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Kejriwal is walking the path to destruction

Last updated on: March 19, 2014 15:27 IST

Arvind Kejriwal poster

Why are so many people so reluctant to give up on Arvind Kejriwal? The simple answer is 'Narendra Modi', or rather the fear of Narendra Modi, says T V R Shenoy.

Krodhaad bhavati sammohah,
Sammohaat smrtivibhramah;
Smrtibhramshaad buddhinaasho,
Buddhinaashaat pranashyati.

From anger arises bewilderment, from bewilderment loss of memory; and from loss of memory the destruction of intelligence, and from the destruction of intelligence he perishes.

-- From Dr Radhakrishnan's exquisite translation of the Bhagvad Gita.

Anger is the Aam Aadmi Party's stock in trade, but passion is a poor mistress; has the crusaders' unfocused resentment derailed the battle against corruption?

If so, much of the blame must lie at the party boss's door.

Arvind Kejriwal started his political career by tapping into the middle class's resentment against corruption.

But that same middle class -- this is a global truth, not one limited to India -- is equally clear that it supports the forces of law and order, that it cares about fiscal prudence and job creation, and that it cherishes freedom of expression in general.

But Kejriwal and his Merry Men turned to railing against the police, to badmouthing industry, and, finally, to threatening the media.

Survey after survey now shows that the Aam Aadmi Party has failed to expand outside Delhi. Why has that happened?

Arvind Kejriwal seems to have forgotten the circumstances that brought him the fruits of power. Anna Hazare started ploughing the field when he began fasting at Jantar Mantar on April 5, 2011.

Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Shazia Ilmi, Prashant Bhushan, and their fellows planted the seeds when they launched the Aam Aadmi Party on November 26, 2012.

When he took oath of office as chief minister on December 28, 2013, Kejriwal was reaping a harvest that had been years in the making.

Has there been any replication of all that hard work, even in Mumbai or Bengaluru?

The clique that runs the Aam Aadmi Party forgets that Delhi, in some ways, stands apart from the rest of the country. As the seat of the Union government, the heart of the city -- roughly the areas covered by the Lok Sabha constituencies of New Delhi and South Delhi -- is a privileged enclave.

Irrespective of who is in power, the bureaucrats ensure decent roads, water, electric supply, and security if only because they themselves live in that area.

And it was in those areas that the Aam Aadmi Party found much of its support, the more neglected parts of the city voting for the BJP in the assembly elections.

Most of India is not as blessed as New Delhi and South Delhi. Residents in Delhi's affluent suburbs of NOIDA (Uttar Pradesh) and of Gurgaon (Haryana) regularly complain of crime (in the former) and of lack of civic facilities (in the latter).

Delhi may be able to afford a chief minister who ignores his duties to sit in dharna against the police, but elsewhere that is a luxury.

The Aam Aadmi Party spokespersons now whine that the media is now focussing on individuals rather than issues. But they have only themselves to blame if that is true.

Nobody knows where the Aam Aadmi Party stands on any issue.

Prashant Bhushan supports a plebiscite in Kashmir; Kejriwal said he disagreed. It is impossible to reconcile the economic philosophies of Meera Sanyal (the AAP candidate from Mumbai South) and Yogendra Yadav (the AAP candidate from Gurgaon), so the party doesn't even try.

Whether it is foreign policy or defence strategy, sharing river waters or nuclear energy, the Aam Aadmi Party refuses to have a coherent policy on anything.

Ask them anything, and all you get is a standard answer than removing corruption shall solve all problems. But stupid policies can be as destructive as corruption.

Jawaharlal Nehru stopped military operations in 1948, leading to the existence of Pakistan occupied Kashmir. Nehru wasn't corrupt, but that idiocy has led to tens of thousands of deaths over and above the financial burden.

Or look at Indira Gandhi's decision to nationalise the banking sector. That rolled out a red carpet to political interference, and the result is thousands of crores of 'non-performing assets' -- a euphemism for 'bad debts', for which the taxpayer must foot the bill ultimately.

The Aam Aadmi Party simply cannot bring itself to admit that bad policies may go hand in hand with good intentions. Having failed to put together a set of coherent policies, having failed to put forward a record of actual governance, the Aam Aadmi Party has only itself to blame if the media focuses on individuals rather than issues, and on Arvind Kejriwal in particular.

Look closely at Kejriwal, and it is not a flattering picture.

In April 2011, he was swearing that he and his people would not join politics.

In October 2011, the Kejriwal clique was campaigning against the Congress in the Hisar by-election, but swearing that they would never contest polls.

On December 8, 2013, after the results of the Delhi assembly were released, Kejriwal said he was not a candidate for chief ministership.

Today Kejriwal says he does not want to be prime minister of India.

Let me sum it up: The Aam Aadmi Party has no policy framework, no declared ideology to give it a structure. It has no record of governance and proved remarkably inept in its 49 days in power, running from responsibility at the earliest opportunity.

And the party's ultimate boss has a track record of going back on his word.

Some of the decisions taken by Kejriwal's inner circle are completely dumbfounding. Ashok Khemka was the IAS officer in Haryana who got into trouble for tackling land acquisitions by Robert Vadra, Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law.

Khemka was transferred, and his orders reversed by his successor, Yudhbir Singh Khyalia. Now the same Yudhbir Singh Khyalia, having taken early retirement, is the Aam Aadmi Party candidate for the Hisar Lok Sabha seat.

Which begs the question: why are so many people, particularly in Delhi media circles, so reluctant to give up on Arvind Kejriwal?

The simple answer is 'Narendra Modi', or rather the fear of Narendra Modi. The BJP's prime ministerial candidate terrifies many in Delhi because he is the ultimate outsider, someone who denounces Nehruvian socialism, has little respect for Nehruvian foreign policy, and whose English lacks Nehruvian cadences.

Unfortunately (from their perspective, anyhow) Jawaharlal Nehru's great-grandson has proven spectacularly incompetent in stemming the rise of Narendra Modi.

So, in some desperation, they overlook Arvind Kejriwal's many deficiencies, trusting that his Aam Aadmi Party can prevent -- as in the Delhi Vidhan Sabha -- the BJP from coming to power.

But Arvind Kejriwal's antics don't play so well outside Delhi. And Kejriwal may sense that at some level; yet rather than reverse course his anger is leading him down a destructive spiral.

It would be no great loss if the Aam Aadmi Party fells by the wayside, but it would be a tragedy if the anti-corruption movement as a whole is stained by Arvind Kejriwal's childish tantrums.

But then I see opinion polls saying that Jaganmohan Reddy's YSR Congress is the preferred choice in Seemandhra, I see the principal parties giving tickets to those accused of corruption and I think the damage has already been done.

The Aam Aadmi Party made headlines across India on December 8, 2013. One hundred days later, its reputation lies in tatters, and its leader is ranting and raving against the very media that propelled him to fame.

From anger to bewilderment, from loss of memory to corruption of the intellect -- Arvind Kejriwal is walking the path to destruction that was predicted long ago in Kurukshetra.

Image: A supporter of the Aam Aadmi Party removes a poster of former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal after he called off the sit-in protest against the police in New Delhi in January. Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters.

T V R Shenoy