Saturday, January 18, 2014

Time will tell

In his first ever full-length interview to the media since assuming office as Chief Minister of the NCT of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal made some interest remarks but also scuttled and even made fun of pressing issues that he will have to confront eventually. The most important assertion that he repeatedly made was that his party was not a Congress agent and that it would soon initiate investigations against the previous regime of Sheila Dixit, particularly with respect to the CWG Scam. According to Kejriwal, he was simply waiting to get the 'right' officers in the vigilance wing.

While time is a fair argument, he seemed to be brimming with hubris when it came to the intent. When asked the very specific question of his intent to go after the previous Congress regime when his minority government depends on the party for support, he simply brushed it aside by asking the Congress to withdraw support if they so wished. He then went on to challenge the Congress, warning them that they would regret the day they allowed AAP to form a government. This sort of arrogance is a characteristic of the party, which seems to believe it is invincible now through the rhetoric of the common man.

In the interview, he essentially skirted important issues - whether it was the fiasco over his office-bungalow, the very serious issue of vigilantism against his Law Minister or his deep-rooted desire to stay in the media limelight, he either made a joke of these issues or shot the messenger by making personal remarks on Rajdeep Sardesia, the interviewer ('Rajdeep lives in Panchsheel Nagar, that's why he gets police service'). The fact that all his actions would create anarchy was shot down by his absurd statement that families are already living in anarchy.

On the issue of the electricity subsidy, he refused to see the point by pointing out that it would cost 'just' Rs. 200 cr out of Delhi's Rs. 40,000 cr budget. For one, he fails to see that even that Rs. 200 cr has to come from somewhere (taxation, possibly). And it also implies what everyone long suspected: he is simply taking advantage of the financial stability of Delhi that Sheila Dixit left it in. This is not new in history, Jyoti Basu did much the same and it was only when Mamata Banerjee became CM did the issue of the dire financial distress of Bengal come into view. Furthermore, he even put a time limit of four months to the subsidy, continuing his belief that an audit of power companies by the CAG would certainly halve electricity bills. While he has a right to say what he believes, Sheila Dixit always maintained that the prices are high simply because of the extreme shortage of coal in India, courtesy Manmohanomics. There is no reason to believe that the audit will not lead to any fall in electricity prices, or at least not to the tune of 50%, so that this subsidy would become a permanent feature. This is the essential point that CM Kejriwal refuses to see.

And finally, in the interview, he justified taking the Congress' support on two counts. One, he said that the Congress offered support without so much as ever asking if AAP ever wanted it, via a letter to the LG. This is untrue because the fact that Kejriwal chose to form a government itself constitutes an answer to the Congress' plea - if not on the telephone, the Congress did offer support through the LG and AAP accepted it, also through the LG. The medium might be different, but support was certainly not thrust upon the party by the Congress, as he claimed: AAP accepted the offer by agreeing to form a government. And two, he says that they asked the 'people' of Delhi, who said that they wanted AAP to form a government with the Congress' support. This is absurd because AAP only won 29% of the votes in the elections, so to start off with, only 29% wanted AAP to form any government in the first place. Of those, even if we assume 90% wanted an AAP-Congress Government, that still means just 28% of Delhi wanted such a government. By conveniently mixing up FPTP and proportional representation, AAP gave it self a smokescreen, which it continues to use.

However, at the end of the day, despite Salman Khurshid describing AAP as a party of 'anarchists, third-rate individuals,' the Congress will support it until it hurts too much. Whether that is before or after the general elections, only time will tell. 

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