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The gruesome murder of of a 19-year-old girl Meenakshi in India’s capital last week has reignited the debate if the control of Delhi police should be handed over to the elected government.
This latest incident, where a young girl was stabbed 35 times to death a brother duo brought home one harsh reality that nothing had changed in Delhi post Nirbhaya’s gangrape in December 2012.
It’s almost impossible to prevent an isolated incident of crime in the best of countries with even exceptional policing. But what was tragic on this occasion was that the girl’s parents claimed the police had turned a blind eye to their repeated complaints of their daughter being harassed, molested and threatened by the same culprits in the past.
So, when Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his senior cabinet and party colleagues began to question the competency of police, it hardly came as a surprise to anyone.
Afterall, such episodes have huge bearing on the credibility of Delhi chief minister, who won a historic mandate in this year’s assembly election promising safety for women in the capital. It’s very easy for his political detractors to turn the table on him by holding his government responsible for the rise in crime particularly against women. With little bit of help from their friends in Indian media, it’s not too difficult for anyone to sell lies or half truths to gullible Indian electorates. Kejriwal clearly has learnt his lessons from first in 2013 assembly election and then in 2014 Lok Sabha and this year’s assembly elections.
His health minister Satyendra Jain wrote a hard-hitting letter to the Delhi police commissioner BS Bassi demanding answers to few of his questions related to Meenakshi’s murder, while Kejriwal summoned him for a meeting at the secretariat on Monday. The Delhi CM also went full throttle on social media by taking his fight directly to prime minister Narendra Modi by challenging him to ‘either do something or handover the reigns of Delhi Police to the Delhi government.’
He even called Delhi police thulla-albeit in a different context-a derogatory term used to address Delhi policemen.
On the day of his planned meeting with Kejriwal, Bassi went to meet the Delhi’s lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung. As soon as he came out of his meeting with Jung, Bassi’s tone had hardened. He told the waiting media that his force was answerable to the system and not an individual
It may have been viewed as his utter disdain to the concern expressed by Kejriwal over Delhi police’s inability to check crimes in the capital. But, what may not be a common knowledge to many is that Bassi is big fan of Kejriwal or at least that’s what I thought after having met the top cop early last year.
In my hour-long informal meeting, I got the sense that Bassi was no Nèeraj Kumar. Unlike Kumar, whose lack of sophistication and at times juvenile behaviour earned him plenty of criticism, Bassi came across as a very reasonable cop with a very fair perspective of goings on in Indian political arena.
I had met him just before the campaign for the Lok Sabha election, when Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party had decided to contest more than 400 seats up and down the country. We played a little prediction game and I asked him what he made of AAP’s chances in the LS polls. The commissioner felt that anything less than 65-70 seats would surprise him.
Justifying his prediction he said, ” You see, nobody expected AAP to do so well in the Delhi election (in 2013) but then they won 28 seats. This shows that this man (Kejriwal) seems to connect with the masses and what and how he communicates appears to chime with them.”
Bassi did not just feel that Kejriwal’s party may win 65-70 Lok Sabha seats in 2014, I also detected a tinge of ‘hope’ in his voice. It was as if he secretly prayed for AAP’s success. The reason for this conclusion was because what he said next.
He said, “A strong AAP in Lok Sabha will be a good thing for our democracy. Their unconventional way of doing politics will keep the mainstream parties in check.”
So the question is; Why is Bassi not cooperating with the elected government of Delhi led by Kejriwal if he once thought the latter’s entry into Indian politics was a good thing? The answer to this question may lie in who the office of Delhi Police commissioner reports to. I suspect any anti-Kejriwal rhetoric, however subtle it may be, comes from the chair of police commissioner and Bassi as an individual may not always agree with that.
Like any other bureaucrat, Bassi too may be simply doing his job by agreeing with his political master, who in this case is the BJP-led central government.
I doubt Kejriwal is aware of this reality, because if he did, he may have opted for an alternative strategy to deal with the Delhi police than what he’s currently adopted.
I personally think that the best course of action for the Delhi CM would have been to have Bassi on board in order for him to be able to implement most of his ideas on providing safety to Delhiites through mutual consent. Knowing Bassi, the idea of working with a CM, who won a landslide mandate based on his promises of implementing pro-people policies, would have been a music to his ears. But, the Delhi government’s full-blown attack against its police by constantly highlighting their shortcomings primarily to build a case for the full statehood for Delhi may have pushed Bassi to be defensive.
Even the most optimistic member of AAP knows that Delhi isn’t getting a full statehood in near future, at least not until AAP has significant presence in other states and in the parliament. Kejriwal has set his eyes on Punjab and will be looking at other states for potential electoral gains. Chances are he may even succeed in expanding his base beyond Delhi. But, a lot will depend on how he provides the leadership in Delhi. He has to decide whether he wants to be just another politician or he’s here to be a role model to the millions of Indians as the face of alternative politics.
Kejriwal’s image as a fighter and his radical and innovative ideas to clean Indian politics have been his strength up until now. There’s a danger that by continuously drawing himself to controversies, he may be causing irreparable damage to the cause he’s so passionately championed.
Rifat Jawaid is the Editor-in-Chief of www.jantakareporter.com