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The core of Arvind Kejriwal’s politics — create a tussle, play victim, rinse and repeat

Arvind Kejriwal's decision to reserve Delhi’s hospital beds exclusively for city residents, which LG Anil Baijal overturned, is a classic example of the playbook the CM has perfected.

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For the people of Delhi, the first half of 2020 brought many lessons. But the one they would keep most close to their heart is the unravelling of the carefully constructed image of Aam Aadmi Party convener and their chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal.

Whether it was through his silence over the Shaheen Bagh protests, or his stand during the Northeast Delhi riots, or the mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis, Arvind Kejriwal exposed not only his conservative and narrow-minded politics, but also his incompetence and hunger for power. 

Meandering through each crisis by playing the victim card, and projecting himself as India’s most helpless chief minister at every turn, Kejriwal has shown himself as the opportunist that few might have expected him to be while supporting him not once but thrice against a resurgent BJP riding high on the ‘Modi wave’.

Now, Kejriwal seems to have perfected the playbook — of creating a scenario bound to put him in the Lieutenant Governor’s crosshairs, and, in turn, the Narendra Modi government at the Centre. His latest decision to reserve Delhi’s hospital beds exclusively for the residents of Delhi, which LG Anil Baijal immediately overturned, is a classic example — draw populist sentiments from voters first, and when the policy move runs into a hurdle, redirect their frustration and anger towards the Centre. 

His initial reply to the LG’s order was that opening Delhi’s hospitals to ‘outsiders’ will increase Delhi’s problems and pose a ‘huge challenge’ for the city’s residents.

He later agreed to implement the LG’s order, but his objectives had been served by then — of portraying himself as a leader driven solely by his concern for the people of Delhi, playing the victim card when the LG refused to approve his decision, and shielding himself from any blame that might have come his way because he tried to do something for the people but ultimately couldn’t.

Also read: Arvind Kejriwal has run out of excuses over his Covid failures in Delhi

Kaagaz dikhao politics

Arvind Kejriwal’s conservative and unconstitutional order may have been overturned, but his plan to exclude ‘outsiders’ from getting treatment can’t be ignored. 

Moreover, this is not the first time the Delhi CM has tried to limit access to medical care only to Delhi residents. His 2018 call was ruled by the Delhi High Court as unconstitutional.

Kejriwal’s actions betray a mindset prone to making citizen-based distinction, a territory more actively pursued by the RSS-BJP ecosystem. 

The Modi government implemented the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam and the countrywide Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that excluded Muslims. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological mentor, firmly believes that “India is a Hindu rashtra (nation)”, which the organisation’s chief Mohan Bhagwat often reiterates. The Right-wing doesn’t want India to be secular but a nation ruled by the Hindutva ideology, which sees Muslims as ‘outsiders’. 

Similar to the CAA-NRC’s requirement of ‘papers’ to prove citizenship, Kejriwal’s recent order also contained a list of documents that Covid-19 patients needed to show to secure admission in Delhi hospitals for treatment — much like the Modi government’s ‘kaagaz dikhao (show papers)’ politics. In fact, Raghav Chadha of the AAP himself drew a parallel between Kejriwal’s politics and that of the BJP in Karnataka.

Also read: It’s time Arvind Kejriwal joined the NDA, à la Nitish Kumar

Flop administrator 

Delhi under Kejriwal has been battered by one crisis after another. The Northeast Delhi riots, in which 53 people were killed and scores of houses and shops were gutted in loss of property worth crores, was an opportunity for him to prove his administrative skills, and prove to the people that he is their leader. Since Delhi Police falls under the control of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Kejriwal was safe from blame for police brutality or inaction. Just blame Amit Shah for it. But what about providing help to riot victims?

He also didn’t go to meet and listen to the protesting dadis of Shaheen Bagh even once, just watched the show from a distance after using their votes.

The Covid situation in the national capital has worsened. Every day, Twitter is filled with videos of people crying, talking about how they didn’t get any help from the AAP government. Ambulances aren’t provided, hospital’s have no beds, funeral grounds have no place. His repeated failure only proves that people of Delhi may have misunderstood him.

An India TV coverage exposed the conditions of Covid patients in Delhi government-run LNJP Hospital recently. Horrific footage from inside the hospital’s Covid ward showed patients lying on the floor and rooms filled with dead bodies. Patients and dead bodies kept together. Clearly then, under Kejriwal, Delhi is the real BIMARU state.

Also read: Why Delhi’s Covid patients are running from pillar to post in search of a hospital bed

Permanent victim

Arvind Kejriwal’s trump card is playing the permanent victim. In 2014, he resigned just 49 days after taking charge as chief minister by citing lack of opposition’s support in passing the Delhi Jan Lok Pal Bill. Even though this was a clear disdain of the people’s mandate, Delhi again elected him with another majority.

From then on, he has only repeatedly accused the BJP-led central government of being a hurdle and how all his schemes to make Delhi prosper is blocked by Modi and Amit Shah. His methods drew voters towards him for the third time last year, which has meant he can keep at it with more vigour and never ‘apologise’ to the public for his failures.

Ironically, Kejriwal, who claims to be the anti-corruption crusader, had to issue ‘warnings’ to private hospitals not to ‘black market’ beds and charge patients more during the current Covid crisis. This is the same man who has been promising for the last six years that Delhi will be corruption-free. Does Kejriwal have a period in mind by when it would happen?

Arvind Kejriwal was voted to power because people thought he would bring a change and transform Indian politics. But all he did was use people’s woes and their hopes to devise a new formula of winning elections in the age of Modi-Amit Shah.

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  1. Any blame has to be shared by both the Centre and AAP for the current situation but the main issue is the abysmal state of healthcare in our country.

  2. A completely biased article indeed!
    I normally comment on the article and its content. But after reading this biased article, it seems the author seems to be really biased against Arvind Kejriwal!

  3. The author is totally biased. Reading this article is like watching republic TV, Zee news and times now. Still delhi’s testing rate is 10 times of neighbouring Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. I can understand if you are doing this for The print’s survival. And even countries with best medical facilities like Italy and America crumbled by corona virus. Compare the testing rate of Gujarat and UP with Delhi. And also medical facilities.

  4. I find the article very prejudiced , kejriwal is a politician , he acts like one ( people like u & me ) would not be able to save our deposits. As far as the corona virus is considered , every medical crisis , is going to find India short. Politicians in India can promise & perhaps deliver a Ram temple on a disputed site but to upgrade health infrastructure is not god’s play , it requires humongous capital and time in generations ,even then once in century event ,will find most amount of infrastructure inadequate. These are worst times for humanity ,one can be humble and hope that the “gods must not be that angry”.

  5. This article would not have been written if kejri had gone & listened to “Dadis” of Saheen Bagh….That’s the main issue..

  6. This article is highly biased and cynical. It only views the negatives or what the Kejriwal government did not achieve and label the whole of government as a ”flop administrator”. which ofc is not true, given the educational outcomes and mohalla clinics. The only argument that has merit in your article is the fact that yes, Kejriwal has also succumbed to populism. His non-adversarial and non-confrontationary strategy before and after the elections is just wrong, from an ethical perspective. But here again, I don’t think that the article has been fair, given what demagoguery Indian democracy is turning into with populists and impulses at the front and reason and truth at the backseat. Kejriwal’s changed colors from an activist to an Indian politician, in a metaphorical sense, is perhaps only a reaction to the kind of populist ground that the BJP-RSS have created.

  7. Smt Taskin, Shri Kejriwal is a student of IIT. His brains are sharper than those of almost every journalist. Your and your professional community’s blind hatred towards BJP had coloured your vision. You all built up Shri Kejriwal as a prophet taking the helpless masses to some promised land. Now he does not need you. That hurts.

  8. The article totally exposes the ignorance of the writer about the complex and fragmented governance system of Delhi which under the present regime at the Centre cannot even expect its due share from the Rs 17,400 Cr relief given to various states to combat Covid-19. Delhi is bound to have the rapid spread of the virus due to its being a highly dense city which saw continued arrival of people from abroad. This was not checked despite the request made by Kejriwal for fifteen days. So far as the demography of Delhi is concerned it is very much similar to Mumbai, and both are witnessing the same kind of spread of the virus. The writer has nothing to say on the incompetence of the central govt run hospitals and no allocation of beds by BJP controlled 3 MCDs. This has become a fashion to slam Kejriwal for the faults of whosoever. He should also consider the fact that the Delhi govt is deprived also of the share from the direct tax (Aprox Rs 60,000 cr) that the Center collects from Delhiites. Yet it has to cater to the medical needs of the residents coming from outside. They have every right to come for treatment if the facilities are better than other states’ and indeed around 50% delhi hospital beds are used by residents coming from outside Delhi, mainly UP and Haryana. But why the writer should not recommend due share from the direct tax be paid to Delhi govt so that it treats the residents from the entire country even during the time of its own crisis.

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