Saeed Naqvi | Will Opposition join hands to counter Modi’s ED, CBI threats?

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Columnists

Few elected leaders have suffered humiliation at the hands of successive lieutenant-governors as the AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge with BRS MP K. Keshava Rao, DMK MP TR Baalu, AAP MP Sanjay Singh, RJD MP Manoj Jha and fellow opposition MPs during a joint press conference following their 'Tiranga March', in New Delhi, Thursday, April 6, 2023. (Photo: PTI)

The election results in Karnataka, including the subsequent race for the chief ministership, may have taken the focus away from two important consequences of the Supreme Court judgment restoring power to the AAP in Delhi (subsequently sought to be overturned via an ordinance) and opening up the political picture in Maharashtra. Also, the AAP’s entry into the Lok Sabha from Jalandhar is no trifling matter.

Few elected leaders have suffered humiliation at the hands of successive lieutenant-governors as the AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal. The Supreme Court had rewarded him for his courage, equanimity and vast endurance. He kept his head when the lieutenant-governor was losing his.

In his first election to the Delhi Assembly in 2013, he came on top as the largest single party with 28 seats. A mortified Congress, in power over three terms, entangled the AAP in a coalition. “Hum to doobe hai sanam, tumko bhi le doobenge” (I am sinking, but will take you with me).

By coalescing with the Congress, the AAP would lose some freshness and sheen. Also, by sheer association, some of the Congress’ negatives would rub off on the AAP, smudging its novelty. “We will keep them nailed on the coalition until they are destroyed” said Arvinder Singh Lovely, former Delhi Congress chief. Not just Mr Lovely, it was the dream of every Congressman and BJP leader to reduce this Johnny-come-lately into an incompetent, ineffective cypher.  The AAP’s sudden emergence and rise was scary.

The February 2015 results jolted not just the two ruling parties in Delhi but the whole national political spectrum. The AAP won 67 of 70 seats -- an unbreakable record. The AAP’s record performance led to insecurity. The Congress hated the AAP more than the BJP for having displaced it. The BJP, likewise, loathed it more than the Congress. Its social welfare policies, set in a deceptively capitalist frame, were a danger for the BJP’s corporate backers. The AAP had to be stopped, by hook or crook.

What came in most handy to pulverise the elected government was Justice Ashok Bhushan’s 2019 split verdict. Justice Bhushan said that “services” were totally outside the purview of the state government. The accelerated delivery of education, healthcare, water and electricity as welfare measures in double-quick time unnerved the compromised political class across the board. The lieutenant-governors got into action. No more brownie points for the AAP, they said. Of course, door to door delivery of food items would be blocked -- any measure that enhances the AAP’s popularity among the poor would be scuttled.  

They felt the AAP must be made unelectable swiftly. Then Punjab was taken away from the Congress. Heels were dug in deep for the Delhi Municipal Corporation, but the AAP came up trumps once again. By the L-G’s rulebook, electoral victory in the MCD didn’t mean the AAP could have its mayor. Nominated members were brought into play to wrench the mayorship away from the AAP. Scuffles broke out in the MCD House and the L-G, like Nero, watched. Arvind Kejriwal’s list of complaints against the Centre and its representative, the L-G, would be formidable even if he deleted trivia as being held back from attending prestigious conferences overseas.

One good news begets another. Delhi’s Rouse Avenue court released on bail two persons detained in the so-called liquor scam. The 85-page order doesn’t establish any financial wrongdoing.

Can Mr Kejriwal’s second-in-command, Manish Sisodia, and minister Satyendra Jain be out on bail too? Are all Opposition leaders, fearful of the ED and CBI, reaching out to each other? Or has the Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud reined in Narendra Modi’s “Ashwamedh” which was freely roaming the territories to expand the empire’s boundaries?

The restoration of legitimate power to the National Capital Territory -- unless the Centre’s just-promulgated ordinance upsets the apple cart -- will have far-reaching consequences. Power had been restored to a party which has in record time, a decade since its inception, acquired the status of a national party.

Political parties in India take time to consolidate their constituencies. The AAP is an exception, which is one reason why other parties find it dangerous. Anchored to a pragmatic welfarism, the AAP is not limited by ideology, which is both an advantage and a handicap. For example, the party’s chilling indifference to the fate of Muslims in the communal riots in East Delhi in 2020. This alienated the party totally from Muslims. The community was already disenchanted by the Congress’ temple locks opening, announcement of “Ram Rajya” as policy and finally the mosque demolition -- all these decisively distanced Muslims from the Congress. Voting for the BJP was never an option. In these circumstances, a new force like the AAP would have been well placed for minorities had it not exposed itself as a shirker on the Muslim issue.

At a time when the Congress is averse to having even one Muslim on the platform, as this would be grist to the BJP’s polarisation mill, was the AAP’s indifference to the carnage justifiable as practical politics? It’s difficult to imagine civilised Indians degenerate into barbaric voters. Politics has been putrefied not by voters, but politicians.   

The Supreme Court has by its recent judgments established, without any doubt, that there is muscle available to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. It is the politician who must grasp the dictum that, on a matter of principle, he who fights but loses shall eventually win. Prince Lazar of the Battle of Kosovo and Hussain of Karbala are two admittedly superhuman examples beyond human imitation, but are nevertheless model heroes.  

The Supreme Court has shown us the way. Can the politician rise to the occasion?


The writer is a senior journalist and commentator based in New Delhi