The wheel, it seems, has turned full circle. Arvind Kejriwal, a leader of the anti-corruption movement in the country who led the fight from the front along with the likes of Anna Hazare, is now at the centre of a charge from one of his close associates that he has taken a “bribe” of Rs2 crore.
The allegation made by outgoing tourism and water minister Kapil Mishra is bound to sully Kejriwal’s image and turn into a major weapon for his rivals in the next assembly elections in Delhi state.
Circumstantial evidence points to the possibility of BJP’s unholy hand working from behind to run down Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party. On the other hand, the disappointment among Kejriwal’s well-wishers can be gauged from a comment from Anna Hazare that the news was “saddening”.
Activism and politics do not seem to go hand-in-hand. An activist needs only bare minimum financial and other support to take his causes forward. Politics is a different ball game. Elections come knocking at the door of politicians and political parties one too often. A stage has come when elections cost crores either from a candidate’s pocket or from the sponsoring party’s cash vaults.
Several efforts in the past to minimise the sway of money in election campaigns have come to naught; rather, the spending is increasing by the year. The cancellation of the assembly by-election in Tamil Nadu’s RK Nagar constituency weeks ago for the seat left behind by deceased J Jayalalithaa, in the context of heavy spending by candidates, is a case in point.
The BJP, under Damodardas Modi was screaming about the corruption of the Congress and tried to paint a self image of clean politics. All that was trash as could be seen not only in 2014 General Elections to the recent UP State Assembly polls. The BJP outdid everyone else put together in its extra lavish campaign style.
Kejriwal as a politician cannot run the party if he has no money in hand. Whether he took bribes and how he used the money are matters that could be investigated. But, chances are that he did take money for the party.
Can any other party in India, or for that matter in any other democracy, claim to fight elections with personal hard earned money. The dividing line, between corruption and collecting party funds, is thin, also for the fact that no proper accounting or auditing is ever done or possible in the way political parties collect and use funds.
This is the first time Kejriwal’s name has been dragged into a bribe scandal. Kapil Mishra has linked his removal from the ministry on Saturday to the pressure being applied on Kejriwal by the tanker water lobby in the capital after he “refused to budge” to their pressure tactics.
This contention might be true but more likely it could be taken with a pinch of salt. What is a fact however is that, city after city, municipal water supply by pipelines is not getting the priority it deserves because the alternative mode of tanker water supply is a money-minting business.
The wealth is shared by vested interests of all hues. This prominently includes those who run municipal administrations too. The result is people do not get quality water to drink. Tanker water is generally of low quality, sometimes even untreated, leading to health hazards to the people who consume it.
Kejriwal’s party, the AAP, was a hastily crafted and loosely knit one, and those who were put into positions had not had the discipline that should go with men holding public offices. Several scandals erupted about ministers in the last three years, and some of them had been asked out.
Mishra is the latest, though no scandal surrounded him other than that he was seen to be close to AAP senior leader Kumar Vishwas. Indications are that internal fights in the AAP are one too many. This is calling into question Kejriwal’s leadership qualities as well. Holding on to an immature party that suddenly got catapulted into glorious power is a heady concoction and must be extremely difficult for Kejriwal. Delhi not being a full-fledged state and the government having no control even on the police makes matters worse.
The AAP’s recent election defeats in Delhi civic polls, as also its less-than-satisfactory showing in Punjab and Goa assembly polls and the defeat in an assembly by-poll in Delhi recently have all been working to the disadvantage of AAP and Kejriwal.
Worst of all, it is a serious point to ponder whether Kejriwal and the AAP can outwit the machinations of the BJP, especially the Prime Minister, who is out to finish off other political entities by hook or by crook.
It’s likely that many of the troubles of the AAP and Kejriwal spring from nowhere other than the BJP camp in Delhi. In all fairness, to nourish and strengthen democracy in India, Kejriwal must survive and that too as a strong political force.