By Vijay Sanghvi
During his time, Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan is believed to have issued a fatwa to break the wrists and blind all artisans who built Taj Mahal the eighth wonder of the world. Reason: he did not want them to build a similar monument.
Though historians are still unable to confirm what exactly happened during Shah Jahan’s time, the throne of Delhi does seem to have something that makes its rulers behave in a peculiar manner.
The recent edict of Delhi’s seventh and current chief minister Arvind Kejriwal lends credence to the belief.
One of the first things that Kejriwal did upon assuming office was to issue an edict to crush the pens and morale of those very media persons who contributed to building his image in last two years. He ordered slapping of defamation cases against on all media houses who dared to criticize his government.
His circular made it evident that he was not merely an elected chief minister, but a crowned royal monarch with the powers to do what he wants. A person above criticism, who needs no explanation; someone who can do what he feels right and that it becomes a royal edict.
Even when faced with clinching evidence of misrepresentation by his law minister who claimed to be a law graduate from Bihar University, he issued a royal decree absolving the law minister of any impropriety. It was all that was required to close the chapter.
Mostly known for little beyond his role in managing NGOs, Arvind Kejriwal came to limelight only when he plunged into Anna Hazare’s movement to eradicate corruption and cleanse the political system in 2011. Thousands of middle class youths came on the streets for the first time in life to stand by an old man who promised to fight against corruption.
Kejriwal was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Anna Hazare moment as his name was mentioned in almost all media dispatches. Thousands of social activists tried unsuccessfully to squat near Jantar Mantar in Delhi for a whole year seeking justice for their cause. They did not attract even crowds of onlookers. Their cries were unable to pierce through the windows of government office and rebounded back from the closed doors of air conditioned office. This is when Kejriwal projected the futility of trying to cleanse the system from the outside – seek justice by shouting from the other side of the road. The Media offered him full support.
Hazare was amused the proposition, but was not willing to undertake responsibility being a loner all his life.
Arvind Kejriwal was so much mesmerized by the idea that a few weeks before the 2013 assembly election, he launched a party even without a formal structure and clearly defined the agenda. He took along everyone who was fascinated by his idea or saw an opportunity in it. Veterans like Prashant Bhushan fighting for every lost cause and Yogendra Yadav, saw potential in his idea. More help actually came when students of higher technical institutes enrolled as volunteers reached peoples’ homes asking first-time electors what they wanted. Surprisingly, no political party workers had approached them to know their problems and their needs.
To the amusement of the voters Aam Adami Party picked up two basic human needs — water and power. The idea that a group desired to cleanse the system paid rich dividends even though most people knew that the promise of halving expenses on these two items were without a fuller understanding of the system. No study was carried out to analyze the huge difference in demand from the streets and actual realization from behind the desk in a government office. Demand can be voiced for a single section, but the administration has to view totality. Without a drastic reduction in the cost of power generation, reduction in power bills of a section can be only through doubling power rates for the well-to-do segments of the society. The well to do segments know ways to avoid a new burden through corruption or other methods. Power suppliers have lost millions of rupees each year in power thefts.
It often happens when people make believe they know everything under the sun by virtue of having worked in another field of social services. In no time, Kejriwal realized he was groping in the dark to find a way out of the administrative maze. In any case he had invited the wrath of people after forming a government with the Congress the most corrupt institution as he himself had earlier described, supporting him from outside. He insisted on pushing his Lok Pal bill directly in the assembly without going through the prescribed Constitutional route. His attempt was to prove it that anyone who opposed him was standing in the path of eradication of corruption. People concluded differently and delivered their judgment four months later by voting out his party in the Lok Sabha election. Not a single of seven seats in Delhi went to him.
The internal feuds within the BJP over the selection of Kiran Bedi by the Prime Minister as the chief ministerial candidate delivered him an unbelievable verdict of 67 out of 70 assembly seats. He presumed it to be his victory. He brushed aside controversies that followed his return to power as if they did not matter. But every action put on show the streak of authoritarianism within him. His anger at Media for criticizing his performance was the highlight of the display. He issued an edict to slap defamation cases with his government bearing expenses. Only a few days earlier, he had pleaded in favor of his fundamental right of expression in the Court and sought ‘stay’ on three defamation proceedings against him. Now he was seeking to deny same freedom to others. It’s not merely a double talk, but also it exposed his belief that he was now an emperor and can decree for breaking pens of media persons and demoralize owners with a sword on their necks.