Editorial: Kejriwal’s AAP At The Crossroads

Editorial: Kejriwal’s AAP At The Crossroads

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Monday, March 25, 2024, 07:23 PM IST
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Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal | File Pic

The arrest of Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal in the liquor scam did not really cause any surprise. His deputy, Manish Sisodia, has been in jail in the same scam for over a year. So is a Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh and a few other alleged accomplices of the AAP ministers. Kejriwal virtually asked for his arrest when he ignored as many as nine summons, beginning with the one in October last year. Each time he gave some excuse, approached the courts which denied him any relief. And finally when the courts firmly said that he cannot determine the legality or otherwise of the summons did the Enforcement Directorate arrest him last Thursday. A day later Special Judge Kaveri Baweja remanded him to ED custody till March 26. The ED told the court that he was the “kingpin and key conspirator of the Delhi excise scam”. Broadly the charge is that the AAP government nixed the earlier liquor excise policy, ended the role of the government in the wholesale and retail distribution of liquor and handed it over to a handful of wholesalers for a huge commission. It is alleged the South Group, a couple of liquor wholesalers from Telangana, were allowed a huge margin on sales provided they shared half of it with the AAP. It is alleged the new liquor traders provided Rs 45 crore through hawala channels to the AAP leaders in Goa for contesting the Assembly poll in the State. The money trail, the ED claimed, had been fully established. Meanwhile with his arrest, the AAP Government may be in a quandary since no-one before has headed any government from prison. Peculiar as the ways are of this self-styled anti-corruption warrior, he has threatened to run the government from jail. The AIADMK Supremo the late J Jayalalithaa had the good sense to resign as chief minister when her arrest became imminent in the disproportionate assets case. Recently, the Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Saran resigned before his arrest by ED in a money laundering case. If Kejriwal, the “kattar inamdar”, as he claims every AAP minister is, refuses to quit while still in jail, the constitutional authorities would be required to take a call. Political morality and constitutional norms certainly do not envisage a situation wherein a person facing serious charges of corruption can continue to hold the reins of power. Meanwhile, the arrest of the AAP Supremo is the culmination of various acts of omission and commission committed daily by the Delhi Government. For nearly nine years, it has been engaged in a running “tu-tu, main-main” battle with the Delhi Lt Governor. It may be that there is a tussle over wielding power between the two authorities, with Kejriwal refusing to come to terms with the fact that Delhi is not a full-fledged State. And the Lt. Governor unwilling to offer any slack to the AAP Chief Minister at the behest of the ruling party at the Centre. The will to cooperate and co-exist peacefully is lacking on both sides. Kejriwal’s eagerness to blame the LG for his own government’s failures too does not help his cause.

Quite clearly, he has come a long way from the heady days of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption fast more than a decade ago which had given hope to a lot of people disgusted with the pervasive atmosphere of malfeasance and criminality in politics. Alas, on floating AAP, Kerjiwal not only ejected from it senior colleagues who had mentored him in the fight against corruption, but he also turned AAP into a one-man outfit where only yes-men and yes-women can survive. Despite the big hype about the transformation in the health and educational sectors in Delhi The reality is not much different from before. Kejriwal’s main tool for growth is government-funded propaganda. Ironically, the Congress party which had first filed a complaint in the excise scam feels obliged to come to his rescue since without AAP it cannot even hope to put up a decent fight against the BJP in the national capital. Whether the Kejriwal arrest so near the poll will generate sympathy remains unclear, especially when he too has turned out to be a run-of-the-mill politician, aping other politicians in the pursuit of naked power. As Anna Hazare, reacting to his arrest said, Kejriwal “asked for his arrest”. So did several of his old colleagues whom he threw out without reason, who lamented the fall of the anti-corruption crusader. Now it is for the courts to decide his future.

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