Friday, February 14, 2014

Calculated Drama

The nightmare has finally ended - Arvind Kejriwal's 49-day old AAP Government ended with the CM and the Cabinet tendering its resignation and recommending dissolution of the Assembly to the President. And the premise is as silly as everything that the party has become infamous for - a clear violation of rules of procedure established under the Constitution. Of course, in keeping with its style, it was a well-calculated move to extract as much media coverage as possible.

First, the premise. The National Capital Territory of Delhi is not a state - like Puducherry, it is a UT with an Assembly, with power being shared between it and the Central Government. In 2002, the then NDA Government created a rule that matters associated with the use of the Consolidated Fund of India must be cleared by the Central Government before it can be tabled in the Assembly - the Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill is such a case. The rule is indeed questionable, possibly unconstitutional, but since it has never been challenged in court, it stands. When the AAP minority government indicated that it would ignore this rule, the LG of Delhi, who represents the Central Government, warned that it would be in violation of rules. Yesterday, when Kejriwal tried to ignore the LG's letter to the Speaker (and hence create a constitutional crisis), the BJP and the Congress, with independents, came together to defeat the introduction of the bill. At this, Kejriwal decided to resign.

There are rules of procedure in India and these have to conform to the Constitution. The Constitution is not Mr. Kejriwal's diary, which he can change at will. It is the social contract that binds the nation together, it is what makes India a country. If something is unconstitutional, it must be challenged in the courts, not ignored at will. If the Constitution is to be ignored by those who swore to abide by it, then there is no logic in holding territories such as Nagaland or Kashmir, there is nothing to stop Seemandhra from seceding, or Tamil Nadu from declaring Independence. If India is to survive, the Constitution cannot be ignored. Now, AAP's managers have pointed out that the question here is of the NDA Government's rule, not the Constitution. The rule is in place because of the provisions for Delhi in the Constitution; ignoring the rules is tantamount to ignoring the Constitution. It is akin to declaring that murder is legal because murder is a crime under the IPC and not the Constitution!

Next, the preparation. It is no surprise that AAP registered a questionable FIR against Reliance industries. It is the hallmark of failed Communist parties to blame the rich for the (imagined) woes of everyone else; to blame the producers for everything. Today, AAP's line is that this FIR brought the Congress and the BJP together to defeat the (introduction of the) Bill. Clearly, the FIR was a political tool to fool everyone.

Finally, the next step. Obviously, Delhi's limited statehood has let down Kejriwal, who refuses to follow the rules and procedures that keep this country together. The party has done nothing more than establish ad hoc subsidies and some gimmicks like sting operations. They have no real development agenda. Kejriwal is clearly eyeing the PMO and, with opinion polls indicating that AAP's influence does not really extend beyond NCR, he needed to do something big to stay in the news. With the Lok Sabha polls coming near and Narendra Modi looking very strong, this was one last, desperate drama.

Will it work? I've burned my hands with Delhi before but let me take a guess. Essentially, Delhi is a city of fools, especially its middle class, a group that believes that it can get anything it wants while it gets a subsidy from the entire country. Delhi is the most subsidized city in the country, something that the late Bal Thackeray always pointed out. Delhiites want full statehood but would hate it for those subsidies to be taken away. The only justification for Delhi to continue to use the whole nation's money is that it is the National Capital under the control of the Central Government. One state getting such benefits is simply unfair. But to Delhiites, these are too difficult to understand. The 'common man,' after all, is supposed to be a fool who does not understand anything. Therefore, I do see AAP coming back in some form or the other. This is not the end, but only the beginning. And it will only end when the so-called common man of Delhi understands that this is a monster of their own creation.

I should also add that the continuous barbs against the LG is disgusting, to say the least. First a Congress-agent, now a Viceroy! It is not the case that Governors have been apolitical - go no further than HR Bhardwaj in Bangalore to see what a real Congress-agent is. LG Najeeb Jung has done an excellent job, writing to the Speaker to save the Constitution and upholding his oath. 

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