Not a very long time ago, Arvind Kejriwal challenged the authenticity of Prime Minister Modi’s educational degree and today, his report card in government is being dismissed by the very people who once voted him to the Chief Minister’s office in Delhi.
Thousands who supported him unconditionally, are now in a melancholy mood. After two years in power, Arvind Kejriwal is not the same man who promised to swipe clean the dirty face of politics and politicians. He has become one of them. The Shunglu Committee report has exposed the hypocrisy and malice surrounding the Kejriwal government.
The report, full of instances where the crusader of anti-corruption has faltered in government functioning and appointments, is certainly giving a wake-up call to voters before the Delhi MCD elections.
When the Aam Aadmi Party was formed in the winter of 2012, it ushered in a new hope for the thousands disgruntled by the murky political environment in the country. Arvind Kejriwal and his ideology revolutionised the young and the old alike. He showed that any man or woman can be the torch-bearer of change.
AAP contested Delhi state assembly elections soon after and the first-timer managed a lean total of 28 seats but succeeded in forming the government. Kejriwal took oath as CM in December 2013. He promised to run the state in a transparent manner with utmost dedication and service to the people.
Before he could prove his mettle, he stumbled and after a rather short-lived span as the CM, he resigned 49 days later. After a year of President’s rule, Delhi again voted to elect its representatives to the state assembly in February 2015.
This time, as if back with a vengeance, Kejriwal astounded everyone with a stellar performance by winning 67 out of 70 seats. But unlike the first round, Kejriwal’s second tenure was soon to be engulfed in a storm of failed promises, controversies and rifts between AAP’s founding members and other prominent leaders. All because Kejriwal set his gaze high above his duties and the vision for which he was admired.
Politics within the party
While musing the nature of AAP, Kejriwal wanted it to be a party free from patronage, internal rifts and favouritism. Today the party is standing amidst rebellion and dissent arising out of Kejriwal allegedly holding the reigns too tight. When serious allegations were made against the despotic and domineering nature of Kejriwal’s leadership style, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, founding members of AAP, along with two other senior leaders, Anand Kumar and Ajit Jha, were expelled from the party in March 2015.
Saddened and disgruntled, they formed Swaraj Abhiyan. The internal affairs of AAP are a complete failure now. Dissenting views don’t get an ear. If only what was preached was practised in AAP, thousands of Kejriwal supporter would have celebrated the completion of two years of his incumbency.
Bhushan and Yadav accused Kejriwal of not keeping transparency in the organisation. According to them, all decisions were controlled by one man, Kejriwal himself. When Avam- a body formed by disgruntled AAP supporters- exposed shell companies that had given donations worth Rs 2 crores to the Kejriwal camp, he responded that the matter would be probed by AAP’s internal Lokpal. How fair the process would be is anybody’s guess, knowing his peremptory nature. Kejriwal has also been accused of nepotism when he appointed party leader Naveen Jaihind’s wife Swati Maliwal as the chief of Delhi Commission for Women (DCW).
Setting off to far-off lands
Losing his popularity faster than air coming out of a balloon, Kejriwal has let his ambitions get way ahead of him. He promised the people of Delhi that he will fulfil all his promises but even before completing two years, he moved his focus to Punjab and Goa. Having defeated both BJP and Congress in Delhi, Kejriwal decided to take the giant parties head-on, not realising that by being away from Delhi and its problems, he is taking a big risk. He wanted to govern other states without actually governing Delhi. .
The inevitable happened. AAP contested elections in Goa and Punjab and lost heavily in both states, proving that the Delhi success was indeed a bubble. And it didn’t take long for the bubble to burst. In Punjab and Goa, Kejriwal made many promises and vowed to fulfil them upon his party being elected. But behind all the heavy words people could see his work in Delhi, his absenteeism when he was required on ground and his constant need to grab attention. Unfortunately for his supporters, his “jo kaha so kiya” jargon fell flat. Before he conquers other states, Kejriwal should first govern Delhi and bring about the changes he put in his manifesto.
He needs to mend his ways unless it’s too late to hold ground in Delhi. In a rush to get ahead of BJP and Congress, Arvind Kejriwal forgot that one must learn to walk before sprinting. National stage can wait.
Becoming what he vowed to fight
After coming to power, Kejriwal did everything he accused the Shiela Dixit government of. His government has been a magnet for controversies. The CM’s constant tug-of-war with Delhi’s Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung resulted in the latter putting up his papers. The two would constantly collide on a plethora of issues. Posting of officials in the Delhi government and Delhi Police became ugly battle grounds. Last year, AAP government came under heavy fire regarding the appointment of 21 MLAs as parliamentary secretaries. They are now facing possible disqualification for alleged office of profit charge.
While talking of clean politicians, Kejriwal’s government was accused of hiring people with fake degrees. Law minister Jitender Singh Tomar’s fake degree scandal left the CM red faced and scathing. Not only Tomar, a few more MLAs like Surender Singh and Bhavna Gaur too were accused of providing false educational certificates.
After giving Delhi a relief in power tariff, Kejriwal’s own electricity bill raised many eyebrows. His residence consumed Rs 91,000 worth electricity over two months, as revealed in an RTI reply. He has been accused of spending public money on self-publicity campaigns, bills for which are running into crores of rupees. Another RTI revealed that the AAP government spent around Rs 526 crores on radio advertisements over one financial year. Self-publicity done with public money does amount to corruption and the Kejriwal camp seems to have mastered the trend.
The failed promises
In 2015, people got attracted to AAP for Kejriwal’s clean image and revolutionary ideas. Also attractive to them was his manifesto. When Kejriwal promised new jobs, free wi-fi zones, improvement in public transport and CCTV cameras on streets for a safer living, he caught the pulse of Delhi.
However, two years on and these promises are yet to be met. Public transport in Delhi is in dire need of an overhaul but Kejriwal government seems to be sleeping on it. Streets are getting congested day by day, adding to the pollution level and chaos in everyday life of commuters. Delhi youth are still waiting for the much publicised free wi-fi zones throughout the capital. There is hardly any new job creation and barring a few places, the CCTV cameras have not been installed at all….if they were, 10-15 lakh CCTV cameras would be hard to miss.
Kejriwal promised nashamukti. But according to party co-founders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, AAP government issued 399 new licenses to liquor vends/stores and restaurants. To the public’s dismay, new liquor shops are opening near residential areas, endangering the safety of women and children. AAP’s pre-poll manifesto promised setting up a Women’s Security Force of upto 10,000 Home Guards. While the marshals deployment program is barely crawling, crime against women are on rise.
AAP government is sitting on a 5000+ crore health budget while the public health suffers. The promise of bettering the education system, too remains an agenda in the files. According to ousted leader Yogendra Yadav, only four new school have so far been constructed as against the promise of 500. He also claimed that the government gave only three loans of Rs 3.15 lakh under its higher education and skill guarantee scheme, while incurring an expenditure of over Rs 30 lakh to advertise the scheme.
In contrast to the number of promises that AAP has failed to keep, the ones that the party has achieved, are few. The countable ones which fare in AAP’s report card are free water and electricity subsidy, along with some serious efforts to bring down pollution and curbing corruption in public offices.
Rising dissatisfaction among people
AAP’s lacklustre performance and humiliating defeat in the recent by-elections are a mirror to the rising dissatisfaction among the people of Delhi. Before proving his government in Delhi, Kejriwal set off to become the CM of Punjab. Party MLAs too left their constituencies to campaign in Punjab. AAP lost a crucial constituency which had sizeable Sikh votes as the AAP MLA was away in Punjab for over a year.
Delhi voters considered it as a betrayal of their trust that their elected representatives deserted them for greener pastures. Kejriwal assumed that free water and subsidised electricity would keep the people of Delhi happy and contented for five years and he would be free to spread his wings outside the national capital.
Delhi trusted Kejriwal twice but time and again he left the people drowning in crisis. To lure the electorate again before the upcoming MCD elections in Delhi, Kejriwal is handing out lollipops laced with free property tax offer. But this time round, people are aware of his antics. Kejriwal’s politics around populism will fail him and compel him to be the leader he promised he would be. Else he should be ready to fade away.
As the hope for Lokpal Bill remains unfulfilled, AAP has shown that it is just another party and it will use all means, whether fair or foul, to remain in power. Two years on, in a bid to throng the lime light while carrying with him a false sense of power, Kejriwal has made many u-turns, run into many potholes, all along losing the trust of people.
It makes one ponder if Abrahm Lincoln could see into the future when he said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” For after becoming the CM of Delhi, power sure has shown us the megalomaniac nature of Kejriwal’s character.
(The author is an activist author of book ‘Punjab – The Enemies within.’ Her documentary on Punjab ‘Fading Glory’ was widely praised. Views expressed here are the author’s own. Janta Ka Reporter doesn’t subscribe to them)