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Supporting Khap panchayats to random dharnas - how Arvind Kejriwal lost the support of civil society


ARINDAM CHAUDHURI | New Delhi, February 21, 2014 14:30
Tags : Arindam Chaudhuri | Arvind Kejriwal | AAP |

While Arvind Kejriwal’s stubborn defence of Somnath Bharti’s illegal and racist attempts at vigilante justice against African women and Kumar Vishwas’ racist comment on nurses of Kerala got written about, Arvind’s support for Khap panchayats (labelled as the Taliban of India by women’s right activists) got sidelined. Yes, people are writing about how in his politics, women’s issues have been sidelined. But it is his support for Khap’s dictats – which are shocking and shameful and range from banning women from wearing Western clothes and using mobile phones to ordering killing of young couples – that has hit women’s groups (especially those who want Khap panchayats dismantled) the most.

In India, politics has forever been about the vote bank. That means, politics has always been aimed at helping those who are having some problem with the normal course of law and procedures. Politicians, by giving promises to help such people, by circumventing the law and bringing new laws/policies, have gained the votes of these groups. Be it plans to set free the killers of a former PM, be it Khap votes, be it minority votes or be it the votes of those who do not want to pay electricity bills – no one ever really bothered about the civil society, which actually has no onerous problems with the law and does not want any special favours. The civil society primarily comprises the middle class and upper middle class, and all they want is clean governance. For the first time, thanks to AAP, this civil society felt disencumbered, that they had a party of their own; and in Kejriwal’s noise about corruption, his electricity vote bank politics got hidden and no one took any particular note of it. The name of Kejriwal’s party might be Aam Aadmi, but his Delhi success was thanks to the above mentioned middle class and upper middle class, those who form the civil society. They are the ones who went en masse and voted for him. Every seat that had a concentration of lower income votes was more or less lost by AAP.

But let’s analyse what message did Kejriwal’s antics of turning governance into a circus send to the civil society and the youth. His reckless mannerisms of resorting to dharnas, calling himself an anarchist, and non-stop loose talk only made people wonder if he was appointed Chief Minister to show governance or show gimmickry.

It was almost as if Kejriwal wanted power without responsibility, leaving the civil society wondering if he even understood the magnitude, maturity and sobriety that must come with running the government. He actually became the rare Chief Minister who disrupted public life in his own state! In fact, the manner in which he tried to smuggle in various AAP cadre into hospitals and schools, by abolishing the Rogi Kalyan Samitis and intimidating professionals, shows a totalitarian mindset, earlier experienced only during Communist rule. His Delhi Nagar Swaraj Bill proposal was one of the most totalitarian ideas. If that would have become law, then every locality of Delhi would have had their local committees being selected without any constitutional election process. His idea of giving power to mohalla committees to rule and decide policies, and even giving them power to punish government officials, is as anti-democratic as it can be.

However much we all want the Reliance-Congress nexus to be exposed, Kejriwal’s tactics of serial character assassination and FIR against Moily also didn’t go down well with the civil society. These looked random, illogical and hastily self created excuses to leave the government. Read Swaminathan Aiyer’s lovely piece, “FIR against Moily? As absurd as one against Kejriwal”, at Swaminomics (, which gives an outstanding description of the ridiculousness of Kejriwal’s accusations. The giving of subsidies on power and water bills to categories of citizens who did not need them and the wasting of public money on subsidising in effect his party workers who did not pay electricity bills, also hasn’t gone down too well with the civil society. They realise that those are the poor, the JJ Colonies and others, who don’t have metered connections, who needed these sops the most.

Moreover, AAP, its ministers and government spokespersons have set uncomfortable examples to the civil society by constantly heckling, using violence, abusing and deploying foul, ill-tempered and toxic language at various platforms, including before the media. This has subsequently made the civil society – that trusted AAP so much – believe that AAP perchance was never serious about solving people’s problems. Even Kejriwal’s feudal mindset of summoning the public for a so-called durbar, like a Mughal Emperor, and then escaping from there when the crowds and pressure proved unmanageable, has left a bad taste with many concerned about the disastrous consequences had a stampede or mishap occurred during the event.

All in all, one thing is for certain – the civil society and youth have got dissillusioned with AAP, and the fact is that they had trusted it. Arvind Kejriwal had that historic chance of being a logical leader for the civil society. Instead of talking about growth and development, he massacred that huge opportunity by sloganeering about good governance... and in effect, not even doing that. And now, women are getting equally disillusioned with AAP, thanks to the way African women were treated and due to AAP’s support for Khap. Having lost the civil society confidence and trust, the question remains – will Kejriwal now succeed in the battle of vote bank politics that he has already started indulging in? Well, if that is the question to be answered, my belief is that there are more capable players in the arena of vote bank politics!

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017