Saturday, March 25, 2023
HomeOpinionArvind Kejriwal risks becoming Rajiv Gandhi, neither here nor there

Arvind Kejriwal risks becoming Rajiv Gandhi, neither here nor there

Walking the secular-communal tightrope, Arvind Kejriwal could fall off it.

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The communal violence in northeast Delhi was of such a large scale that the death toll keeps rising from the hospital beds or with the recovery of unidentified bodies, days after the violence has subsided. Rumour-mongering has kept much of Delhi on edge. The man who incited the riots to begin with, BJP leader Kapil Mishra, has been leading peace marches. A judge who wanted prompt action was quickly transferred.

Yet, the public anger has been directed not just at the central government but also at the Delhi state government. The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) comes across as not having done much in the last one week. It has been largely absent, doing formalities so that no one can say what it did – or didn’t do.

AAP members say it’s unfair to blame CM Kejriwal because the Delhi Police does not report to his government. But the AAP is not just a party in power. It was meant to be a people’s movement, many years ago. What the AAP needed to do most was speak loudly against the injustice of the BJP leadership and the Delhi Police. The AAP is not giving political voice to the people.

But the question is, which people?

Also read: How Arvind Kejriwal’s third attempt at national politics may play out

Have the cake and eat it too

We saw recently in the Delhi assembly election that the AAP wants the votes of both Shaheen Bagh-going Muslims as well as of Hindus who vote for Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha. That’s like wanting to have your cake and eat it too — Kejriwal enjoyed such an impossibility in two assembly elections, 2015 and 2020.

But the war zone of northeast Delhi threatens to neither let Kejriwal have his cake nor eat it.

After AAP corporator Tahir Hussain was accused of storing petrol bombs on the roof of his house, the BJP and its proxies went into overdrive, accusing the AAP of having masterminded the violence. Soon thereafter, the AAP government signed the file that allowed prosecution of Kanhaiya Kumar, Anirban Bhattacharya and Umar Khalid in a (completely fraudulent) sedition case.

This suggests that the AAP was so rattled by the Tahir Hussain issue that it needed to show to the BJP voter it is not an extreme Left party. Hence the Kanhaiya card. This balancing act is reminiscent of Rajiv Gandhi, who thought he could keep both Muslims and Hindus happy. He ended up making both unhappy. The Modi voter will blame the AAP for Tahir Hussain (regardless of the truth about his role, which we don’t fully know), and the Muslim voter will blame the AAP for not standing up to the BJP.

The AAP thinks that only the noisy Left and liberals care about Kanhaiya, and only they think the AAP has intentionally abdicated responsibility in the Delhi riots. This is similar to how the AAP doesn’t go beyond lip-service on air pollution because it thinks only Twitter activists care.

Also read: No soft Hindutva, no Left Revolution, Kejriwal establishing a new centre in Indian politics

Neither secular nor commnunal

This time the AAP could be wrong. The perception of the AAP and the Delhi government abdicating responsibility in northeast Delhi could hurt them in the long-run — in both Delhi and nationally. Right now, their calculation is that Delhi’s Muslim voters have no option, and an election is not around the corner anyway. So, they have time to repair the damage. In other words, they are taking Muslim voters for granted just like “secular” parties are accused of doing.

Both Muslims and Hindus have died and suffered in northeast Delhi. Other than Muslims, the AAP is also wont to ignore this area adjoining Uttar Pradesh from where it doesn’t get too many votes. This should open the doors for a Congress revival in Delhi, but of course it is absent too.

The AAP even now is not doing enough in the riot-affected areas. It has been slow in setting up relief camps. Its MLAs and workers on the ground are not found holding hands of victims, helping the needy get aid in time. They have their answers and excuses for this: they say they have been doing things they are not getting credit for. Getting a big relief camp up and running when the Delhi Police was not assuring security, for example, was not feasible.

It comes back to optics, then. And the AAP is particular that it does not want to be seen as either “secular” or “communal”. It also does not want to be seen as being confrontational with the Modi government, because the latter can completely squeeze its functioning. We saw what happened around 2016 when Kejriwal went all out against Modi. They don’t want to do dharna politics anymore.

So, what do they want to do? Stick to the mandate and powers of the Delhi government, clip its political wings as if politics is limited to free electricity. With such an approach of conflict-avoidance, the AAP could be shrinking its own political space, in Delhi and nationally.

The author is contributing editor to ThePrint. Views are personal.

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  1. BJP and its proxies —- Is this the language used against the Party ruling the country. BJP or any party do not need a proxy, I will prefer the reporter to be unbiased in its reporting.

  2. Comparing Kejriwal with Rajiv G is like comparing Blood-hound with a small rat. Kejri has never initiated any riots. Kejri has never justified any riot. He may be having other shortcomings but is not communal . But Rajiv G justified anti-Sikh riots by declaring ” When a big tree falls ….” It is surprising the feet-licker Journos of dynasty have such a short memory or they are adept in putting uncharitable quotes of dynsts under the carpet. Remember , Riots in India are part and parcel of Indian history for a at least 1000 years — Not started in 1947 or 2002. Riots of February 2020 are not going to be last one. These have complex historical roots, causes and implications . The riots are part of psyche of every society Will occur and re-occur irrespective of the act of blackening or whitening the face of any class of politicians by committed journos in their own wisdom. Riots always leave mark on history and those who forget their history are condemned to repeat the same

    • This was not a riot. It was a pogrom. Like in 1984. And just because it has happened in human history does not mean that we should not try to stop it happening.

      Kejriwal might be a small rat right now (using your colorful language), but the way he is going means that the probability is high that he will become a hound.

      RajivG’s statement was simply execrable.

  3. This author must stop propaganda.Who was instigator of riot ?What are the slogans at Shaheen bagh for last two months?Those people were uttering hatred against Hindus and country.Kapil Mishra is not instigator.You are spreading lies.

  4. We tend to forget Kejriwal came out of Anna Hazare movement and at first opportunity got rid of unwanted elements like Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan.

  5. He has only one aim right from the beginning: becoming PM. He will sell his soul for that. He may not become openly communal like Modi, but don’t be surprised if he secretly admires Modi.

    Power has no morality. And Muslims are easy targets.

    If Advani had Vajpayee, Kejriwal has Sisodia.

  6. The fool knows old Tax policies and that is it. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride on them..

  7. Shivamji, I can see the glee in your tone and can imagine the spring in your step that your “riots” dream has come true. You now have something to write about for the next five years.

  8. It’s good politics. By not adhering to any ideological faction, he could lead the society to develop and by which people would forget their ideological enmity

  9. I think Shivam is among the select few who express correct views. Many others takes care of themselves first and put their pen accordingly. I think already AAP had lost a big chunk of its support base among Muslims, Liberals, Students. And this is harakiri for them, since they don’t have any solid section behind them.
    Dont know why Arvind Kejriwal opted to be mum, when not only Delhi but whole world was seeing the live updates for 3 days.

    • Muslim, liberals and students? Who are liberals if not Muslims? Why Muslims have to be Muslims? India doesn’t need Arabic cult.

        • Agree because it seems he does not know definition of liberals. So, a good student for somebody who did post graduation in “Entire Political Science”. If only he could have concentrated on his education, no need to post message for 1 Re and work in an IT cell.

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