By Kalyani Shankar
At the height of summer heat and severe pollution levels, the capital is caught in a bizarre confrontation between the Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and the duo of Lt Governor Anil Baijal and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for more than a week. Besides politics, the bureaucracy has also been dragged into this fight, as chief minister alleges that the IAS officers are not cooperating at the behest of the Centre. The result is that the capital is in limbo with no work done since June 14.
The present crisis began when Kejriwal along with his cabinet ministers Manish Sisodia, Satyendar Jain and Gopal Rai, started camping at Raj Niwas, the Lt. Governor’s residence since June 14, demanding a direction to the IAS officers to end their undeclared strike. The face-off between the AAP government and the bureaucracy began since February 20 after the alleged assault on the chief secretary of Delhi, Anshu Prakash, by two AAP MLAs at the chief minister’s residence.
There is more to it than meets the eye at this latest unprecedented political drama. Why is Kejriwal indulging in a street fight at this point of time? It has many angles. It is shadow boxing between the chief minister and his bête noire Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is a power struggle between the chief minister and the Lt Governor of Delhi. Politically, the opposition parties are using the occasion to show off the emerging opposition unity. As for the four opposition chief ministers who have supported Kejriwal, it is a kind of settling scores with Modi. The IAS officers are miffed with the chief minister and fear for their security,
This is not the first time Kejriwal has indulged in this kind of drama. He has prime ministerial ambitions and has been taking on Modi since 2014 even contesting against him in Varanasi. He has not missed any opportunity to take on the Centre. He has targeted the office of the Lt Governor alleging that the Lt Governor is functioning as the agent of the Centre to stop him from working. He did that with the earlier Lt Governor Najib Jung and his successor Anil Baijal now. When his party’s expansion plans in Punjab and Goa failed,and after the BJP’s unprecedented electoral sweep in Uttar Pradesh and other states, Kejriwal consciously decided to lie low, realising that the BJP was politically on the ascendancy and its winning spree continued even in the northeast. He believed in the dictum don’t attack a leader when he is popular.
Now he has changed his strategy seeing the rising public anger against the higher diesel and petrol prices and also against Modi’s policies. Politically also, the recent by-poll results and the Karnataka defeat for the BJP has emboldened the Delhi chief minister to become aggressive. Added to that was the recent efforts of the opposition unity ahead of the 2019 polls which was highly visible after the formation of the Karnataka government.
It is not surprising that four non-NDA chief ministers — Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal) Chandrababu Naidu (Andhra Pradesh), Pinarayi VIjayan (Kerala) and H D Kumaraaswmay (Karnataka) — have taken up his case with the Prime Minister.
Whoever thought that the two political opponents, Mamata Banerjee and her Kerala counterpart comrade Pinarayi Vijayan, would not only meet but also become a part of chief ministers pressure group against Prime Minister Narendra Modi?! The open support to Kejriwal from these four heavyweights is politics ahead of 2019 polls. Banerjee and Vijayan are apprehensive of the BJP expansion plans in their backyards, while Chandrababu has just quit the NDA and Kumarawsamy wants to protect his turf. So in the name of democracy and federalism, they have pledged their support to the AAP chief.
Interestingly, though the Congress is not on board to support Kejriwal, that did not prevent these regional satraps moving forward. Kejriwal has also been able to get the support of other opposition parties like the RJD, RLD, SP, DMK, CPI and CPI-M gradually.
Kejriwal has been having a running battle with the bureaucracy since he took over and there is no surprise that he is continuing it. He has been fighting with the Lt Governor on postings and transfers of IAS officers.
Many in the capital are not happy to see this ugly confrontation.
Whoever is right or wrong, it is the people of Delhi who suffer. The Kejriwal government has not been elected for creating this kind of chaos. He is very clever politician and is positioning himself to get the support of the people by playing a victim. Whether this victim card will help him or go against him will have to be seen. If he wants to win votes, he must show results and win back the middle class support, which is slowly disappearing. Secondly, he must keep the IAS officers on his side to deliver governance as they play a critical role in his success or failure. Thirdly, politics should be kept aside and he must concentrate on governance. Fourthly, keeping a fine balance between the Centre, the state and the Lt Governor as well as bureaucracy are imperative. People do not appreciate this kind of street politics.
Kejriwal’s victim card might have worked once or even twice but he cannot expect to get support by playing it so often. Get back to work AK as that is the only mantra you should chant. (IPA Service)