Delhi CM and AAP's National Convenor Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann during a roadshow for the Madhya Pradesh assembly elections, in Binaganj, Chachoda Image Credit: ANI

In India, Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister (CM) of Delhi, is conducting a referendum on whether he should continue in office if he is jailed in an alleged liquor scam case.

He is also busy campaigning across India for the assembly elections, even as Delhi, which has given him a resounding mandate, reels under severe poison air, with the air quality index crossing 500.

Kejriwal had earlier blamed the state of Punjab and the practice of stubble burning for the poison air Delhi is forced to breathe. The Delhi CM made earnest promises that if he was given Punjab to govern, he would fix the problem.

Punjab voted his party Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in, and no action was taken against stubble burning. Now, when Kejriwal is not preoccupied with campaigning to seek power in other states, he blames Haryana (BJP ruled) for the poison air that we breathe every day in winter in Delhi.

A word about the air: it is so poisonous that experts opine that it wipes out 11 and a half years from the lifespan of every Delhiite. Breathing this air is akin to chain-smoking for our lungs.

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'Power agenda of Kejriwal'

The air has ensured that schools were closed, and if you had cars of a certain vintage, you couldn’t drive them. Construction sites were closed, depriving labourers of daily wages, and private business, which hits a peak before Diwali, saw huge losses.

But, no one in authority in Delhi cares. Which brings me back to Kejriwal, who promised to transform politics but, who instead is a politician transformed. Kejriwal took an oath that he would not use the perks of office — a fancy bungalow, a fancy car — as he was an “Aam Aadmi” (common man). Now, Kejriwal lives in a refurbished bungalow, which according to some accounts, cost ₹40 crores to redo to his lavish tastes.

Kejriwal has ensured that his newbie party, the most successful political start-up in recent political history in India, is a one-man cult, systematically throwing out distinguished counsel Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav, and Kumar Vishwas, who were the original founders of AAP with him.

Says a senior Congress leader, “AAP is now a cult furthering the power agenda of Kejriwal.” When riots broke out in Delhi, Kejriwal maintained a strategic silence, not even speaking for minorities who had voted him into office.

At that time, Kejriwal tried a self-serving explanation that AAP had only a developmental model of governance, that it did not want to get into ideological silos against Hindutva, which would enable the BJP to score against them. In reality, this saffron-lite politics has only helped the BJP.

OPN AAP Arvind Kejriwal
Instead of appearing before the Enforcement Directorate, Kejriwal took off for campaigning Image Credit: ANI

Cases of alleged corruption

Kejriwal and AAP say they occupy the opposition space against the BJP, but, in reality, AAP has only harmed the Congress party by eating into its votes and actually helped the BJP in a three-way contest like in Delhi, Goa, and Punjab.

Congress leaders say that AAP is actually the “B team” of the BJP, much like the way they describe Asaduddin Owaisi and his AIMIM and Mayawati and her BSP. They say the three parties field candidates in bipolar contests to help the BJP.

AAP has also voted along with the ruling in Parliament on many occasions and also abstained rather than voting with the opposition. This convenient lack of ideology has plummeted Kejriwal from an activist to the leader of a national party but, also revealed his lack of a moral political centre.

Is Kejriwal next?

With most of his cabinet in jail, including Satyendra Jain, Manish Sisodia, Sanjay Singh (Rajya Sabha MP) in what the government agencies have described as a massive corruption scale involving the liquor policy of Delhi, Kejriwal has also been summoned in the same case. Instead of appearing before the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Kejriwal took off for campaigning.

The Delhi CM used to claim that he was dead set against political corruption, and that was the centrepiece of the campaign that catapulted him into the top job. Now the AAP is accused in many cases of alleged corruption.

Since Kejriwal has virtually reduced the AAP to a one-man party, he is currently busy asking if he can continue as Delhi CM from jail. Considering he claimed that the AAP had the best-qualified leaders, it’s a very clear indication of distrust that he doesn’t want to quit the CM chair and nominate a successor if jailed.

AAP may still have some short-term political gains but, ideology-agnostic, a governance based on freebies (free power and water), and the unravelling of the Kejriwal Aam Aadmi persona will ensure it’s a flash in the pan.

Incidentally, AAP has a troll army on social media on par with the BJP, and they mount vicious attacks if Kejriwal is criticised. These days Kejriwal also jets around in private planes. So much for promises.