The devil is in the timing of ED action : The Tribune India

Join Whatsapp Channel

NOUS INDICA

The devil is in the timing of ED action

Arrest of a CM days after the notification of the General Election is a stunning blow to the poll process

The devil is in the timing of ED action

BURDEN OF PROOF: Investigating agencies have not been able to open overflowing lockers stashed with cash or seize properties in the name of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal or his family members. Tribune photo



Rajesh Ramachandran

IN the past two decades, I have closely watched Arvind Kejriwal grow from a small-time activist in his tiny Patparganj shop-turned-office to the Delhi Chief Minister in his palatial bungalow on Flagstaff Road. As a non-political social activist, his dedication in ensuring government-subsidised food to a working-class East Delhi colony and his commitment to making the public distribution system work were admirable. It was exhilarating to drive around Delhi in a rickety Maruti 800 with him, seeking documents to expose the attempted privatisation of the drinking water supply in Delhi under a World Bank scheme.

Elected legislators, or for that matter nobody, should be locked up for an inordinately long time. Bail, and not jail, ought to be the norm.

His remarkable growth trajectory as an activist demanding the right to information with complete self-belief in tackling corruption through information touched its apogee when he pawned his activist capital for a political career, scripting the downfall of the UPA government. The UPA had retained power in 2009, with the Opposition BJP getting reduced in size. Only a new kind of political activism could have discredited a government that had won a second term. Kejriwal’s anti-corruption crusade offered that platform, with Kisan Baburao Hazare from Ralegaon putting on the Gandhian act, rousing TV audiences into a stupefied search for a messiah.

Behind the scenes, Kejriwal was attending conferences held at the pro-BJP think tank, the Vivekananda International Foundation. Meanwhile, politics was being practised on social media for the first time. Then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s media advisers did not even have a social media account, let alone know how to target rivals on these platforms to create a false or alternative political narrative. In short, Kejriwal turned out to be the master of perception management on social media and in mainstream media. He kindled idealism in those who couldn’t be bought and struck a chord among those who wanted to bring the government down. And this eminently suited then BJP-led Opposition.

His stunning performance in the 2013 Delhi elections proved the efficacy of politics reduced to perception without a grassroots-level organisation. The RSS cadre had indeed worked hard to drum up support for the Hazare-Kejriwal protests, but the election victory was entirely Kejriwal’s. And he refused to share his party or his newfound power with colleagues who helped him build the party. In that sense, he had an acute understanding of the dynamics of power, which he proved when his party won the Delhi Assembly elections repeatedly and later even the Punjab polls. He could offer a credible alternative to the behemoths within the existing power structure.

In a way, his achievements were magical. He could have taken the easier path of joining the Sangh Parivar forces that were helping him bring down the UPA government. His social agenda was always soft towards Hindutva — he was one of the first non-BJP Chief Ministers to visit the Ram Temple along with Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann. Kejriwal was a genuine political entrepreneur who had immense faith in his startup. His Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was the only decacorn (of course, a political enterprise can’t be valued in business terms) to emerge from the politics of protest and social media in the new millennium, and he wasn’t going to give it away to a bigger party for a seat at the high table. He was going to build a new high table and such was his blinding self-belief.

All founders of indefatigable startups fail when their self-belief overrides social realities — objective conditions, as the Marxists would explain. AAP’s only USP was its anti-corruption plank that catapulted it to successfully make claims of good governance and effective delivery of services — electricity, water and schools — for the poorest segments of the voters. But the new liquor policy stretched the limits of its own political credibility. In one fell swoop, a new system was brought in, which made AAP vulnerable to obvious allegations of favouring new players, who replaced the earlier ones.

Till the story of the liquor policy scam allegations was playing itself out into a campaign weapon against AAP, the BJP’s political script was running fine. But the arrest of a sitting Chief Minister five days after the notification of the General Election is a stunning blow to the poll process. The country’s democratic credentials get questioned when a prominent Opposition leader, who holds a constitutional post, is arrested after the commencement of the poll process. This is not a new case. Delhi’s former Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the same case on March 9, 2023; AAP’s senior leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh on October 4, 2023; and its communication chief Vijay Nair in November 2022.

In a case that has been dragging on for over a year and a half, there was absolutely no hurry to arrest a CM after the beginning of the process that gives the stamp of authority to the winning party to govern 140 crore people. This is by no means an attempt to give the clean chit to Kejriwal or AAP, which may or may not have indulged in a conspiracy resulting in the party receiving Rs 100 crore in bribes. This is about the timing of the arrest.

The investigating agencies have not been able to open overflowing lockers stashed with cash or seize properties in Kejriwal’s or his family’s name. Kejriwal may well have devised some new methods, but what are they? Elected legislators, or for that matter nobody, should be locked up for an inordinately long time. Bail, and not jail, ought to be the norm. Indefinite detention will only be perceived as pre-conviction punishment. Coupled with the freezing of the Congress’ accounts by the Income Tax Department, Kejriwal’s arrest by the ED will only mar the credibility of the elections that PM Modi is poised to win.

The Opposition has been crying itself hoarse about an undeclared emergency for long. It didn’t wash all this while, simply because all top Opposition politicians of the country were free to profess their politics. Now, the election-eve arrest of Kejriwal has a chilling effect.

#Arvind Kejriwal


Top News

Three days before poll, top Naxalite among 29 killed in Bastar gunfight

Three days before poll, top Naxalite among 29 killed in Bastar gunfight Three days before poll, top Naxalite among 29 killed in Bastar gunfight

3 security men hurt | AK-47, Insas among arms seized | Modi ...

‘Not off the hook’: Supreme Court to Patanjali founders

‘Not off the hook’: Supreme Court to Patanjali founders

Baba Ramdev, Acharya Balkrishna tender apologies

Supreme Court junks idea of physical counting of VVPAT slips

Supreme Court junks idea of physical counting of VVPAT slips

Says not practicable | Defers hearing till tomorrow — day be...

Pawan Kumar Tinu, Jagdeep S Kaka Brar on AAP’s Punjab list

Pawan Kumar Tinu, Jagdeep S Kaka Brar on AAP’s Punjab list

Saffron party fields Parampal Kaur Sidhu, Som Parkash’s wife


Cities

View All