Lt.Gov Jung insults Delhi Voters

 

LT.GOV JUNG IS INSULTING DELHI VOTERS

 

A major crisis is brewing in Delhi.

 

Lt.Gov Najeeb Jung has superseded Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with regard to bureaucratic appointments in the Delhi Government.

 

Whenever there is a crisis, vested interests are very good at obfuscating the issue, citing all kinds of contradictory and conflicting legal precedents to confuse the public. They complicate what is essentially a simple issue, just so that people are unable to make a judgment call as to who is right. They also throw in Delhi’s special status to muddy the waters – Delhi is not a Union Territory nor is it a full state, but it has its own legislature and is governed by a web of laws. The Lt Gov has jurisdiction over land, police and public order.

 

But the jury on the Kejriwal-Jung standoff is clear. Kejriwal is right. Lt Gov Jung is wrong. He has exceeded his brief.

Cutting through the deliberate obfuscations, the crux of this dispute rests on one fundamental legal principle:  The Lt.Gov functions on the ”aid and advice” of the Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers. His discretionary powers do not run counter to this mandate. Articles published by eminent legal experts in various media organizations, including “The Hindu”, concur on this point.  The constitution also recognizes the right of Chief Ministers to appoint officials who share their vision and values. This is common sense. It is a principle that is applied in every sphere of life, be it corporate, government or civil society. To deliver results, a good team is vital.

 

Besides, Jung is an official appointee. It is the AAP government that has people’s mandate. In a democracy, the will of the people – as evidenced through their electoral representatives – reigns supreme. In February, Delhi voters made their choice in the sharpest, most dramatic way imaginable.

 

So in substance, this dispute is constitutional, not political. And the constitutional position is clear.

 

But the dispute is entirely political in motive and execution. The Home Ministry’s hurriedly issued circular endorsing Jung’s jurisdiction over police and public order vindicates the political nature of this engineered crisis. Jung is working in consort with the Central government. Former Supreme Court Judge and Press Council Chairman Markandeya Katju in an article supporting the stand taken by Kejriwal writes in his inimitable prose: “It is evident that Najeeb Jung is behaving like His Master’s Voice. Like Faust, he has sold his soul to a Mephistopheles.”

 

Jung and the Union Home Ministry officials are not novices. This crisis is neither a result of a mistake on their part nor ignorance of constitutional procedures. The motive is clear – thwart Kejriwal every step of the way. Make it impossible for him to govern. This serves two purposes. One, through their propaganda machinery they can manipulate public perception that Kejriwal is incapable of governing. Two, build up pressure so that a frustrated Kejriwal resigns in disgust.

 

This is not going to happen. Paanch Saal (five years) Kejriwal still resonates loudly in AAPians’ and Delhi voters’ ears.

Jayant Sriram, in an exclusive article in The Hindu says highly placed officials tell him that Jung will take recourse to the newly issued home ministry circular to take over the Anti Corruption Bureau from Kejriwal.

 

If that does happen, corrupt police and government officials will be delighted. But such a move is likely to backfire as the public will realize that the corrupt elite is usurping power to continue their corrupt business-as-usual  depredations. Such a move would starkly expose the hypocrisy of Prime Minister Modi’s anti-corruption drive.

Jung has insulted Chief Minister Kejriwal and his duly elected government. It is even more unforgivable that he has insulted the 49 lakh Delhi voters who voted for AAP because they want a corruption-free government that would single-mindedly tackle common man’s problems.

Conscience of the Nation

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“I need just five MPs”,  Arvind Kejriwal famously said sometime ago. Just 5 AAP MPs are enough to play the role of an honest, independent and fearless opposition. They will be unique in the history of modern India.


AAP doesn’t figure anywhere in the exit polls. They didn’t at the time of the Delhi elections either last December. Exit polls are notoriously wrong. Sometimes they get it right. Hanumanthiah, a wise and famous Mathematician I once knew in Bangalore said to me when I asked him about the accuracy of astrologers: “Even a dead clock, gives the correct time twice a day”. That’s basic statistical probability. It’s impressive when it is accurate, but the margin of error is inevitably huge.

Beyond a point, it really doesn’t matter how many seats AAP wins. I know some volunteers are hoping, even expecting,  a bumper crop. Some AAP leaders expect anywhere between 5 and 10. Numbers don’t matter.  It took only one Kejriwal to jolt the establishment and create the seismic ripple Kejriwal effect across the length and breadth of India.

When I quote Kejriwal that just 5 MPs are enough, people are shocked, dismayed or disappointed. They needn’t be. Anyone who has achieved anything in life or anyone who has read history will tell you that just one person, a team or a group can create paradigm shifts.  They provide the direction, but mass followers provide the momentum for change. AAP is blessed to have excellent leaders and an army of genuine, committed volunteers. This is our greatest twin assets.

Agriculture, seasons and nature are a metaphor for Life. What happens in nature, is pretty much what happens in life too. Albert Einstein said: “Look deep into nature and you will understand everything.”  If you ask a farmer how to get a bumper crop, he will look you in the eye for a long time and then say with calm, almost inscrutable patience: “Hard to say”. The fact is that a good harvest depends on a bouquet of factors – knowledge, timing, quality of soil, tilling the soil, planting, watering, weeding, nurturing, protecting and finally harvesting. There are no short cut to knowledge, preparation and toil. And then in addition, there are the imponderables, the unpredictable factors such as drought, floods,  pests.  Even when everything goes like clockwork, the farmer doesn’t rejoice till all the grain or crop is in hand. So many things can go wrong. In all my years of field reporting, I have consistently found the elderly Indian farmer to be wise, patient, placid and unflappable. There is a deep consciousness, awareness  and respect that factors beyond one’s control play their role. The Bhagvad Gita’s famous line “Do your duty, reward is not your concern” comes to mind. My father instilled this message into me as a child and today this truth is embedded in my psyche and informs all my actions and emotions. It probably accounts for my good cheer even in the midst of setbacks, disappointments and crises.

Politics, like any other human endeavor, is like farming. There is a lot of hard work and preparation that goes into it. AAP triggered international headlines because of the success in Delhi. But that victory did not happen overnight. Apart from the anti-corruption movement, AAP volunteers worked hard in the field – none of which was reported, which is why the victory came as a surprise to all, including the media.

I remember in 1984, how despondent the BJP leaders were when they won just 2 seats in parliament. They were mocked, ostracized and ignored. It really took them 14 years to come to power in the national elections. When BSP was launched in the late 1980s, their initial vote share was just over 2 %.

Though it is our first Lok Sabha election, the one and a half year old AAP will perform better than. But in reality, AAP units in all the states that contested this election were riding on the Delhi wave. That is good, but simply not enough to win. For victory, each AAP state unit and indeed every candidate who contested this election, must  henceforth lay their own foundation in their own state and constituency. We have to develop long strong roots in each state. The extent of goodwill earned from the people for taking up their causes is directly proportional to the depth of each state unit’s foundation. The deeper the foundation, the taller the superstructure that the world sees.

To create this foundation, we need volunteers to continue and in fact intensify their work to take up public causes. As I have said repeatedly, this election is merely a trailer. The real show begins from May 17 onwards when we all begin our grassroot struggles. When my candidature was announced, I told the media very clearly “I am not contesting to win or lose.. I have joined AAP to do public good.”  I don’t care about sitting inside parliament, but I care deeply about contributing to providing a better life for our Ernakulam citizens. God has been extraordinarily kind to me. Time has come for me to give back to society in a meaningful way.  Politics has become my chosen path (this is not to imply that I will ever abandon journalism – writing is like breathing for me and journalism will always be my fundamental tool).

It has taken me time and I have learnt it the hard way, but politics is the most powerful way to bring change. But for that, the dirty battleground of politics must first be swept clean to encourage more good people, youngsters and women to enter this arena to shape and improve our existential reality, especially for those who live in indignity without jobs or basic civic amenities.

I will be thrilled if AAP gets 10 MPs, delighted if we get 5, serene if we get less . Every AAP MP is not an arithmetical progression, but an exponential one. Like the Richter, a scale of one is 1000 times stronger. So too with AAP MPs.  We know they cannot be bought, bullied or browbeaten.  They will be unique because they will function as the Conscience of the Nation.

Change is in the air

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“The situation that I see today is exactly the same as during 1977 when India went to vote after the Emergency. The media, then under censorship, proclaimed Indira Gandhi would have a thumping victory.”


Over the last 48 hours, Indian politics converged in one spot – Varanasi, or Benares or Kashi as it once was called. India’s most famous pilgrim city became the political hub of the nation as four political leaders descended into the city over the last 48 hours. Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi and Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, UP’s CM helicoptered into the city. Predictably Arvind Kejriwal made a low profile entry but had a thunderous impact. His massive roadshow blasts all calculations.

All political pundits have given an easy victory to Modi. The bone of contention was the poor margin by which Kejriwal would come third in the race, after Congress Ajay Rai.

The Gowdolia area near the Ghats was the nerve center of the political roadshows. I attended all four roadshows to assess for myself the relative support commanded by the four main contenders.

20140509_181533 AP PROC

Arvind Kejriwal’s was the biggest roadshow of them all. It was a sea of white. Not only was the roadshow massive, but the response of the bystanders was utterly revealing. People behaved as if he was their beloved messiah. The smile on their faces remained long after Kejriwal had left the scene. Once upon a time, I am sure this is how Indians of my grandfather’s generation must have reacted to Gandhiji. The response from the Muslims in Madan Pura was absolutely astounding –rich, middle class, poor, destitute, young, old, women – all responded with shining eyes. There is absolutely no doubt that majority of the Muslims will vote for Kejriwal and not for the Congress as our pundits proclaim.

When Rahul Gandhi went through this same area this morning, the reaction was starkly different. For sure Muslims came out of their shops to have a glimpse of Rahul – all Indians love a tamasha and roadshows are the best political offering. The Muslims who were on the streets were clearly the affluent Muslims, well dressed in their beautiful white kurtas and dandily trimmed beards. The joyousness of the previous evening when Kejriwal coursed through the same street was completely missing. The size of the crowds is never a good indicator of win ability – after all, our traditional parties are notorious for bussing in paid workers (sometimes they are just hirelings). What is revealing is the mood of the crowd. Affection, connection, spontaneity of a crowd – these qualities can never be faked. A trained eye can spot the difference between paid cheering and spontaneous outpouring.

Modi’s procession was big too – but not as big as Kejriwal’s even though Benares has been BJP’s hub for about a quarter of a century. Besides, Modi was traversing through the area of traders, a traditional BJP vote bank. Rahul’s crowd was ok, predictable and so was Akhilesh Yadav’s. In order of ranking of the size and quality of the crowd, it would be Kejriwal, followed by Modi, then Rahul and Akhilesh. Rahul’s and Akhilesh’s crowd size was about the same, though the quality of the crowd was different. Akhilesh had his youth brigade but very few members of the public. If he were not chief minister which gives considerable muscle and power statement to his procession with dozens of official vehicles, his procession would have been a damp squib.

In a nutshell- Modi’s roadshow symbolized “organization”, Kejriwal’s “people’s power”, Rahul’s “an also-ran event” and Akhilesh’s a “state machinery presentation”

kejriwal-nomination-varanasiIn many ways, Kejriwal’s roadshow in Varanasi mirrors AAP’s trajectory. As it slowly began from Lanka near the BHU campus and wound its way towards the famous Ghat area, it began snowballing, getting bigger and bigger so that the torrent became a sea of white caps. The air was festive with songs, dances, cheering and bonhomie. You could smell change in the air.

Most of Modi’s volunteers came from Gujarat. For Kejriwal, volunteers came from all over India – I met volunteers from Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh. And some from abroad – from the United States, Britain and the Middle East. Needless to say, the wonderful young boys who came from Dubai and Kuwait were Malayalis.

There is a fact that seems to have escaped many. When Modi came to file his nomination papers, it was the ultimate power statement. The route had become a sea of saffron. Kejriwal’s nomination was a relatively low key affair. How things have changed in a span of just a few weeks! Honestly, Modi’s roadshow was a poor show compared to his nomination spectacle. On the other hand, Kejriwal’s roadshow was a spectacular demonstration of people’s support.

Of course the media did not cover Kejriwal’s roadshow the way they covered Modi’s. So most Indians have the impression that Modi is storming his way around. The reality is so utterly different. The way the media has covered this election is exactly the same way they covered the election in 2004. They proclaimed the India Shining campaign to be a spectacular success. It took me a solitary visit to Lucknow to realize that this campaign was a humbug and that there was a congress hawa.

But this time in Varanasi the Congress has really damaged itself. If they were genuinely serious about defeating Modi, they would not have put up a candidate. A straight fight would have been easier for Kejriwal to win and defeat Modi. But in the end, as Kejriwal repeatedly says, both congress and BJP are in the payroll of Ambanis and others. Decision has been taken by India’s backroom decision makers that Modi must win this election. Even those who dismiss the perpetual conspiracy theories are inclined to believe a backroom deal in Varanasi between congress and bjp. The evidence comes in the way the situation was maneuvered to split the Muslim votes. Manifestation of this intent is personified by the person Congress chose as their candidate. Ajay Rai was a former BJP MLA. The situation is engineered for him to get the backing of Ansari, accused and jailed for killing his brother. The price of converting this deadly feud into an opportunistic political deal can only be guessed. Ansari’s value is that he can apparently bring in Muslim votes.

It is precisely immoral calculations such as these that infuriate Muslims. Political parties continue to see Muslims as a vote bank that can be purchased. Muslims have been reduced to a political commodity. In Kochi, before leaving for Varanasi, I had said to friends and associates that I am pretty sure this congress calculation will boomerang. I felt majority would vote for Kejriwal because they are fed up with the callous, cynical congress calculations. In Varanasi and after seeing the Muslim reaction in Madanpura I can give it in writing that Muslims are going to vote for Kejriwal in Lakhs!

I talked to many citizens of Varanasi. People are fed up with criminal politics. They accuse the congress and the Samajwadi party of brazen criminalization of politics. The grouse against the BJP is that they have done nothing to improve the living conditions of Benares. I have been coming regularly to Benares for the past 30 years. I don’t see any improvement. People in Benares also basically disapprove of divisive politics. Hindus and Muslims have lived peacefully for generations. They are economically inter-dependent. It’s the congress’ role in engineering riots to garner Muslim votes that turned the Hindus away from Congress and into the fold of the BJP.

20140509_170904 AKBut now the BJP is really worried. Actually, make that a correction. Modi is really worried. I met several of my journalist friends on Thursday, the day Modi has his roadshow. They told me he was helicoptering out of Varanasi that night and would be campaigning in Bihar and UP. This morning papers also quoted Modi’s chief campaigner Amit Shah who said Modi would not be returning to Varanasi. But after seeing Kejriwal’s mammoth roadshow, Modi is clearly nervous. Saturday morning news channels began reporting that Modi is returning to Varanasi Saturday evening. There is no greater proof that Modi is worried. Imagine the ramifications of a defeat by Kejriwal in Varanasi. That is busting the Modi Bubble, once and for all.

Over the last few days, there have been signs of nervousness among Modi’s foot soldiers. It is seen on the street, where several AAP volunteers have been beaten, heckled and harassed. They haven’t been doing this to Congress or SP workers – probably also because they are hard to find! Bullying is the outcome when cowards form a crowd.

The worry now is if inducements are given to voters and if rigging takes place inside polling booths. Only this can prevent Kejriwal from winning in Varanasi. No one must forget that the biggest seizure of liquor in this election was made in Modi’s Gujarat – and this in a state where there is prohibition!

There is now a strong undercurrent for Kejriwal. It came out in the open during yesterday’s roadshow but it still is in many ways an undercurrent. People live very close to each other, everybody knows everybody, nobody trusts anybody when it comes to announcing their political choice. They never make public their real choice, especially when it is a vote for change. This is because they have to be survivors first and foremost. If they make public their choice and the party of their choice loses, there could be economic fallout and ostraciation by the powerful and wealthy.

The situation that I see today is exactly the same as during 1977 when India went to vote after the Emergency. The media, then under censorship, proclaimed Indira Gandhi would have a thumping victory. My antennae picked up the undercurrent and sure enough it was a landslide victory for the Janata party. It was the same in 1982 when N T Rama Rao contested assembly elections, just 9 months after he formed his Telugu Desam Party. I was the only journalist in India who predicted correctly that he would win. I did the same thing in 1982 as I did in the last 48 hours in Varanasi. I followed NTR for a few days – the only journalist to take the trouble to go deep into the dusty, dirt track hinterlands. I also followed Rajiv Gandhi. The writing was there for all to see.Massive crowds for NTR, but small, listless crowds for Rajiv. M J Akbar, then editor of Telegraph newspaper asked me repeatedly whether I was sure. Telegraph had been launched just six months before and was taking on the staid and established Statesman newspaper. All the major newspapers were reporting that Congress would win as usual, but with a reduced majority. I was the only one reporting that NTR could win. The result was that not only NTR, but I was also mocked. I was then only 23 years old and a woman to boot, so you can imagine the scorn, vitriol and ridicule that came my way. A worried Akbar said to me: “If we are all wrong, it doesn’t matter, but if you are wrong and everybody else is right, we are finished as a newspaper. We are only 6 months old and we can’t afford to become a laughing stock.” I told him the big difference in my reporting and all the other journalists was that I was the only one in the field, the rest were reporting from Secunderabad club talking to their congress sources.

I was insistent and sent photographs that I took myself to show the size and quality of NTR’s crowds. In the end, we were the only newspaper that got it right. Our circulation skyrocketed from then onwards. We never looked back. Telegraph launched an ad campaign tom-toming this. This guerrilla newspaper became “Unputdownable.”

20140510_100612 AK & APSometimes it amazes me how little things have changed. Even in me. In Varanasi to volunteer for Kejriwal’s campaign, I feel the same excitement I felt as a student on discovering political undercurrents in 1977. Change is in the air.

Kejriwal’s determination and daring is a magnet that has astonished and inspired millions of like-minded Indians who yearn to bring change; who yearn to contribute to fighting injustice, inequality, corruption and exploitation. Kejriwal has rekindled hope that had died in my heart –and in many others’. I told him so when I met him this morning at breakfast time in his unassuming flat in Varanasi. I write about this in a separate article.

Three days in Varanasi and I am certain that Kejriwal and his team of volunteers will continue to astonish and inspire India.