Second time CM of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal has been facing a torrid few weeks. Multiple issues have hit him and his party even as they are working to expand their footprint beyond Delhi. AAP, has been under attack from opposition parties, a section of the media, and even their own MLAs and disgruntled workers, who have been shown the door.
It is not as if AAP was immune from criticism before the past few weeks. There has been intense scrutiny of the various aspects of the party, the Government and its leaders. To begin, Kejriwal has always been attacked for his numerous U-Turns: Will never contest elections, will never take support of Congress, will never take “sarkari” accommodation, will not take security, will not take extravagant salaries etc etc.
Then came the criticism around his Governance. The Delhi Government’s Rs 526 crore budget for advertisements was scrutinised. The numerous full page ads all over India which could very well be in violation of guidelines set by Supreme Court were questioned. AAP’s tacit alliance with the Nitish-Lalu combine in Bihar also raised many eyebrows. Also his politicking and extracting of political mileage out of incidents such as Vemula’s death or the JNU episode.
There were some ministers sacked on allegations of corruption and forgery. Some like Gopal Rai were shunted from the Transport Ministry which is being investigated for corruption. The issue of the legality of the 21 parliamentary secretaries was recently decided by the courts, which came as a blow to AAP. Their disqualification is still a matter of debate and is pending with the Election Commission.
More recently AAP was in the dock for internal issues. AAP’s Punjab unit was in disarray as their convener was sacked for accepting cash in a sting video. AAP’s Women and Child Minister in Delhi was caught in a sex racket, which was aggravated by absurd defences. This opened a Pandora’s box as allegations after allegations surfaced of alleged misbehaviour of AAP leaders with women.
While all of the above are serious issues, an average voter may just ignore them. All said and done, these issues are found either in totality or in parts, in most Indian political parties. And most importantly, they have no bearing on the day-to-day life of an aam aadmi. His life is not affected by Kejriwal’s ad spree or a sex CD of a minister. But now, Kejriwal Government has got embroiled in an issue which has severely degraded the life of the common man.
Delhi is crumbling. Delhi’s roads are in pathetic condition, and are prone to floods. Sewage water overflowing in the capital city of the country is never a good sign. Just half an hour of rain brings Delhi to a complete halt. This problem does not only affect those using vehicles on the road. Such mismanaged dirty water is an ideal breeding ground for all sorts of pests. Perhaps this explains the sudden spurt in vector borne diseases in Delhi. These diseases like malaria, chikungunya and dengue, affect not only the upper middle class, but even hit the poorest of the poor in Delhi.
There has been a spike in the cases of Chikungunya in Delhi. Media reports suggest this is the biggest outbreak of the mosquito-borne viral disease in the city. Delhi authorities reported 1,057 cases of chikungunya and 1,158 cases of the mosquito-borne Dengue this year with hospitals overflowing with patients complaining of fever and joint pains. At least 5 people have succumbed to these, and the number can increase.
Sure all of this isn’t AAP’s fault. There are multiple agencies at play. The Delhi Jal Board, which is under the AAP Government, is the authority responsible for planning, designing, and execution of water supply and wastewater management facilities. The Health Department, again with the AAP Government, is responsible for controlling of the spread of diseases and medical facilities. The local municipalities which are under other parties like the BJP must also take a share of the blame for not getting their act together. Oddly enough, Kejriwal has not been kind to his officers as well, giving terse warnings such as “‘Like it or not, we are here for 15 years”. Any CM would realise the fallacy of threatening the very bureaucrats who will actually execute all your work. To top it all, Delhi has an acrimonious relationship with the LG of Delhi, who for legal purposes, is the final authority in Delhi. And thus the blame-game has started.
This blame-game may interest some party-loyalists. BJP backers will blame the state government, AAP supporters will blame the MCD and the LG. But what will the common man say? What will the average Delhiite who is currently feeling abandoned say? Does he give a damn about all this?
He will naturally compare his situation today, to his condition a few years back, when AAP was non-existent. Kejriwal cannot claim to be in a unique position where the LG and the MCD are not of his choice. Chief Ministers of Delhi have always faced this quandary. Sheila Dikshit worked with opposition party appointees and delivered the goods. That too when her Government had nowhere near an absolutely thumping majority of 67 MLAs.
This brings us to the main distinguishing feature between Kejriwal’s Government and others: the AAP Government seems to be in a perennial state of war. The LG has been abused and ridiculed far too often. Ministers as well as the CM have written highly disrespectful letters to him. The MCD too has not been handled well. If only Kejriwal had read the constitution, he would have realised he had no choice but to work along with the LG, and not by constantly being at odds with him. Further, local municipalities are an essential authority for any state government across India, which must be taken into confidence, to ensure that the Government’s schemes reach the common man.
All this needs some back-pedalling, some compromises, some humility, some understanding. 67 MLAs do not give the right to Kejriwal or his Government to be brash, arrogant and confrontational. And with the latest health hazards in Delhi due to the spread of diseases, this attitude of the Kejriwal Government has been exposed.
When questions are asked of Kejriwal or his ministers, the answers have ranged from evasive to abusive. The CM is portraying himself as helpless, ministers are blaming the LG or the MCD, the Health minister is claiming deaths from chikungunya are a figment of imagination even while blaming the media for over-hyping the situation.
All this is leading to a very tragic yet hilarious situation. The health minister has been caught in an Odd-Even situation, saying “all is well” as well as “LG has messed up everything”. Any one statement can hold true:
Tweets of Manish Sisodia indicate that the Delhi Government was happy to claim credit for all the work done last year, but this year, they are looking for a scapegoat during Bakri-Eid festivities:
Again all this is politicking, and if you tell this to that Delhiite infected by chikungunya, sleeping in the over-filled ward of a Delhi Government hospital, he would probably lose his cool. As a common man, he isn’t interested in the saas-bhau-esque squabbles of AAP with the LG. He doesn’t care who is responsible for what. He knows only one thing: One and half year ago he elected the strongest Government across India. This was formed by a party which claimed to be different. He gave the keys of Delhi to this party. He expected them to get things done.
He doesn’t care how they do it. They may have to compromise, beg, plead or even sleep with the enemies for it. But at the end of the day, he wants Delhi changed for the better. Sadly, that is not happening. While all authorities will be blamed, he will have no choice but to lay the lion’s share of the blame squarely at the feet of the state government, for failing to work with all the agencies, despite all the power. He doesn’t care if Kejriwal roams in business class or economy, he just doesn’t want to be bitten by a disease-spreading mosquito.