Predictably, the AAP Government in Delhi refuses to abandon the politics of the street for a meaningful governance. Being entirely clueless about managing contradictions and composing differences prevalent in all democracies, it resorts to the politics of confrontation at the first available opportunity.
Having tasted success on a reckless populist platform, it now seeks to pelt the system, rather than reform and incrementally change it from within. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s threat to the power distribution companies to cancel their licences, without being clear as to what will replace them, is a case in point. Even if the distribution companies seek to maximise profits, as they would, there are always ways to curb their greed without harming the interests of the millions of consumers.
Acting unilaterally unmindful of the consequences can only create chaos and open the government to costly lawsuits from the de- licensed firms. Having ordered an outside audit of the distribution companies, the Delhi Government should hold its horses till the audit report is in.
But Kejriwal seems to be in such a hurry that he has already asked the people to prepare themselves for hardships resulting from an abrupt abrogation of the licences. As we said, it may be that the distribution companies are padding accounts in order to fleece the consumers, but the remedy would be to pin them down after a proper investigation, rather than through a precipitate cancellation of their licences. The hardpressed consumers, reeling under rising electricity tariffs, however, are totally opposed to a situation which will return the capital to the days of unscheduled blackouts and violent current fluctuations.
If Kejriwal has to wage a war against anyone he should begin by attacking wasteful expenditure in the State- controlled institutions, such as hospitals, educational institutions, public transport, public works department, etc. It is hoped that Kejriwal will pull himself back from an avoidable confrontation with the power distributors and instead, ensure that they cut wasteful costs to sell power to the consumers at the most competitive prices. To begin with, he should immediately introduce connection transferability so that consumers can choose their preferred distributor, a facility available in parts of Mumbai, in order to lessen the costs of monopoly.
Of a piece with confrontation as the default policy setting of the AAP Government is the latest threat by Kejriwal to quit chief ministership, should his version of the Lokpal Bill fail to make the grade in the Delhi Assembly. That he wants to quit on some real or frivolous ground so that AAP can go to the voters as martyrs before the Lok Sabha poll is widely known. That is precisely why the Congress Party does not want to pull the plug, though it is fed up with its antics. It would rather that it carried on till the parliamentary poll is over before it snuffs the life out of it. More than one legal luminary has said that the proposed Bill is unconstitutional. The Delhi Government cannot pass a Bill which impinges on the powers of the central government. The Kejriwal Government insists that the prior sanction of the centre in passing such Bills be withdrawn.
But the trouble is that the division of legislative powers between the Delhi and central governments was clearly delineated long before the AAP came to power.
And the law cannot be changed overnight just so that Kejriwal can brag that he has passed a strong anti- graft law. Playing to the gallery might be a legitimate political gambit, but the established order imposes limits which needs must be respected. Behind Kejriwal’s obstinacy seems to be a calculated design to paint the two major parties as corrupt so that he can burnish his own image for honesty. The gambit will not work. A vast majority of people do not want him to wreck the system but to work within it. A system is only as good or as bad as the people entrusted to work it. So long as Kejriwal does not have the numbers to re- write the Constitution, he is expected to work within it. He cannot dictate to the centre that it shed its lawful powers so that he can have a free run in the Delhi Assembly. Even if the proposed law pertains to the creation of a Lokpal, he cannot expect to widen its ambit to cover those personnel who are not regulated by the Delhi Government. Grandstanding on corruption has its limitations. If Kejriwal cannot govern, and he has provided enough evidence in a short time that he cannot, cannot blame the system.
Whether he likes it or not, the system is bigger than any individual. And that is how it should be.