There is no merit in pandering to the pious, pompous windbags of the Aam Aadmi Party. Delhi should be placed under President’s rule and fresh elections called at an appropriate time
No matter what Yogendra Yadav, Congress adviser-cum-psephologist-turned-Aam Aadmi Party leader, may say to contradict this proposition, it is clear by now that Arvind Kejriwal and his team did not quite expect to come so tantalisingly close to securing a majority in the Delhi Assembly. By the time the election campaign had come to an end there was a sense that the AAP would perform well in the poll, belying the political punditry of the usual suspects. Exit polls conducted on the day of voting served to confirm this view — while none of the pollsters got the outcome of the Delhi Assembly election right, their findings did indicate surprise results.
In the event, the final tally turned conventional wisdom on its head. The BJP did emerge the winner but was four seats short of a majority; the AAP came in second with 28 seats; and, the Congress notched up a lowly eight with Sheila Dikshit getting trounced in New Delhi constituency whose voters perhaps have been the biggest beneficiaries of Congress largesse. The BJP could have formed a ‘minority’ Government and dared both the Congress and the AAP to pull it down, but that would have been foolhardy. With media discovering a new hero in Arvind Kejriwal (if not the Congress, then suck up to the AAP, seems to be the new mantra of the National Capital Region-based television channels and newspapers) the BJP would have never succeeded in doing a repeat performance of its 13-day Government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1996.
In theory, the BJP could have engineered a split and secured the support of a section of the AAP’s MLAs to tote up a majority. Horse-trading, as cobbling together a majority is disparagingly referred to by the chattering classes, at least obviates an immediate re-election. Thankfully, even this course was rejected by the BJP. Kejriwal and his colleagues are welcome to allege that the BJP did try to poach on their MLAs but this is far removed from the truth — not a shred of evidence exists to support this outlandish claim. All we have is the fanciful allegation levelled by the AAP leaders but they need to be made to realise that their accusation is not a substitute for evidence, at least till such time their kangaroo courts replace our courts of law.
In such circumstances there are only two options. First, Kejriwal should step up to the plate and volunteer to form a Government while seeking issue-based support from the BJP and the Congress. Second, the Assembly should be kept in animated suspension and fresh election called in the hope it will throw up a decisive verdict. It was incumbent upon Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor to explore the former possibility without jumping to the second option by foreclosing the first. The Congress, which is now more determined than ever to block the BJP from coming to power in Delhi, made the task easier for both the Lt Governor and Kejriwal by offering ‘unconditional support’ to the AAP.
On Saturday morning, Kejriwal made it abundantly clear that he was not impressed by such offers and would like conditions attached to the Congress’s support. He then went on to craft a wish list that few would endorse in toto. The upshot: Delhi still does not have a Government and it’s only a matter of days before President’s rule is imposed on this half-State. It’s doubtful any sane party would endorse issues that have little to do with Delhi’s governance but make the AAP look way beyond larger than life. Having said that, nothing is impossible: The Congress could yet agree to any absurd conditions put forward by Kejriwal to make its ‘unconditional support’ acceptable, but that’s something which must await comment on another day.
Which brings us to Kejriwal setting terms for the BJP and seeking blanket endorsement of his actions even before he has taken the first step towards Government formation. While it’s for the BJP to formally respond to the terms he has listed, it would be in order to point out that it is in no manner beholden to the AAP to keep it in power and surrender its right to play the role of an effective Opposition. For, what Kejriwal is seeking is not only unstinted, unquestioning support, he is also demanding immunity from scrutiny and criticism. Grandstanding and playing to the gallery — no bungalows, no cars, no funds — may raise a clap or two, but in the end it does not make for either astute politics or magnanimous statesmanship. If anything, Saturday’s show was that of a delusional messiah who refuses to believe that others too can be honest and lay store by integrity.
The point that needs to be stressed, and stressed unambiguously, is that the prospect of power scares Kejriwal because it would come attached with responsibility and accountability, something which he and his fellow-travellers of AAP have avoided till now. The list of promises they have made to gullible sections of Delhi’s voters —that a Jan Lokpal Bill (which is in the domain of the Union Government) would be passed by the State Government, that electricity bills would be halved irrespective of the cost of power, that at least 750 litres of water would be supplied every day free of cost, that money meant for constituency development would go straight to mohallah committees to be spent as they wished — cannot be fulfilled. It’s not about intentions, pious or otherwise; it’s about realities. Preaching Nehruvian Socialism 2.0 no doubt makes for good campaign rhetoric, putting it into practise is well-nigh impossible. For evidence, look at the Congress foundering on the rock of handouts.
Frankly, Delhi’s fractured verdict leaves no other option but to impose President’s rule and allow a decent interval before a fresh Assembly election is held, preferably along with the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. That, and not pandering to the skulduggery of the too-clever-by-half, pious, sanctimonious, self-righteous, pompous windbags, would be the right course to chart. Sadly, the Congress is unlikely to tread on that path; it would do its best to get the AAP into power as it would in effect be power by proxy. Kejriwal knows this better than anybody else yet has kept his options open for the next week and beyond as that ensures him prime time and front page propaganda, including on the channel whose star anchor his acolytes hooted and lampooned so mercilessly during the India Against Corruption agitation, virtually chasing her away from India Gate. Such are the ironies of our times.
(The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi)