Confrontation is the new norm for Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party and the latest trigger for the current tussle between AAP and the Lieutenant Governor is the recent appointment of Swati Maliwal as the new Chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW). She replaced Barkha Singh, who happens to be a member of the Congress party. While AAP government believes it has the jurisdiction and authority to appoint the Chairperson of DCW, the Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung believes otherwise. In a quick response to the appointment, he has apparently issued a letter to the Delhi government declaring the appointment as ‘null and void’. This has triggered off another round of one-upmanship, with both sides claiming its authority and right to appoint the next Chairperson. In a further challenge to the LG, she continues to function as the Chairperson of DCW despite her name plate being removed from her office. The matter is far from over with both the Delhi government and LG, sticking to their respective stands.
Swati Maliwal is no novice
Swati Maliwal may have been an unfamiliar face to the general public until now but she has been an active associate of Arvind Kejriwal from his ‘India Against Corruption’ days. Wife of AAP leader Navin Jaihind, she has also served as an advisor to CM Kejriwal, while coordinating his Janta Samvad initiative for interacting with the public. So for those familiar with the origins of AAP as a political party, the name Swati Maliwal is a familiar one and therefore, her appointment as the Chairperson of DCW comes as no surprise. The problem is that the CM is firm in his belief that he has the authority to appoint officials as he deems fit, while the LG believes otherwise, and has the Centre’s support on this. So where does that leave the capital, which is crying out for good governance? Nowhere; administration is in a limbo, with bureaucrats caught up in the power struggle, while morale is at its lowest. And that is a tragedy for a city as old and vibrant, as Delhi. The issue is not about Maliwal’s capability or credentials for the job but the procedure followed (or lack of it) in announcing the appointment, without first taking it up with the LG’s office. Under the tense circumstances where Arvind Kejriwal was forced to back down sometime back with regard to the earlier appointment involving the ACB chief, it would have been prudent on his part to take up the matter with the LG, away from the media glare, and sought his approval for Maliwal, or in case of disagreement, agree upon a candidate that was mutually acceptable. This could have also been another opportunity for the CM to build bridges with the LG, but it seems the power struggle just got longer. It doesn’t end there. Another battle is being fought. This time between AAP and the Delhi Police and this has more serious connotations for the people of Delhi and the country, as Delhi also happens to be the capital. The unfortunate stabbing of a girl from West Delhi by two brothers residing in her neighbourhood has given AAP the excuse to take up the fight with Delhi Police and use the incident to rake up the old issue of bringing Delhi Police under state control. The confrontation has taken an ugly turn with AAP accusing the Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi of incompetence, and has asked for his removal. While protesting against the Delhi Police, AAP’s Delhi Chief Dilip Pandey has accused the Delhi Police of trying to deliberately run him down when a truck apparently brushed past him. Marking a new low in relations between the Delhi Police and Delhi government, a police constable has filed a criminal defamation case against CM Kejriwal for publicly referring him as a ‘thulla’, an insensitive slang common in Delhi while referring to a beat constable. The battle for control over Delhi Police continues to remain alive, with AAP hoping to garner public support for its cause. The timing of this couldn’t be worse. With BJP in a corner fighting off an aggressive Congress-led opposition in Parliament, on issues like Lalitgate and the Vyapam scam, the centre is in no mood to discuss, much less hand over control of Delhi Police to the state government in the near future, therefore the amount of time wasted by the AAP-led Delhi government in street confrontation on one pretext or another, has only resulted in major development works that the city desperately needs, being pushed to the back burner, and as usual it is the common man – the aam aadmi that is suffering the most from lack of administration and decision making.
Is the AAP strategy of continual agitation working?
It’s been almost six months since the AAP government took office and during this period a lot of time has been lost in taking on the centre or LG’s office on one issue or the other. While the merits of AAP’s claims may be open to debate, the people of Delhi are still waiting to see action on the range of promises made by Arvind Kejriwal and his party. The recent slew of advertisements on television, at a massive cost, flies in the face of a funds crunch that AAP was supposedly facing just a month back. Therefore, the question must be asked, was it prudent for a new party, which is still trying to find its administrative feet, to divert scarce funds on a massive PR media blitz? Agreed, the media has been unkind to the party but then AAP has only itself to blame. The biggest threat to the party is that when you start crying wolf everyday it begins to feel less effective with each passing day. The party must realise that there is a thin line between people’s support and frustration, and any prolonged gamble of confrontational politics could have the opposite effect.
Time for a reality check
There is no denying that Arvind Kejriwal and his party rode into power with good intent. While the intent stands, the party has fallen victim to its own hype. At the time of taking office, riding on the back of a record mandate, AAP had the opportunity to extend the public euphoria well beyond Delhi’s border. But much like the BJP, the early hype has now given way to the rut of real politik, and the party seems to have got stuck in a quicksand of its own making. AAP has enough opportunity to build bridges with the centre and LG’s office, as the BJP could well do without a hostile AAP eating away its time and focus from its development agenda. BJP will need a less hostile state government in Delhi, while the same lies true for AAP, but with neither willing to blink, it’s the aam aadmi that is caught up in between, while the heritage city continues to suffer from lack of effective administration. It is time CM Kejriwal and his party took a step back to ponder over what it plans to achieve going forward and how to retain the popular support it has earned from the people of Delhi. But will it?