After exactly one year, Arvind Kejriwal has once again formed his Aam Aadmi Party’s government at Delhi. The difference this year is that, rather than a minority government, he has a fortuitous 67 legislators out of a total of 70. Before trying to predict whether Kejriwal’s government is going to run smoothly or end up being a roller coaster ride like last time, a flashback is necessary.
Last time, the facts that Delhi was not a full state and the Delhi police was under the central government’s control were used by the Congress government to try to make Arvind Kejriwal a failure by ordering the police to not follow his government’s orders. The central government adopted a confrontational attitude with Arvind Kejriwal on every front. For example, Shiela Dixit was appointed as the Governor of Kerala to protect her from being arrested when Arvind Kejriwal had an FIR registered regarding the Commonwealth games scam without caring about the fate of his minority government, as it was being supported by 8 Congress MLAs from the outside. In addition, an FIR registered against then-Minister of Petroleum, Marpadi Veerappa Moily, former minister Murli Deora and RIL chief Mukesh Ambani for alleged collusion in the hike in natural gas prices from the Krishna-Godavari Basin was labelled as “anti-constitutional”, though this act was vindicated by the judiciary later, as the Delhi High Court refused two separate pleas of the Centre and Reliance Industries Limited seeking quashing of the FIR.
The government was successful in using the media to malign Mr. Kejriwal’s image to some extent. They projected him as an anarchist due to his dharna despite the fact that he was simply seeking accountability of Delhi’s police for failure to provide women security. The central government was very tactfully handling him rather than withdrawing support while repenting on their decision to give him outside support to form a minority government.
The media was personally hounding Arvind Kejriwal too, as all of their efforts were to show him failing to fulfill the promises he made in his manifesto. When 20,000 litres per month was announced instead of 700 litres per day, headlines said, “He promised 700 litres per day but is giving only 667, where are the other 33 litres?!” Additionally, all of his pro-people decisions were ridiculed by the media, who were representing crony capitalists, as populist measures and fiscal disasters.
When even the honourable President of India did not hesitate to take a dig at him, it appeared to be Kejriwal versus the whole system. In an apparent reference to the Aam Admi Party, President Pranab Mukherjee warned in his Republic Day eve speech about the dangers of intemperate populism, saying “populist anarchy” cannot be a “substitute for governance”. His references to irresponsible populism seemed aimed at AAP when he said, “Elections do not give any person the licence to flirt with illusions. Those who seek the trust of voters must promise only what is possible. Government is not a charity shop.” Today, India still has the same President, and the same Arvind Kejriwal but the difference now is that Kejriwal is armed with 67 MLAs. The central government has changed from Congress to the BJP, but they are still representing the same crony capitalistic interests, as they are the ones who funded their recent, extravagant election campaign.
Recently, it was a no brainer for the media to deduce that the election was in the AAP’s favour before it even began, but they hid this fact from people. In fact, the media kept saying, even until the end, that it was “neck-to-neck” and “the AAP has only a slight edge over the BJP”. Exit polls were claiming that the AAP had more than half of the seats but some of the media was still predicting a hung assembly by giving only 34 seats to the AAP. I was unsurprised when the Aam Aadmi Party set a new record in Indian political history. The same media that would have hounded Dr. Yogendra Yadav had his prediction not come true did not have the courage to apologise. The question remains: Will the attitude of the media and central government towards the AAP’s government remain the same as last time, or change due to the humiliating defeat of the ruling BJP despite all of the possible help from the media?
In his first speech, the newly sworn Chief Minister did not shy away from reminding the media that their job is not to hound his government on an hourly basis. Singing the song, “Insaan Ka Insaan Se Ho Bhaichara”, was his polite way of conveying a message to the BJP to refrain from communal politics.
Since day one, the Aam Aadmi Party has made it clear that they are in politics to wipe the tears of the last person in a queue via pro-people policies and introduce a new paradigm in politics. Unfortunately, the media has already started criticising its 70 point agenda. Mr. Kejriwal, as the Chief Minister of Delhi, has already extended his hand for co-operation to the honourable Prime Minister of India, so it is now up to Mr. Modi to decide to act as India’s Prime Minister or as the BJP’s Prime Minister. In this David vs. Goliath election, Kejriwal entered as David and emerged victorious, making him the new Goliath. It is in Mr. Modi’s best interests to co-operate with Kejriwal in order to save himself from being reduced to the role of the underdog in 2019 since Modi is unlikely to be able to overcome the new Goliath as David did.
The BJP, as the ruling political party, should take stock of the situation: the challenge of entering Indian politics and getting elected to pass his own Jan Lokpal Bill thrown at Arvind Kejriwal has gone wrong. He has not only succeeded at the first and very important step – he is getting ready for a big battle. Though there is enough space in the political arena for the religion based BJP and the secular AAP to both survive (since the AAP is going to fill the vacuum created by the diminishing Congress and third front), the BJP should realize that the youth in Delhi has rejected the RSS’ agenda of India being a “Hindu nation”. The newly elected Modi government will have to change its policies from pro-capitalists to pro-people and pro-farmers. Police reforms, judicial reforms, an independent CBI and an effective, independent Lokpal cannot be delayed for long time now since the new kid on the block is being seen as emerging player at national level. I strongly believe that a co-operative attitude may prove to be a life saver for the BJP, whereas confrontation will be deadly in the future.