The reason Arvind Kejriwal’s election procession in Gujarat was stopped, and he was detained, was because the model code of conduct has come into force. As this video proves, all that police officials were saying was that since elections have been announced, there are rules on taking out processions, and those rules would have to be followed.
It is not as if these rules were being applied to Kejriwal alone. In 2004, LK Advani was the sitting deputy prime minister and home minister of India. He was holding a rally in Patna. As the campaign time, mandated by the Election Commission, came to an end, the then district magistrate of Patna walked up to Advani and asked him to stop his speech midway. Advani had no option but to comply.
That is how it should be. This is how we have moved away from the anarchic, violent elections in the past decades to more peaceful, free and fair elections today. Even in the all pervasive institutional decline in the Congress-led UPA rule, the Election Commission is one institution that has still maintained its credibility. Then why is it that Kejriwal’s party chose to respond to Election Commission norms by unleashing violence in various parts of the country?
First, consider what happened. As pictorial evidence now confirms, Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of the great Mahatma and who recently became an AAP member, was part of the mob that pelted stones at the BJP’s central office in New Delhi. Ashutosh Gupta, until recently a TV journalist who berated politicians everyday from his media platform for not doing principled politics, led the mob that climbed the gates of the BJP office, tore posters of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, pelted stones and shouted abusive slogans. Shazia Ilmi, also from the media fraternity, was part of the mob too along with several AAP MLAs. The Delhi Police have now filed criminal FIRs against Gupta and Ilmi along with many others, booking them for rioting and other serious offences. AAP workers also attacked BJP offices in other parts of the country like Lucknow, Allahabad and Jhansi.
It is not as if Kejriwal alone was being asked to follow the guidelines. From Mumbai to Bangalore, many politicians faced similar situations that same day. So why is it that the AAP reacted this way against what was a polite check by the administration on whether Kejriwal’s rally was following Election Commission guidelines?
As an answer to this question, one needs to ask a more fundamental question: what does the entrenched establishment in Delhi want? This establishment, long allied with the Congress party in a mutually beneficial way, sees Narendra Modi as a defining challenge to their hold on the Indian way of life. Left of centre in disposition, they cheered the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty’s deeds and white-washed their misdeeds, and in return were awarded with favoured contracts, plum postings, post retirement sanctuaries, taxpayer funded academic chairs in Indian and foreign universities, taxpayer funded junkets for journalists, and for the more enterprising, farmlands in plum areas of choosing. The crony socialists, part of the establishment, also fear the arrival of a Modi-led government since his economic model of promoting fair competition will end their dominance, which is built on the bending of rules and the exercise of discretionary power of ministers for a consideration.
With the decimation of the Congress in the ensuing elections staring them in the face, the establishment is desperate for survival. Rahul Gandhi has proved unequal to the task. Despite years of sustained propaganda – from a youth icon to an agent of change to even a prominent TV anchor suggesting how a bearded Rahul Gandhi, from an earlier clean shaved one, represented a maturity of his politics – nothing has worked.
In such a scenario arrives Arvind Kejriwal. As he has demonstrated with his brief stint in power, he believes in the same left of centre economic policies of the Congress. His model is also of dole economy, just like the Congress, instead of an empowering economy. This is exactly what the establishment wants, since a dole economy keeps sufficient number of people poor for the poverty industry to survive and flourish in the five star environs.
On social issues too, Kejriwal is just like Congress. He too is against uniform civil code, despite the Constitution and the Supreme Court mandating it. Kejriwal, just like Congress, does not balk at taking the help of leaders who have been booked for rioting, as long as it gets him some votes. Kejriwal, too, owes his rise to the unquestioning support of the establishment media based in Delhi, unlike Modi, who has risen despite the same media’s virulent hostility. All the NGO-variety anarchists, who have built an entire career opposing anything that leads to the economic progress of India, and who for the last decade was part of the Sonia Gandhi led NAC, are now enthusiastic supporters of Kejriwal.
In many senses, Kejriwal is the new Congress, and if at all even more left than the Congress. He may be a maverick but in disposition and policies, he suits the establishment as perfectly as a healthy Congress would have. For its own survival, the establishment has enthusiastically owned Kejriwal. That is why AAP could afford to be violent in Delhi, right next to our homes. It was counting on the immense reach of those who shape narrative in mainstream platforms to spin this as a positive development in our politics. Kejriwal’s party reacted violently to simple enforcement of election commission rules because in the garb of anti establishment positioning, AAP is the last resort of the establishment. Last resorts are invariably violent.
This article was first published in DNA on 6th March, 2014. Here is the link.