The Aam Aadmi Party’s anarchic antics clears the path for Narendra Modi’s ascent to power

It is difficult to say if Arvind Kejriwal has taken a leaf out of MNS chief Raj Thackeray’s book or vice versa, but the script emerging from Mumbai on Monday morning sounded very familiar.

The Maharashtra police is in a state of high alert after Raj Thackeray made the grand announcement on Sunday “ordering” his workers to ensure that no toll tax is charged at any booth in Maharashtra: “If anyone asks for toll tax, then phod deejiye, peetiye (bash and thrash them). Then whatever happens, happens.”

After this inspiring statement from their leader, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena goons attacked toll booths in Thane, Kalyan and Navi Mumbai.

Thackeray has always campaigned against toll tax alleging corruption in the management of these funds. And like the other leaders of the Shiv Sena, his parent party, he too has been periodically instigating citizens to take the law into their own hands — vandalising toll booths, beating up North Indian workers, causing damage to movie theatres, and the like.

Anarchy, did you say? Hardly, it would seem, given that the hero of the moment, Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, has categorically declared from public platforms: Abse desh ki rajneeti aise hi chalegi. (Henceforth, this is the way the country will be governed.)

So as we march on the new path etched out by Kejriwal, there are interesting exchanges on Twitter on why his actions are labelled “anarchy” while the media is cautious about saying the same when the Thackerays are involved.

But this column is not about Raj Thackeray and his antics; mercifully his influence is limited to Mumbai and Maharashtra. And thank god there is no danger of his becoming our next prime minister. What has rattled the not-so-aam people of India — both the thinking and the chattering classes — who had seen such a huge ray of hope in Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, is the direction it has taken. Surely the Delhiites who voted with such enthusiasm, fervour and belief in Kejriwal’s seedha-saada, no-nonsense approach to politics and promise of delivery from ills such as corruption and inflation plaguing their lives, watched with horror as the Law Minister not only broke the law himself but urged the police to do so too.

It was mortifying to watch Somnath Bharti instructing the police to raid private residences without as much as a search warrant. Racial profiling of African women, making random accusations about drug trafficking and prostitution rackets, all this based on prodding from people whose agenda could be highly suspect, was not exactly what AAP supporters had hoped for.

One young lawyer in Bharti’s constituency, whose entire family had voted for the AAP, was caustic in his comment. “Not only does the Delhi Law Minister need to go back to law school to study the law, I too need to get my head examined for blindly believing in a party and a leadership with no past record of any kind to go by,” he said.

Farcical drama

Digging in his heels and demanding action against the cops who had refused to break the law and do Bharti’s bidding, Kejriwal made life hell for a section of Delhi’s janta by his dharna.

There have been many media reports on how the real aam aadmi of Delhi was not inconvenienced, and homilies given by others on how great it was to see a chief minister sleeping out in the open in a public place. Anyway, they argued, the police needs to be put in place because it is highhanded in dealing with ordinary people. Hence there was great glee that the minister had chastised the “arrogant” Delhi police in full public view. Such views missed the point about decorum and dignity in public life and leading by example.

Mercifully, Kejriwal’s drama came to an end after two policemen were sent on leave, and the nation heaved a sigh of relief. The External Affairs Ministry had to do some damage control by assuring the enraged — naturally — African envoys that this kind of abhorrent action wouldn’t recur.

It is also worrying that we of the brown skin who have endured long periods of discrimination by the British in India and continue to be judged in the Western world even today for being “coloured Asians”, should indulge in such shocking behaviour against African women.

Leading to a bitter discussions among black students and expats that revealed Bharti’s action was nothing new; they have always faced discrimination and suspicion in India because of their dark skin. Hopefully, Bharti’s shameful behaviour that night will not lead to India being shamed internationally on the human rights front and a further downgrade as a nation that specialises in humiliating, harassing, insulting and raping foreign women.

Disasters galore

As Kejriwal and his inexperienced bunch of ministers march from one disaster to another, they are getting a helping hand from the non-ministerial section of the AAP too. Let me not get started here on Kumar Vishwas of the kali-peeli-Kerala-nurses fame, who had also cracked crass jokes about Shias beating their breasts over an event that took place centuries ago. Or TV anchor-turned-politician Ashutosh, who ticked off Captain Gopinath on national television for daring to oppose the AAP’s decision against FDI in retail, before proceeding to advise, on the same show, Subramaniam Swamy to go and study the Constitution of India! Before Kiran Bedi, part of the panel, pulled out one of his earlier tweets saying only fools or idiots were opposed to FDI!

It is both sad and disappointing that the AAP has only flattered to deceive. Its spectacular debut in India had raised such high hopes and put Kejriwal & Co on a pedestal. And given an alternative to those sections across India who are disenchanted with not only the Congress and the BJP but also the powerful regional parties. The last were threatening to come together in the form of a motley Third Front that could possibly rule India. Finally an alternative was on the horizon for the coming Lok Sabha polls. Or so we thought till Bharti, Vishwas, Ashutosh and gang were unleashed on us.

In hindsight, the Congress surely made a well-calibrated move to support Keriwal to form the government in Delhi. It was a deft exercise aimed at killing two birds with one stone: prevent their arch rival and the single largest party, the BJP, from forming a government, and place in the hands of Kejriwal and comrades a really, really long rope.

No prizes for guessing who just made Narendra Modi’s march towards Delhi that much more easy and certain.

(This article was published on January 27, 2014)
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