The Congress Party has been incessantly attacked by supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party as well as many “liberals” for not extending support to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s sit-in at the office of lieutenant-governor Anil Baijal. AAP supporters, while beseeching Congress president Rahul Gandhi for support, kept attacking and insulting the party and its leaders, a strange way of seeking support. The “liberals”, on the other hand, in their zeal to save “democracy”, completely ignored the most basic tenet of liberal democratic principles that allows each party to take its own stand on issues. On the basis of this very principle, the Congress didn’t raise a hue and cry when its coalition partner in Karnataka, JD(S) CM H.D. Kumaraswamy, met and extended his support to Mr Kejriwal.
Mr Kejriwal was completely left out of the talks seeking a united Opposition to combat the BJP in 2019. The AAP planted stories in the media and also took to social media to circulate rumours of the possibility of an alliance between the Congress and the AAP. While senior Congress leaders in Delhi Sheila Dikshit and Ajay Maken rejected this outright, no such denial came from the AAP. Also, as the general election nears, Mr Kejriwal needs to find an excuse for his sheer failure in governance. This dharna is not so much about Delhi’s full statehood as to bring the limelight back to Mr Kejriwal as he plays the victim card. He has succeeded in doing that, at least temporarily. A visit by four CMs and a plethora of support by other regional leaders has not only managed to divert attention from such facts that people are being shot dead over water and respiratory diseases are on the rise in Delhi, but also led to speculation on the possibility of a third front by regional parties. Irrespective of the fact that three of the four CMs have at one time or another supported the BJP, the twittereti advocates of a “secular front” went berserk with excitement, forgetting that before every Lok Sabha election such conjectures about third fronts are made, and have mostly remained an illusion.
A perception was created that the BJP is not allowing the AAP to function. Strangely, the L-G’s office, through its actions (and inaction), seems to boost that perception. When a fool acts foolishly, that’s expected; but when smart people act foolishly, something seems amiss. One may thoroughly dislike Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Rajnath Singh or L-G Anil Baijal; but no one would call them fools. However, the actions of the BJP-led Central government and their timing is such that it ends up creating more sympathy for the AAP, rather than causing any major damage to its leaders. One such glaring example is the Shunglu Committee report, and the L-G’s action (and omission) on it. The report notes 71 cases of major discrepancies by the AAP government, out of which action has been taken only against seven people. Just to narrate a few cases, one Rahul Bhasin with qualification of Class 8 pass with an incomplete diploma in travel and tourism was appointed as adviser (tourism) at a monthly salary of Rs 1.5 lakhs. Gopal Mohan was first appointed at a token salary of Rs 1 per month, but within four months deft moves were designed to increase the salary to Rs 1.15 lakhs. A driver, Rohit Kumar, was appointed without a driving licence. Strangely, the L-G did not take any action in these cases, but chose to take action against Atishi Marlena and Raghav Chaddha, two well-known AAP leaders who were actually working for a token salary of Rs 1 per month. Mr Chaddha had just worked for three months, and even the report advised that his case be ignored. Yet the L-G took action, creating huge sympathy for them, and ignored the previously-mentioned three cases and many others. Acting against those who had hugely benefited through the AAP’s misdealings would have perhaps brought out the true face of the AAP. Instead of sympathy, the AAP would have faced severe public criticism. Was it then a case of deliberate vindictiveness, or was it actually to help the AAP through a tacit understanding?
If we analyse the states, the constituencies and candidates chosen by the AAP in various Assembly elections after 2015, it is clear that the idea is to actually help BJP by cutting into Congress votes. In the much-discussed case of the 20 parliamentary secretaries too, the Election Commission didn’t challenge the high court ruling setting aside the presidential order (highly unusual in itself) for disqualification of these 20 MLAs in the Supreme Court. Earlier, the EC had never taken more than a couple of months to finally decide on disqualification matters. In this case, it has taken over three years, and the decision is still pending with the EC. One may easily surmise that the disqualification order will come just before the Lok Sabha polls, again creating a sympathy wave for the AAP.
The BJP is not threatened by the AAP as it is nowhere nationally. Even in Delhi, its strength has reduced drastically since 2015 as evident by the MCD election results. The BJP’s real challenge comes from the Congress, even with its reduced strength. The Delhi Congress has always believed that the BJP is actually helping the AAP to create a scripted anti-BJP image to replace the Congress as its main Opposition. Let’s not forget the huge support given to the Anna Hazare movement by the RSS, which played a major role in the Congress’ subsequent electoral debacle, hoisting Mr Modi to power. Many people know about Mr Kejriwal’s earlier association with the Vivekananda International Foundation. Let’s also not forget Mr Kejriwal’s offer to Mr Modi to work for the BJP if Mr Modi commits to grant Delhi full statehood. If he is willing to give up his “secular” ideology if a demand is granted, one wonders if Mr Kejriwal is also keeping the possibility open for a future tieup with the BJP. For the BJP, the AAP is a convenient tool to use against the Congress by helping it push the Congress out of the main Opposition space. The BJP’s mission, after all, is a “Congress-mukt Bharat”, not a “AAP-mukt Bharat”....