The air in India is rife with speculations over why Arvind Kejriwal quit office to become Delhi’s shortest-tenured Chief Minister. His party members and supporters staunchly believe it was an act of integrity in a polity ridden with corruption and nepotism. But national and international observers are wondering if Arvind Kejriwal quitting state politics was part of a preset design to catapult himself and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) onto the national stage of politics. This notion is fueled by the fact that the AAP launched its nation-wide anti-corruption campaign on Saturday, a day after Kejriwal resigned.
Kejriwal has denied that his resignation was politically motivated and that it was a reiteration of their original goal to keep the corrupt outside the political system. However, his critics and many political observers feel that the AAP disregarded the mandate given by the electorate in the 2013 assembly elections. The party and its leader, according to them, could have relaxed their death-grip over the Lokpal bill’s passage and concentrated instead on delivering the other people-friendly promises in their manifesto.
In an interview with NDTV’s Bharka Datt, Kejriwal has dismissed allegations that his government was a failure. His government, he said, had set up the anti-corruption help line and encouraged people to conduct sting operations on corrupt government officials seeking bribes. These measures, he said, had made several officers quit demanding bribes and obliterated middlemen who facilitated corrupt deals. Kejriwal also cited surprise inspections conducted at government hospitals, which had ensured proper and timely stocking up of medicines and other essentials. All these were measures of governance that were accomplished within the AAP government’s short tenure, according to him.
Rallying around Kejriwal, members of AAP’s top echelons have said that governance was not their primary objective. Rather, making the Jan Lokpal Bill a reality was. The party has justified its leader’s move by saying that the rejection of the Lokpal Bill’s introduction in the assembly left them no other options. Strategically positioning themselves as a government that was willing to forego power and its leader as a martyr, the AAP is gearing up to launch its Jhadu Chalao Yatra across 24 states in the country. Aimed at cleansing Indian politics of corruption, the campaign will now be spearheaded by its leader Arvind Kejriwal, and is seen as the platform from which the party will campaign for the upcoming general elections in May 2014.
The AAP has announced its intention to contest the general elections from over two-thirds of the total number of constituencies going to poll this year. From its increasing base of pan-India supporters, the fledgling party has received over 10,000 applications from people wanting to contest the elections under its banner. The applicants, who have to show an initial base of support in their constituencies through at least 1000 signatures endorsing their candidature, are being whetted by AAP volunteers at a basement in south Delhi.
While the party is accused of having not achieved anything significant, they have still not fallen in the eyes of the Indian voter, who is eager to rally behind a new, exciting force. And Arvind Kejriwal seems to have cashed in on this undisguised approval from the electorate by quitting state politics and stepping into politics at the national level.
Meanwhile, Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung has refused to dissolve the Delhi Assembly, as suggested my outgoing Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. As the Lt. Governor of Union Territory Delhi, Jung is also its constitutional head, who is not bound to accept recommendations made by an outgoing chief minister. Based on his report to President Pranab Mukherjee, the Union Cabinet has decided to impose President’s Rule in Delhi and place the Delhi Assembly in suspended animation. Although this move gives time for other political parties to step up and form the government in Delhi, the response has been lukewarm from both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well as the Indian National Congress (INC). With the two parties being ideological and political enemies the formation of a coalition government is out of question. While Kejriwal’s resignation is yet to be accepted, the AAP has been asked to form a makeshift government for the next few days, while the Union Cabinet decides upon a course of action for Delhi.
On the national front, Arvind Kejriwal is yet to state his intentions publicly: Him quitting as a state’s chief minister over an ideological issue might have drawn flak from his opponents and a portion of the media, but his arrival onto national level politics has ignited the passions of millions more around the country.
Editorial by Aruna Iyer