When CB Gupta was chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in the late 1960s, it was widely believed Charan Singh and Kamalapati Tripathi had paid the youth in Lucknow to chant ‘Gali gali mein shor hai, CB Gupta chor hai’. Moreover, Singh had described Gupta as the ‘source of all corruption’. However, when Singh became prime minister of India during the Janata government, in order to cling on to his chair, he issued a statement saying his Bharatiya Kranti Dal was keen on joining hands with the same CB Gupta.
Such hypocrisy has always been part of Indian politics, and Arvind Kejriwal seems to be the latest victim of this epidemic. According to newspaper reports, Kejriwal met Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung to explore the possibility of government formation, perhaps with the support of the Congress. Reports said following the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) dismal showing in Delhi in the Lok Sabha elections, some MLAs suggested this idea as fresh elections would be swept up by the BJP considering the ‘Modi wave’. Kejriwal wrote a letter to Jung, asking him not to dissolve the assembly. However, with the Congress ruling out support, Kejriwal said, “We will go for fresh elections as there are almost no chances of government formation in Delhi. We will travel across the capital to gauge people's mood.”
The fundamentally objectionable aspect of the whole episode is, why did Kejriwal even entertain the idea of forming the government with the Congress’ support? Is he afraid of facing defeat? This is the same old trick politicians have used to hang on to power. Then how is he different? Why did he make a fool of himself by seeking Congress support? It created a perception amongst the people, which has played into the hands of the BJP. Unsurprisingly, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, two of the sanest voices in the AAP, were against this proposal, according to reports.
The BJP is firmly in the driver’s seat as far as assembly elections in Delhi are concerned. There are talks of Kiran Bedi being pitched as the chief minister. Bedi, endorsed by the man of the moment, Narendra Modi, would be a formidable combination. However, Kejriwal’s idea of joining hands with the Congress once again, merely to keep the BJP out, seems like a sign of desperation and immorality.
This is the time to face elections and accept the verdict of the electorate. The AAP might not get the result they would be looking for, but sitting in the opposition and working as a watchdog may well prove to be a blessing in disguise, considering the Congress would be nowhere in the race.
If resigning, instead of forcing the Congress to withdraw support, after 49 days was a big mistake, even fidgeting with this new idea of forming the government could prove to be a fatal one.
The AAP was born out of a movement, a movement that played an immense role in the promulgation of the anti-Congress environment in the country. When the AAP accepted the unconditional support of the Congress, it did not go down well with some supporters. Nonetheless, it was justifiable by calling it unconditional support, which was initiated by the Congress. But reaching out to the Congress? Luckily for Kejriwal, even the Congress has called for fresh polls. Had the Congress accepted the offer, it would have cost Kejriwal his credibility. It would have been ironic and unethical.
Kejriwal has always believed in being with and among the people. This is the time to walk the talk as the AAP, probably for the first time, is facing a credibility crisis. However, trying to figure out a bypass route will not help his cause.
When Indira Gandhi lifted the Emergency and held her first rally in UP’s Dasauti village, barely 300 people turned up. As Janardan Thakur wrote in his book Prime Ministers, “the light in people’s eyes had turned into stony indifference”. Consequentially, angry voters threw out the Congress for the first time ever in 1977 and welcomed the new Janata government with hope. However, those hopes were crushed when petty politics took charge within the Janata government, which was a coalition of various small parties. In just three years, the government collapsed like a pack of cards.
I remember the euphoria when Arvind Kejriwal took oath as chief minister of Delhi. I believed the AAP’s rise was directly proportional to people being sanguine about Indian politics with both the established parties failing to enthuse the idealist. As someone who has been an AAP sympathiser, I hope I am not heading for a similar disillusionment.
Parth MN works with the LA Times, and tweets at @parthpunter.
This article was originally published on May 21, 2014