Mantosh Sharma | May 15, 2015
When Aristotle shared his views on concept of a ‘Tragic Hero’, there was confusion about the meaning of the word. He explained further that Tragic Hero is a highly renowned person and his act of omission generates a sense of pity. He is a man, whose error of judgment brings misfortune to him. I would like to analyze recent events and news surrounding Arvind Kejriwal in the framework of Tragic Hero.
Mr Arvind Kejriwal is a hero. He had national appeal; he apologized for the last tenure and promised wellness and goodies for next term if he gets elected to Delhi. The ground swell and the undercurrent wave was so strong that a lot of political punditry was in quandary over the outcome of the results. He had army of volunteers, ready to work for him whole heartedly spending their time and energy to make him successful. He resonated with all class of people with his simplicity, with a hope of new politics and an alternative politics against established players in Delhi. Within total tenure of three years in politics he was able to stop juggernaut of Mr Narendra Modi and swept Delhi election with an unprecedented wave, cutting across all segments of Delhi electorate. He got his accolades as chief minister of Delhi winning 67 out of 70 seats in Delhi Assembly. What a Hero indeed.
I would start with recent decision on gaging press through government circular as first among many judgmental errors from the Hero. According to the circular issued by Kejriwal, all officials can lodge a complaint with the principle secretary (Home) if they come across any news item which damages the reputation of the government or the CM, Mr Kejriwal said “Media keeps showing us in negative light but don't worry about that as people of Delhi are happy with us. Despite media's attempts, people gave us 67 seats.” He further said that the government will help new news channels or newspaper as a part of honest media house which only shows news.
Kejriwal has used media for his political upheaval by targeting various governments. He cautiously built his image as a crusader against corruption using media as needed. On one hand he is appealing against defamation and appealing the court to decriminalise it, on the other hand he is issuing government circular to curb it. Historically few attempts were made in the past like this. Press censorship (1975-77) during Indira Gandhi rule under Emergency. She locked many journalists and used Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR) as her propaganda machinery. Current circular and favourable media as opined by Mr Kejriwal is being seen as a repeat of Emergency mindset of Delhi regime.
Second tragedy of the ‘hero’ is churn in AAP, questions on leadership style and AAP ability to provide alternative politics. AAP was built in the background of “Idea of AAP” and “India against corruption”. Mr Shanti Bhushan, founding member of AAP has put it "AAP was founded on high principles of transparency, accountability, inner party democracy and 'swaraj', and I will continue to fight for it". The way AAP handled national executive meetings and the way Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav and others were expelled, created serious doubts on AAP leadership about their genuineness of leading alternative politics. Kejriwal said in national council meeting "Kuch haar ki rajneeti karte hain, kuch jeet ki. Jo jeet ki rajneeti karna chahte hain, woh hamare saath rahe". This was a blunder political statement and helped to assure that he is no different than others.
I think there was confusion in Arvind’s mind about his own perception. He might have thought that he had enough support from mainstream base and with the nation that he can get away with this. Mahatma Gandhi disapproved Subhash Chandra Bose and somewhat this disapproval led his departure from Congress. Gandhi Ji led the nation for independence and is our ideal. However, this didn’t happen with AAP. Expelled group astutely painted themselves as real intellectuals and real beholder of philosophy of alternative Politics in AAP. They accused leadership giving tickets to Shady characters and source of election funding. Counter arguments from AAP didn’t cut the narrative story of AAP, as told by Prashant Bhusan and Yogendra Yadav in public view. Their expulsion boomerang on AAP and ‘hero’ image got seriously bruised.
Few sting operations damaged Arvind’s national leadership image heavily. This was a case of stinger got stung or strategy which helped him to get leverage over opponents finally got him. His suggestion to ex AAP MLA to negotiate congress MLAs to support from outside and second tape where Arvind sounded chastising Anand with a malediction, was major blow on his well cultivated image in public. Anjali Damania quit over the controversy. “I quit... I have not come into AAP for this nonsense. I believed him... I backed Arvind for principles not horse-trading”. This episode has checked his political modus operand, where he cliched his success by assimilating many named and famed activists, Lohiyaites and people from middle political views. Subsequent to this Medha Patkar resigned from AAP.
Fallout of his image resonated in further actions. He appointed 21 MLAs as parliamentary secretaries as minister rank along with six ministers. This action was perceived more to placate and adjust MLAs aspiration even it was done with all right intentions. This has eroded his stance as a leader who is against VIP culture. Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Yadav used to appoint lot of MLAs as corporations president. Giving Ministerial ranks and facility is a way to accommodate MLAs and check for dissidence in the party. VVIP entry and VIP parking signs at Talkatora stadium was one of many embarrassing episode. One of his ministers, when visited his home town Mau in UP, he moved in caravan. It was difficult to tell if he was Minister from Samajwadi Party or AAP.
AAP was successfully able to kick start few of its promises like Electricity at half the price delivered within two weeks, 20,000 litres of free water per month to every household delivered. Anti-corruption helpline already started and its impact has been seen in RTO office and Steps to regularize unauthorized colonies and Resettlement colonies already initiated. There are more which government can site as work done in last three months. However these successes didn’t become headline narrative for successful Delhi government. Secondly, these were promises for election and they are not forward looking sticking achievements. Good governance, anti-VIP culture and smooth administration are going to be political mantra and practice which many central political parties are going to embrace.
Old habits die hard; when you are born from political activism it is most likely that you get engaged in one. Current confrontation of Delhi CM with the lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung is being interpreted that way. However, I think this is another political miscalculation of the ‘hero’.
Kejriwal might be upping the ante by asking all departments of the government to not “bother the office of LG” for files related to public order, land and police related matter. Once this escalation heats up, either reform will happen or Mr. Kejriwal gets public sympathy and chance to turn the table on Central government on Governance issue. There is risk that this strategy may boomerang too.
Delhi being the national capital, governance and development related help is needed from central government. Being in confrontation with central government will install many projects and approvals. This was time to have astuteness Mamata Banerjee who recently got very big package from Narendra Modi.
Back to the discussion of “Tragic Hero”, who’s political fortune dwindle from good to bad, from national leader to Delhi leader, leader of alternative politics to no different politicians, from an activist to an authoritarian, from governance hope to confrontationist, due to decisions and assumptions he made, make sense in today’s discourse for Mr Arvind Kejriwal.
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