Common man has his way
Common Man Has His Way, Thursday Thoughts, K Ramachandra Murthy, Arvind Kejriwal. The “aam aadmi” (common man) is going to make history in Delhi on Saturday. Arvind Kejriwal will be sworn in as chief minister in the Capital’s sprawling Ramlila Maidan where he, under the leadership of his mentor Anna Hazare, launched a massive campaign against corruption in 2011.
The AAP declared that it would field candidates for all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat in the 2014 general elections. It would try to puncture the image of Modi as an incorruptible leader and an able administrator. The BJP would like to see Kejriwal Government fail miserably and fall like nine pins. It would also try to wean Team Anna away from the AAP by exploiting the differences that exist.
The “aam aadmi” (common man) is going to make history in Delhi on Saturday. Arvind Kejriwal will be sworn in as chief minister in the Capital’s sprawling Ramlila Maidan where he, under the leadership of his mentor Anna Hazare, launched a massive campaign against corruption in 2011. He will be the youngest chief minister leading the youngest team ever in the State of Delhi.
The whole nation is looking up to the one-year-old party which had the audacity to challenge the two entrenched national parties and successfully captured the imagination of the elite and the poor sections of the Capital city alike. How it survives will be more interesting to watch than how it falls. Can Kejriwal & Co walk the talk? Can they take their 18-point agenda forward with 26 MLAs and a party that has started regretting its decision to provide outside support?
They may not be able to survive for long. But whatever the time they have in office, they are sure to set some standards. There is no doubt about their sincerity. Of the triumvirate that is responsible for the AAP, I never met Arvind Kejriwal. But I have been watching the resourceful campaigner on TV screen and he comes across as a genuine person keen on pursuing the goals he has set for himself and his party, come what may. After a point, he did not heed the advice of Anna. He has his own mind and a soul he calls his own. I had occasion to know the other two persons who form the trinity with Kejriwal. I had interviewed Prashant Bhushan, the young Supreme Court lawyer and activist and son of the redoubtable Shanti Bhushan, a former Union law minister, for HMTV.
Yogendra Yadav, a famous psephologist, AAP’s policy and strategy guru, was in our studio talking to me and Professor Chinnaya Suri of Hyderabad University. I met Yadav a couple of times later. I found both Bhushan and Yadav to be knowledgeable, endowed with robust common sense and fighting qualities. If Bhushan is radiant, emotional, righteous and ready to fight, Yadav is calm, cautious, scholarly and circumspect. They are not lightweights who can be pushed around. They are realistic and pragmatic.
Look at the way they responded to the statement made by Janardhan Dwivedi, AICC general secretary, that the party was perhaps wrong in deciding to support AAP. Both are aware that the AAP government may not survive even for one day. “It may last one day, one week, two weeks, one month…”, said Yadav. The fact that it is dependent on Congress support is not going to stop the government from implementing its agenda. They wish to make a difference till the time their government is knifed in the back.
Kejriwal himself said they are not entering into alliance with the Congress, as alleged by the BJP. “The Congress allowed us to form a minority government. We are not bothered about support. We concentrate only on issues,” he said. The three top leaders of the party are acutely aware that both the Congress and the BJP would pounce on the first opportunity to discredit them by showing them in a poor light. They understand that their charmed life has to be used purposefully so as to create a positive image for their party for future. They have national ambitions.
The AAP declared that it would field candidates for all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat in the 2014 general elections. It would try to puncture the image of Modi as an incorruptible leader and an able administrator. The BJP would like to see Kejriwal Government fail miserably and fall like nine pins. It would also try to wean Team Anna away from the AAP by exploiting the differences that exist. The party can bank on the first lady IPS officer in the country, Kiran Bedi, to bring Team Anna closer to the lotus although Anna personally would not like to tilt in favour of any political party. The BJP had praised Anna Hazare to the sky and described him as a tireless crusader solely responsible for the Lokpal Bill that was passed by both the Houses of Parliament.
It has to be watched how Kejriwal and his advisors are going to conduct themselves in office. They proved to an extent that they can negotiate political curves skillfully. They could defuse a potential crisis by persuading Vinod Kumar Binny, who showed signs of rebellion on Wednesday when he did not find his name in the list of MLAs to be sworn in as ministers, to cool down. They are fighters capable of standing up to any mischief by the Congress and the BJP. But their Achilles’ heel is going to be governance to which they are completely new. As Yadav rightly said in an interview, the grammar of governance has to be learnt quickly by the new team.
The agenda they have taken up is extremely difficult to implement. Sheila Dikshit, who ruled Delhi for 15 long years, described AAP promises as un-implementable. The first three promises are truly daunting. Providing 700 liters of water to every household in Delhi daily within 24 hours of taking over the reins of administration is a very important point on the agenda. It would cost the exchequer Rs 340 crore a year. Delhi has enough resources and it can afford to pay this amount if the government gives it top priority.
But the other promise of halving the power charges is going to be prohibitively expensive if the AAP government has to subsidise. Kejriwal said his first signature as CM is going to be on the file dealing with electricity charges. The AAP wants to get the accounts of the Discoms (power distribution companies) audited. Its information is that the Discoms are charging the consumers far more than they should, with an eye on unreasonable profits. It is going to take a lot of time to examine the accounts and come to conclusions. But the promise cannot wait. While these two promises can be fulfilled by straining the exchequer, the third is going to be very tough.
The AAP promised to bring legislation on the lines of the Lokpal within 15 days of assuming office. It was talking about Jan Lokpal Bill (anti-graft ombudsman) which the Congress and the BJP are sure to oppose tooth and nail. The Congress, in particular, cannot vote for the Bill since it did not accept the Jan Lokpal on the lines suggested by Anna Hazare and his associates. It had diluted the provisions before presenting its Bill in Parliament.
Anna got reconciled and accepted the Lokpal Bill that was passed by Parliament. But Kejriwal described the UPA’s Bill as “Jokepal Bill.” Now that the Lieutenant Governor has asked Kejriwal to prove his majority on January 3, the AAP government may not think of any drastic measure before that. But the minute the AAP brings the Jan Lokpal or its equivalent Bill to the Assembly, its days could be numbered. If the AAP tries to initiate a probe into the decisions taken by the previous government, its time would be up sooner than expected.
Another time bomb could be the one suggested by Prashant Bhushan. He wants to go into the entire KG-D6 contract (Krishna-Godavari basin), its execution and the Congress’ handling of RIL. He is itching for a fight with none other than Reliance which means real trouble for any government. Yadav said they are not going to follow any prefixed templates. But if they go aggressively with their “socialist” agenda (which is causing anxiety to some industrialists), they may not be able to go very far. The prospect of premature mortality does not seem to worry them.
They are here to give hope to the country which is in a hopeless mess, not to rule Delhi and establish a model for governance or development. Not this time, at least.
The idea of “Modi as Prime Minister” is interesting because the people are fed up with the lackluster performance of the UPA-II, but it is not exactly inspiring. Modi may give a boost to the economy. He may prove to be a better administrator. The policy paralysis and the clouds of gloom hanging over the market may disappear. But the system is going to remain the same. Only persons who work the system would be different. The gap between the rulers and the ruled is not going to decrease.
The fact that Kejriwal is about to take over as chief minister of the national capital city is thrilling because for the first time in 66 years of independence a team of idealistic young men and women, bubbling with enthusiasm to serve people, is about to throw the insensitive and inhuman system of administration out and usher in a more people-friendly, clean and responsive regime. The first few decisions, such as banning the three Bs: Batti (red beacons), Bungalow (government house) and Bandobast (police security) have set the tone for a welcome change. The debutants may not succeed in achieving all their goals. But any effort in that direction is sure to galvanise the youth of the country. Let us welcome the AAP experiment.