Rajindar SacharA political debate can be, and should be, sharp, divisive and even personal. But none should deliberately try to vilify the personal character of the opponent unless the facts are unimpeachable. Most of the newspapers, including some of the reputedly sober ones, recently flashed the news about a list circulated by Arvind Kejriwal describing Central ministers and other leaders of the Congress and the BJP as “corrupt”.
No, I am not against publicising acts of corruption. But I would have expected some small factual details of the corruption charges just as those made public about the coal and telecom scams. AAP’s naming of certain leaders as corrupt and criminal who are playing dynastic politics is an act of provocation. Notwithstanding the slander, the Congress has continued to give outside support to the AAP government.
Kejriwal took the rash step in the hope that, stung by this, the Congress would withdraw its support. As a result, the AAP government would resign and go to the people as a wronged party, conveniently trying to cover up AAP members' misbehaviour with African and other women which had led certain women's organisations and others to criticise AAP for its insensitivity in these delicate matters.
On top of this came the “enlightened” Kejriwal’s statement that Khap Panchayats are only cultural organizations. At the same time he said, rather with tongue in cheek, that if they did something illegal, action would be taken. What a convoluted explanation by the Chief Minister of Delhi! Surely, he is aware that Khap Panchayats in Haryana and Rajasthan have been responsible for harassing young couples by questioning their marriage. Khap Panchayats have exiled such couples from villages — and even ordered their killings. The Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Supreme Court have in many cases directed the prosecution of members of Khap Panchayats and many of them have even been convicted.
One of the founding members of AAP, Madhu Bhaduri, has resigned, saying publicly that “she has nothing to do with a party which humiliates women……and that she wanted to distance herself from AAP”. Maybe the compulsion of Kejriwal is that his next target of election is Haryana. If AAP, which calls itself a different kind of political party, courts organizations like Khap Panchayats which violate every human right, how can youth, especially young women, trust it with their vote?
Such being the compulsions of Kejriwal, he is looking for an excuse to quit the government and give a make-believe impression to the public that the dishonest Congress was afraid of his steps against corruption and, therefore, has withdrawn the support. When the Congress did not swallow the bait of withdrawing support even after its leaders were called corrupt, AAP in order to further provoke the Congress publicly included the name of Sonia Gandhi in the list of corrupt leaders. The Congress seems to have seen through his strategy and has not reacted. AAP is now cornered into fulfilling its commitment to supply water and electricity as promised in better ways than the previous government did. Thus the reality is that AAP has tied itself in knots of its own making. So we have a game of chess being played between the Congress and AAP. People of Delhi are suffering, in the meanwhile. The public wants concrete action and not an exchange of allegations between politicians.
AAP should also realise that running a government is a serious business. It had announced before elections that it would pass the Lokayukta Bill at the Ramlila Ground. But the venue is being abandoned because of the cost of over Rs 2 crore estimated by the police, apart from security reasons. A switchover to Indira Gandhi Stadium looks easy because being a Delhi Government property, it will only require certain book entries and no cash payment. A more serious question has to be answered. Legislation in a democracy is not passed at rallies. There has to be a serious deliberation on each part of the legislation. If the AAP members' plea of involvement of the public is so genuine, what stops them from holding even corner meetings or bigger public meetings where Kejriwal and his Cabinet colleagues can easily mingle with people and have a discussion on each aspect of the Lokpal Bill? And thereafter the mater can be taken up in the legislative assembly hall, debated and finally passed. That would be both democratic and people-friendly. As for watching debates, TV channels can cover each angle of the debate. AAP can even install big TV screens throughout Delhi during the debate and passing of the legislation and thus satisfy the test of involving people in legislation. But if AAP is interested only in cheap gimmicks, then this latest action of holding a public meeting in I.G. Stadium is on a par with that of the Roman Empire, which used to hold gladiators' fights and killings in public. But that is not how democracies function.
Of course, the Congress is also playing its devious game. I am referring to NTPC, a Central undertaking, putting pressure on the Delhi electric supply companies to pay up their arrears or the supply would be stopped. NTPC is under the Central government and it is hard to believe that the threat could have been given without having cleared it first with the Central government, more so when a CAG audit is going to be held to look into the allegation made by Kejriwal that there is a big tax evasion by the local power companies.
Unfortunately, this devious game between AAP and the Congress can only bring misery to the average person in Delhi. The political scene is not encouraging. I feel that the movements by people who wish to bring about social change and fight gross inequalities in our country should combine and play an effective role in parliamentary elections.