of the Indian Revenue Service, joined the Anna Hazare-led Lokpal movement in 2011, and came to national prominence in the process.

He deserted the movement in 2013, joined politics and created the AAP (‘broom’ being his party’s election symbol). In the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections, Kejriwal & co swept the polls winning an astounding 67 seats in the 70-member House. This was the high point of Kejriwal’s career, when he became the chief minister of Delhi for a second time.

Kejriwal entered politics arousing major expectations from the general public, that he would clean up the governance system, bring in a new model of governance dedicated to responsive public service, clean up the political system and usher in a new style of governance.

Alas, within two years, these hopes appear to have been dashed. Indeed, Kejriwal is now largely seen as a fake messiah, a power hungry charlatan, an unprincipled operator who uses every means to retain his personal authority and power, and who uses the state apparatus for personal gain.

How did this transformation take place in public perception in such a short period? Insiders who followed the Anna Lokpal movement would have predicted his fall. Kejriwal deserted the movement, having gained public recognition and an image, thus snatching defeat (for creation of Lokpal) from the jaws of victory. Perceptive observers saw this as the action of a very selfish man who abdicated his Lokpal goal, using the movement as an entry ticket to politics.

As chief minister, it is hard to recall any major administrative action that he initiated to bring welfare to the people of Delhi. In the last two years, the Delhi government has postured itself to be in confrontation with the Centre on every major and minor issue, posing itself as an “elected” government solely representing the people of Delhi.

The basic fact that Delhi is a Union Territory, and not a regular state, was not acceptable to Kejriwal. Was this basic misunderstanding of the constitutional position a ploy by Kejriwal to create a situation of confrontation with the Centre on every issue or to stymie all forward movement in governance issues and use it as an excuse for inaction and blame the Centre for failures?

The thirst for absolute authority over the party exhibited by Kejriwal is symbolised by an early move by him to force the departure of seniors like Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav and others, who insisted on purity as a criterion for selection of MLA nominees and later as ministers in the Cabinet. A large number of ministers have turned out to have very dubious records. On every sensitive issue, the AAP supremo was ready to take on the Centre, the lieutenant governor and the home minister. Indeed, he has equated himself with the prime minister in hierarchy.

The Delhi government has been adjudicated as having spent a very large amount of advertisement money for aggrandisement of the AAP, at government cost – a legal offence. The Shunglu Committee has pointed out a large number of irregularities perpetrated by the Delhi government and legal processes to pursue these transgressions have begun. Reckless remarks and comments accusing all and sundry by Kejriwal have been the norm.

Ham-handed, amateurish
The Delhi government has also been ham-handed and amateurish – Kejriwal and his ministers have not been able to carry their senior bureaucrats, with all the legal powers of supervision given to them. Incidentally, the secretary to the chief minister, Kejriwal’s pick, is facing serious bribery charges.

Kejriwal’s foray into Assembly elections in Punjab and Goa have apparently not gone well with the Delhi public. The impression has been that he would have deserted Delhi if he had done well enough to form a government in either state. The people must have felt that Kejriwal is merely using Delhi as a stepping stone for climbing the political ladder of India, which almost certainly was his objective.

In all these, the interest of the Delhi citizen was scarcely even looked at by the AAP. For Delhi’s air pollution, the Centre is to be blamed, for Dengue and Chikungunya outbreak it was the Municipal Corporation, for traffic jams, too, the state government is not responsible – on every matter affecting the common man, this has been Kejriwal’s approach.

Is there any wonder that he has been found as callous, apathetic, inept, argumentative and thoroughly ineffective by the Delhi public? The result is there for all to see. Such were the expectations aroused by Kejriwal two years back that he would cleanse the national politics, that the Delhi municipal elections attracted inordinate national interest.

Will the AAP or Kejriwal learn anything from these recent events? Will Kejriwal do anything to revive the AAP’s fortunes? Time will tell if the AAP and Kejriwal will survive. Kejriwal had claimed himself not to be a regular politician, but as a reformer and a ‘new hope’ for India. He has shown nearly zero performance in every area, and seen to be fraudulent in his promises.

(The writer is a former Cabinet secretary, Government of India)

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