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Aam aadmi left in lurch

Aam aadmi left in lurch
Highlights

Assessment may vary about the current popularity of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), but two sections of Delhi’s populace that remain loyal to it are auto-rickshaw drivers and hawkers.

Assessment may vary about the current popularity of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), but two sections of Delhi’s populace that remain loyal to it are auto-rickshaw drivers and hawkers. Both are particularly vulnerable to bribery and extortion from the police and the AAP has thwarted it with a fair success through its aggressive anti-graft campaign.

This does not, of course, explain the constant spat that AAP leaders have with the Delhi Police, but points to a reason, albeit minor, why the police is acting with alacrity against AAP ministers and lawmakers, undoubtedly at the instance of the BJP-ruled Union Government.

Reports indicate that 21 AAP lawmakers out of 67 have criminal cases registered against them. Work is being done to prosecute them. Two MLAs facing serious charges, including molestation, cheating and forgery, could soon be arrested. Reports speak of 48 cases registered, trial pending in 20 cases and 24 more cases under investigation.

All this signals more trouble for the party built on the promise of probity in public life. Although coming from police sources, the reports have been denied by Delhi Police chief B S Bassi. Significantly, he has contradicted the numbers, not the likelihood of the chargesheets being readied by the end of this month. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia and Delhi Assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goyal are among the likely targets.

Whether or not this happens in the numbers and to the extent indicated by the reports, one thing is clear: AAP’s image as an anti-graft crusader has taken a serious beating. For this, AAP must blame itself. Its choice of candidates, bulk of them first-timers, included small-time operators and, possibly, society’s riff-raffs.

Former Law Minister Somnath Bharati who tried to ‘police’ Delhi with high-handed behavior during previous AAP regime, is again in news, accused by his estranged wife of beating, harassment and much else. Another Law Minister Joginder Singh Tomar, accused of having fake degrees, was arrested and is in jail. Kejriwal’s valiant efforts to shield the two have failed, denting his reputation.

Police, by the very nature of its work, uses the baton for those in power and the powerful. It has a peculiar position in Delhi where both the Union and the State Governments function from the same arena. That Delhi is not a full-fledged state and the arrangement is quasi-federal, adds to that peculiarity. In its campaign to get full statehood, in trying to fight this situation, AAP has met with complete failure. Delhites, in general, are not impressed.

AAP and its government have raised a plethora of issues in its swashbuckling anti-Centre campaign, ignoring citizenry’s woes. Prices of essential commodities are rising and so is the scare of water-borne diseases as monsoon approaches. Delhi has been particularly vulnerable on both these scores. Dengue afflicts children each monsoon. And unusually high onion prices had cost the BJP its government, briefly led by Sushma Swaraj. In this BJP Vs AAP fight, the Delhi citizen is the loser.

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