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Mandate Squandered

February 17, 2014

The Aam Aadmi Party government fell inexplicably on the 49th day in office. Looking back it seems it was a pre-meditated step. Those in the know felt Arvind Kejriwal had made up his mind to resign at least a week before the Lokayukta Bill was tabled in the Vidhan Sabha. The reasons for the fall of the AAP government were as weird as the Bill for which they made such a hue and cry. They refused to send the Lokayukta Bill to the Lt. Governor which would have then been forwarded to the Centre before it came back to the Speaker of the House to be formally tabled for consideration. Kejriwal and his men said that this was unacceptable and that since they were elected representatives of the people of Delhi therefore they were answerable to none except the citizens of Delhi. They went on to quote the eminent lawyer and jurist Soli Sorabjee and claimed that he seconded their stand, only to be repudiated by him.

The amazing part was that both Congress and the BJP were ready to support the Lokayukta Bill. It is said that Dr. Harshvardhan of the BJP received a copy of the proposed bill at the dead of the night before it was tabled in the House the next day. AAP claimed that the Bill was on the lines of the Lokayukta Bill passed in Uttarakhand Assembly. The AAP government was not too keen to give time to Legislators to go through the Bill. Their haste in getting the Bill tabled was surprising. If they were really serious about the Lokayukta Bill they should have followed the precedent. They said that nowhere has it been written in the Constitution that the Bill needs to be sent to the Centre through the Lt. Governor. What they fail to understand is that in stable democracies there are customs and traditions and those are followed without anyone questioning them.

The few weeks that AAP was in office they did not crown themselves with glory. One of their ministers Mr. Somnath Bharti was found using abusive language with police officers and exhorting them to raid a house without any warrant, where some African nationals lived. This behaviour by a Minister became a flashpoint in Indo-African relations. It was unnecessary and unprecedented.

AAP government had promised that electricity rates would be halved, but what really happened was that they were increased. The joke was that they waived 50% of the tariff for those who had not paid for a particular period of time. It was clear that they were rewarding those who were AAP supporters. This would have cost the exchequer a neat Rs 6 crores.

The people of Delhi found their Chief Minister squatting on the streets for some frivolous demand, I am forgetting what. The 26th January celebrations were due and the Defence Forces put their foot down and the CM and his rabble rousers were unceremoniously evicted from the Raisena Hills. Kejriwal then ordered an audit of the power companies. The CAG it seems seconded the idea. The matter reached a flashpoint and Delhi was in for a major outage.

The piece de resistance however was Delhi government filing an FIR against Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani, Cabinet Minister Veerappa Moily and others claiming that increase in gas prices was theft of the exchequer. I have never heard of any government filing an FIR against ministers and industrialists. Can this really be done? AAP claimed that both their allies the Congress and the opposition, the BJP were at the beck and call of Mr. Ambani! Before they could pursue the FIR they quit. It is said that the AAP government benefitted Reliance Industries to the tune of Rs 370 cr. before they quit. The nuances of the sweetener need to be explored, if at all.

The one common thread that runs through the brief AAP saga at the helm in Delhi is one of charges being levelled and not being pursued. They never got down to really auditing the power companies, nor did they pursue the case against Reliance and the Cabinet Ministers. Spit and run was their policy. Perhaps they knew about their own shortcomings enough not to pursue what they proposed.

Some are calling Kejriwal’s decision to quit as a political master stroke. He would be seen as a martyr for a cause close to the hearts of the people of Delhi – corruption. AAP has tried to paint everyone black calling them all corrupt. That may not be quiet true. People had given AAP the mandate to give a clean government – to clean the rot. They decided to run away from the responsibility. People of Delhi and of the nation do not see Kejriwal and AAP as martyrs but as one who showed little respect for the mandate given to them. The mandate was for governance and to turn Delhi into a truly world class city. They did not see it thus. Perhaps they were fearful of being found out, of being exposed. Kejriwal and AAP have never defined clearly their economic policies, their views on foreign policy, defence and world affairs. They only talk of fighting corruption. They do not even talk about fighting poverty. Kejriwal is never asked these questions by journalists who interview him for extended periods of time. Are they told not to ask these questions?

AAP government and Kejriwal are no martyrs. If at all, they have shown disrespect to the wishes of the people of Delhi. They asked the people of Delhi whether they should form the government but they never asked them whether they should quit. The House supported them for the Lokayukta Bill and yet they resigned on some technicality. Their credibility is at an all time low. AAP has called for fresh polls in Delhi assuming that they will sweep the polls next time around. I am not sure that is going to happen. Congress is playing it safe and there is going to be President’s rule with Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung as his representative. The people of Delhi feel cheated and let down. Arun Jaitley of the BJP has called the brief AAP stint as a sham and ‘worst government’ in recent past. For the people of Delhi it is nightmare that is over. This maybe posturing by the AAP before the Lok Sabha polls, but this is a wake- up call for the people of India.

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