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‘Look at us, cameras on us, ignore the public’: How AAP leaders, from Kejriwal to Atishi all thrive on narcissistic media hogging and blame shifting

The visuals of Delhi residents running behind a water tanker in Chanakyapuri’s Vivekananda Camp have now been replaced with Minister Atishi being taken to the hospital after her health reportedly ‘deteriorated’ due to the fast.

There is a saying in Hindi, “Kaam karo na karo kaam ki fikr zaroor karo” [Work or not, be ‘concerned’ about work]. This seems to have been a fundamental principle of the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi. While the national capital is grappling with its worst water crisis, the AAP ministers instead of taking steps to resolve the issue are staging a dramatic indefinite fast—“Pani Satyagraha”. If the government itself is indulging in such theatrics who will provide adequate water supply to the people of Delhi?

Atishi Marlena, Delhi’s Water Minister, initiated an indefinite fast on the 21st of June 2024, accusing the Haryana government of not releasing Delhi’s rightful share of water. Atishi claims this has affected around 2.8 million residents due to the shortfall in water supply​.

On the fourth day of her indefinite strike, Atishi continued with AAP’s usual blame game and said that the Haryana government has reduced Delhi’s water supply by 100 million gallons per day (MGD) over the last three weeks.

Even in its attempt to appear ‘concerned’ about the plight of the Delhi people, AAP could not avoid drama. On Monday, a video surfaced online wherein Delhi Water Minister Atishi was supposedly seen reminding a doctor who probably forgot the ‘script’, to tell people about her increasing ketone levels.

It is amusing that in just four days of her ‘Anshan’, Minister Atishi’s health deteriorated to the point that she had to be admitted to the LNJP hospital. The Aam Aadmi Party claimed that Atishi during the course of her four-day fast has been losing weight and her blood pressure is also decreasing. Doing ‘Anshan’ or claiming health deterioration is a tried and tested tactic of AAP to garner media attention and public sympathy.

But all this raises a question. How is Atishi’s Anshan going to get water into Delhi homes? She is the water minister. She is supposed to be in her office working, not on stage doing theatrics.

Recently, it was seen how Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal who was arrested in connection with the Delhi liquor scam case, claimed that his sugar levels his body weight dropped by 7 kgs suggesting that he might be suffering from a “serious disease”. He also claimed that his sugar levels have increased during his time in jail and he was deprived of insulin by the Tihar jail authorities. The self-proclaimed modern-day Bhagat Singh, Kejriwal blatantly played the victim card despite the fact that the Tihar Jail administration comes under Delhi Prison Department. The idea behind such tactics is to establish a narrative that somehow the central government is acting against Kejriwal due to political vendetta and a ‘fearless’ Kejriwal is going to jail to ‘save’ democracy. With this, the media and public would focus more on the “how” than “why” Kejriwal was jailed.

It must be noted how such theatrics help AAP build a narrative in its favour and deflect attention from the actual issue. Just days before, the mainstream media showed the people of Delhi after a long wait running behind water tankers to get their buckets filled. But now, the entire media attention is on Atishi’s ‘Pani Satyagraha’ and her ketone levels.

The visuals of Delhi residents running behind a water tanker in Chanakyapuri’s Vivekananda Camp have now been replaced with Minister Atishi being taken to the hospital after her health reportedly ‘deteriorated’ due to the fast.

Basically, the only thing Atishi’s Pani Satyagraha has achieved is that it has successfully shifted the media focus from the public suffering for something as basic as water to an entitled, powerful woman, a minister no less, highlighting her own ‘suffering’.

Notably, the water tanker mafia in Delhi has been a persistent issue, contributing significantly to the ongoing water crisis in the capital. Despite the Delhi government’s promises to curb this illegal activity, little effective action has been taken, leading to criticism from various quarters, including the Supreme Court.

Before the AAP government launched its ‘Pani Satyagraha’ gimmick, the Supreme Court recently reprimanded the Delhi government for its inaction against the water tanker mafia, emphasising that the failure to address this problem exacerbates the city’s water shortages.

“There are visuals on every channel that the tanker mafia is working in Delhi. What measures have you taken in this regard?… What measures have you taken to control water waste coming through the two barrages if this is a recurring problem?,” the Supreme Court asked.

Minister Atishi, however, instead of taking responsibility for her inaction resorted to blaming the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) officials for colluding with the tanker mafias. She claimed that the senior DJB officials reduced the number of tankers without her knowledge. It must be noted here that the DJB comes under the administration of the AAP-led Delhi government.

Minister Atishi called for an inquiry into potential collusion between these officials and the tanker mafia. Atishi also directed quick response teams to inspect major pipelines and prevent leakages, although these measures seem reactive rather than proactive. Again, little action more drama and a blame game keep the AAP government going whenever Delhi faces a crisis.​

Falsely blaming Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh

Interestingly, while Atishi blamed the neighbouring Haryana and Himachal Pradesh for not providing Delhi its fair share of water, the Delhi Jal Board data exposed AAP’s lies indicating that Delhi has been receiving more than its allocated share of water from sources in Haryana and Uttarakhand. Wazirabad was already getting around 85 Million Gallons per Day (MGD) more than the allocated water from the Yamuna stream coming from the Hathnikund barrage to the pond.

The question that arises here is then where did the water go? Is the AAP government shielding tanker mafias as alleged by the BJP?

Perhaps, the ‘Pani Satyagraha’ is a coverup to this question while the people of Delhi have been pushed into perdition struggling to get even a bucket full of water.

Atishi’s “Pani Satyagraha” is apparently a strategic move to draw media attention and sway public sentiment, diverting focus from the actual crisis. AAP’s theatrics are aimed at gaining political mileage and constant media attention rather than addressing the underlying problems. Engaging in a fast might generate headlines and win some sympathy, but it doesn’t resolve the pressing issues of water management and stringent action against the tanker mafias. The residents of Delhi deserve pragmatic solutions, not political theatrics.

This, however, is not the first time that the AAP government has resorted to hogging media attention and blaming others when faced with a crisis. AAP has a history of doing so to hide its own incompetence.

The conduct of AAP leaders over the years demonstrates that they want to make everything about themselves, how they are the sole ‘voice of people’, ever concerned, always striving when convenient and shifting the blame on others when in a difficult spot.

AAP leaders seeking attention from incidents of sexual assault

Former Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chairperson and Rajya Sabha MP Swati Maliwal who recently accused CM Kejriwal’s secretary Bibhav Kumar of assaulting her, also has often been seen doing ‘dharna’ etc in rape or molestation cases. Last year, she staged a Dharna outside the hospital where a minor rape survivor was admitted who was allegedly raped by a Delhi government official Premoday Khaka. Maliwal claimed that the Delhi Police did not allow her to meet the victim. Here, instead of the heinous crime allegedly committed by the deputy director in the Delhi government’s women and child development department, Maliwal being ‘stopped’ from meeting the victim became a bigger issue comfortably diverting the media and public attention.

AAP leaders have a knack for coming up with unique (read absurd) methods to ‘protest’ and grab attention in the wake of serious issues affecting lives and the law in Delhi and other states. Back in 2019, AAP leader and Swati Maliwal’s ex-husband Naveen Jaihind performed ‘Tapasya’ in the wake of the incidents of child sexual abuse in the country. Maliwal had vehemently defended Naveen’s theatrics when people called out his “nautanki”.

AAP’s perennial ‘blame Haryana’ argument in its defence against Delhi air pollution

Delhi’s air pollution crisis has been a persistent issue, severely affecting the health and quality of life of its residents. The Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi has for years been blaming the neighbouring Punjab and Haryana and the central government for the pollution caused by stubble (Parali) burning in these states. However, after forming a government in Punjab, the Delhi government has miraculously stopped blaming Punjab for air pollution even though stubble burning in Punjab remains a major source of Delhi’s hazardous air quality in the winters. After winning Punjab in the 2022 elections, the AAP government in Delhi now blames BJP-ruled Haryana and cracker bursting on Diwali for pollution.

AAP has turned stubble burning in Haryana into a convenient scapegoat, even to the extent of pretending that stubble burning in Punjab doesn’t affect them, just the Haryana fires cause pollution.

Last year OpIndia reported how the Delhi government blamed Haryana for the alarmingly bad air quality in Delhi even though the stubble-burning incidents tripled in Punjab, while similar incidents in Haryana were limited. Other than blaming Haryana, AAP has also relied on advertisements to polish its image continuously ‘working’ to curb pollution in reality doing little to nothing. It has been reported that the AAP government spent more money on pollution mitigation advertisements than on actual pollution reduction measures.

It was also reported how some smog towers the Delhi government boasted as a weapon against air pollution were either locked up or their operations stopped for some or other reasons during the peak pollution season forcing Delhi residents to live in a gas chamber-like atmosphere.

AAP’s blame game over Yamuna water pollution

Delhi’s 70% of water supply comes from the Yamuna River. The Kejriwal government has over the years blamed Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for the pollution in the Yamuna River. In the winter season every year, the Yamuna River froths with toxic white foam. This toxic foam is formed due to the industries discharging effluents containing a high concentration of ammonia and phosphate along with other chemicals.

The assertion that neighbouring states are primarily to blame for Yamuna’s pollution downplays the significant contribution of Delhi’s own pollution sources. Industrial discharge, untreated sewage, and improper waste management within Delhi itself are major factors contributing to the river’s degradation. The city’s numerous unauthorised colonies often lack proper sewage treatment facilities, leading to direct discharge into the Yamuna.

In November last year, ahead of the Chhath Pooja festival, it was reported how Delhi Water Minister Atishi accused the Uttar Pradesh government of releasing polluted water into the Yamuna river. In 2021, AAP MP Raghav Chadha had blamed Uttar Pradesh and Haryana for Yamuna pollution. However, OpIndia reported how there is a lack of common effluent treatment plants (CETPs) while Delhi Jal Board’s Sewage Treatment Plant (STPs) have been operating below their capacities as the DJB failed to set up a system to carry enough sewage to the STPs. AAP government blamed Haryana and UP for Yamuna pollution without a smidgen of shame, while 60% of STPs in the national capital were not in compliance with prescribed parameters.

Blaming neighbouring states serves as a convenient tactic to deflect criticism and accountability from the Delhi government’s own shortcomings in environmental management.

When AAP blamed the Centre for oxygen shortage during the Covid pandemic

When the nation was grappling with the Coronavirus outbreak, the national capital witnessed an oxygen crisis and the Delhi government was accused of disrupting the oxygen supply chain. After this, the High Court slammed the AAP government for its crisis mismanagement. A Supreme Court audit report said that the Delhi government exaggerated the oxygen requirement in the national capital by more than four times during the April 25-May 10 peak period of the COVID-19 second wave. The report also stated that the supply of excess oxygen to the national capital could have caused supply constraints shortage for at least 12 states that needed it. The then Deputy CM (now jailed) Manish Sisodia has trivialised the report claiming it to be made in the BJP headquarters.

It was rather disgraceful on the part of the Delhi government to play politics when the city was battling a serious health crisis. From the creating migrant crisis by spreading rumours of buses waiting at UP borders to take them, lobbying for American vaccine, blaming the Centre for the lack of hospital beds and other infrastructure, inaction against Tablighi Jamaat super-spreaders, banning outsiders from getting treatment at Delhi hospitals, to openly supporting farmers protest the Delhi government demonstrated a colossal failure in handling covid crisis prioritising politics over innocent lives.

However, the Delhi government ran a rigorous PR campaign spending Rs 150 crores from January 2021 to March 2021 on advertisements and publicity through various mediums to polish its image and cover up its failures.

When the Delhi government lamented the coal shortage and power crisis after banning coal-based plants

Back in 2021, the then deputy CM Manish Sisodia accused the central government of ‘ignoring’ the coal shortage in Delhi. This came after CM Kejriwal urged PM Modi to intervene in the matter. Sisodia held a press conference attacking the Modi government insinuating that while the Delhi government was overwhelmingly ‘concerned’ about the coal crisis, it was the central government which was indifferent towards Delhi and was being “irresponsible”.

In a classic AAP-style hypocrisy, on one hand, the AAP government blamed the Centre for the coal shortage in Delhi and built a narrative that CM Kejriwal is trying his level best to procure coal for the thermal power plants, on the other, the Kejriwal government had in 2019 completely banned coal-based power plants. It also imposed a ban on the industries that were using coal as a power source.

Conclusion

The AAP-led Delhi government has often resorted to blaming other state governments and the central government for its own policy failures and administrative shortcomings. This trend is not only counterproductive but also has alarming and sinister implications for governance and public welfare. By blaming external entities, the Delhi government effectively evades responsibility for its own failures. Whether it’s the handling of the COVID-19 crisis, pollution in the Yamuna River, or the management of public infrastructure. AAP’s politicisation of covid crisis not only hampered effective crisis management but also sowed confusion and panic among the public. Moreover, AAP’s constant blame game against other state governments and the Centre undermines cooperative federalism.

For effective governance and real progress, the Delhi administration must focus on addressing its own shortcomings and working collaboratively with other stakeholders rather than engaging in counterproductive blame games, and headline hogging to pretend they are working.

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