The word is rife that Arvind Kejriwal, by accepting the Congress’ outside support, has walked into a trap; that he would be exposed in no time as he would find it impossible to fulfil his ‘lofty’ promises. Congress leaders are coming up with arithmetic and calculations to explain that it is not possible to slash the power tariff to half, that there are no skeletons in the Delhi Jal Board’s cupboard and that Kejriwal was free to conduct any enquiry he wanted to.
A trap that could be, but for whom? Never before in Delhi politics since 1993, when the Delhi assembly came into being, has there been a politician who has had the mettle to divide both the political giants – the Congress and the BJP – with one single stroke. Kejriwal has done that. While a section in the Congress is sulking vocally over giving support to his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Bharatiya Janata Party is a divided house with voices of dissent over Harsh Vardhan’s refusal to form a government. A number of Delhi BJP leaders feel that Harsh Vardhan was bluffed by Kejriwal. “We have the maximum seats and yet we are sitting in the opposition. What kind of politics is that?” asked one of them.
The Congress has just stopped short of making a U-turn, and instead salvaged its position from giving “unconditional support” to “issue-based support”.
A veteran Congress political leader recently admitted that Kejriwal was “a far more shrewd politician than any of us”. It is a compliment for the 45-year old debutant. “They are right. They are not politicians, but ‘dalals’ (power brokers). The late Lal Bahadur Shastri was a politician. And we are following in his footsteps,” Kejriwal retorted.
Political pundits guess that giving support to AAP is a Congress ploy to defer a fresh Delhi assembly election by a few months so that it does not concur with the Lok Sabha election because, in that case, the BJP will be a clear winner.
Despite that, the AAP’s success is going to be very limited. Once the euphoria dies down, Kejriwal will have to face many realities, some bitter and many out of his direct control.
His Delhi Secretariat stint is surely not going to be a joyride.
The first problem, in the form of a steep hike in CNG and PNG tariff, Has been tossed by the Congress-led union government even before he could take the oath of office. Knowing the Congress, there are surely more to come. And with the Delhi chief minister having no control over several important things like law and order and land, it’s going to be tough to negotiate the bouncers. Will the Delhi Government continue to get central funds and assistance in as much abundance as it did during Sheila Dikshit’s reign?
The old political outfits are known to always have more than a few dirty tricks up their sleeves. For instance, there could be large-scale demolitions in unauthorised colonies in Delhi – the erstwhile Congress strongholds – from where AAP drew considerable support. We saw a protest at Mansarovar Park in East Delhi where bulldozers overnight razed the hutments, leaving scores under the open sky in chilling winter. It could be replicated at other places.
And then, God forbid, there could be communal or caste-based clashes. Perhaps that’s going too far but that’s not unprecedented. How the harmonious Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh was plunged into a communal conflagration adds some meat to this seemingly far-fetched speculation.
If any such thing happens, Kejriwal would find himself on slippery turf. It would be difficult for him to explain to the public that he has little control over land use or law and order, just like Sheila Dikshit found it difficult to explain in the aftermath of the Dec 16 gang-rape in Delhi.
But Kejriwal’s real challenge would come from the ones he is claiming to represent – the Aam Aadmi or common man! What if a party supporter comes asking for a favour, in terms of a government contract or an out of turn promotion?
Or what if Kejriwal, a former taxman, asks Delhi’s traders to pay up the sales tax and VAT honestly so that his government would have enough money to meet its promises? Will they obey? What if Kejriwal goes after them and threatens to scrutinize their account books?
Lastly, what would be the new government’s take on illegal constructions? Will it connive with them or will it go against them?
If he rejects such requests or refuses to connive, he is likely to lose his base. The autorickshaw unions, his big time supporters, are already threatening to go on a strike over a fare hike. But if he honours such requests, he would lose credibility.
Arvind Kejriwa, one is tempted to say, is placed between a rock and a hard place.
(29.12.13. Mohd Asim Khan is a Delhi-based journalist. The views expressed are personal.He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org )