State of Insecurity

Confronted with new challenges brought about by ‘a minor irritant’ called Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), both Congress and its main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are talking turkey which they think would take steam out of Kejriwal’s crusade against corruption. Their repeated attempts to ignore and belittle AAP while dismissing it as something anarchic, have failed to wipe out their displeasure with the emerging unorthodox political tendency in their age-old parliamentary culture. They don’t follow accepted rules because they are exception to the rules. The AAP case seems to be polarising attention across the country because generally the public being fed up with the existing mock-fight in parliament, now expects small players, not big ones, in the games, to be a role model and eschew foul play. Whether they like it or not, to a large section of the population Kejriwal’s AAP foots the bill. What happens with AAP’s not so business-as-usual political activism, not only inspires the vocal middle class of Delhi, but also has impact on the psyche of the aggrieved elsewhere. AAP’s priority is likely to shift from over-reliance on corruption free governance to being more driven by hard reality of empowerment of aam aadmi—common people. No matter where, in Delhi or around the country, people’s acceptance of corruption as a serious issue ruining social fabric and democratic atmosphere, has begun to exert great pressure on the status quo-ists. The AAP phenomenon illustrates among other things that people want to move from the old style of elite-oriented politicisation to a more grassroots level assertion.

An unprecedented 32-hour sit-in by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his ministers and legislators for pressing demands for reform in functioning, rather malfunctioning, of Delhi police ended after Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung sent two of the erring police officials on leave pending further probe. No doubt acceptance of demands partially mean partial success, a victory of sort in principle. But it’s not that easy to cleanse the police establishment that is thoroughly corrupt and anti-people in their elitist bias. Delhi police is notorious in extortion or what is called hafta-varsoli system. Ordinary people are scared to go to any police station anywhere in the country. Delhi is no exception. It cannot be in a situation where criminalisation of politics is being increasingly viewed as a tradition, rather than an abberation. It is really troublesome to get complaints lodged or FIR registered, without tacit approval of influential members of the ruling party. Not very long ago former union home secretary R K Singh revealed how money played crucial role in making some lucrative appointments involving persons in high authority, much to the embarrassment of the Centre.

The point at issue is Delhi is not yet a full-fledged state and Delhi police is not accountable to the Delhi government. It’s more like the ‘Dominion  Status’ syndrome. The Centre can always exercise its sweeping powers over such a dominion like set-up through the police which is under its control. When Congress extended  unconditional support to AAP in forming government, they considered all aspects of the contentious move with its consequences, both positive and negative. To thwart BJP’s advance was their prime concern but they were equally concerned about not to make Kejriwal a martyr.

Meanwhile, Kejriwal’s party has come under flak from Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression which claims itself as a network of women’s rights, Dalit rights, human rights and civil liberties organisations and individuals across India, for racial profiling, sexual harassment and vigilantism by AAP activists led by their cabinet law minister Somnath Bharti, against Ugandan women. Many think, and not without reasons, intellectual, rather enlightened middle class support base of AAP may suffer at a time when they poise for a major breakthrough in national politics, for using foul language—or what seasoned parliamentarians call unparliamentary—and showing arrogance and intolerance by AAP ministers and legislators.

Four women were reportedly kept in a taxi for 3 hours as they were accused of ‘sex rackets’ and ‘drug peddling’. They were allegedly subjected to humiliating physical search. In its election manifestos, AAP has professed to follow the rules of law, vowed to create a safer society for women, and punish sexual offenders. But the Khidki village incident involving some African women and the role of AAP ministers Somnath Bharti and Manish Sisodia, is said to have demeanded the credibility of its simple political agenda otherwise laudable by present Indian standards.

Congress is in a dilemma as to how to continue its support to Kejriwal’s government without allowing it further political space. If they withdraw support at this juncture AAP has nothing to lose. If they continue support more embarrassments for the political elite club, cutting across party lines, cannot be avoided. It cuts both ways. Indications are that count-down has begun, albeit Congress remains a divided house still over extending support to AAP any further. The nature of Congress acrobatics is to explore the limits of AAP appeal to masses. Surprisingly, the President of India, otherwise a non-partisan person, in his Republic Day address to the nation made a veiled attack on Kejriwal’s sit-in protest describing it as ‘populist anarchy’. It means AAP is instrumental in creating a great disorder under the sun and it is not good for Congress.

Vol. 46, No. 31, Feb 9 - 15, 2014