I’m not just perplexed but completely flummoxed by Arvind Kejriwal’s behaviour. He needs to identify the lessons he must learn. First, his days of agitation are over. Second, he must mind his language.
I’m not just perplexed but completely flummoxed by Arvind Kejriwal’s behaviour. How could so astute a tactician have so badly blundered? Even his most senior colleagues admit his dharna was “a complete misadventure”.
As an individual, Arvind Kejriwal has every right to protest. However, as chief minister of Delhi, the dignity and propriety of the constitutional office he holds places restrictions on his behaviour. His disregard of these restraints not only demeans the chief ministership but calls into question his judgement.
Unfortunately, this was compounded by the unthinking comments he often made. First, his claim to be an anarchist was simply silly. The Oxford English dictionary defines anarchism as ‘the doctrine that all government should be abolished’, which, surely, ill becomes a chief minister elected to provide good governance.
Even as a sarcastic or jocular comment it was unbecoming. For the simple reason that, even if unintentionally, the claim to be an anarchist wasn’t limited to his personality but, critically, extends to how he views his role and responsibilities as chief minister.
If anything, his willingness to disrupt Republic Day was yet more damaging, primarily because it was more easily understood by ordinary people. Republic Day is when we celebrate our Constitution. The Rajpath parade symbolises that annual event. Mr Kejriwal’s threat to disrupt it was not simply pique but disrespect for a constitutional celebration people hold dear. And most disapproved.
In fact, the sad truth is that disappointment with Arvind Kejriwal — but, as yet, I consciously won’t call it disillusionment — began earlier. His defence of Somnath Bharti was disturbing. Even if he wished to believe Bharti’s behaviour with four Ugandan women was not racist, the fact that the women themselves and so many others insisted it was should have alerted him to the need for a more neutral stand. In addition, Bharti’s disregard for due process and determination to belittle the police, who are, after all, officials in uniform, was a flagrant violation of both the law and the requirements of ministerial behaviour.
I accept this was a tricky situation for an inexperienced chief minister. Perhaps he went with his instincts. That may have been understandable but now he has to accept they turned out to be wrong. This was, therefore, his first bad misjudgement. If today Mr Kejriwal’s most senior colleagues regard Bharti as ‘a total liability’, it only underlines how damaging Mr Kejriwal’s support for him was.
For a politician — and even more so for a chief minister — judgement is paramount. Misjudgement is, therefore, a grievous self-inflicted lapse. Saying the wrong thing, standing by the wrong people or taking the wrong step are worrying errors. Mr Kejriwal committed all three.
Yet I don’t believe the curtain has fallen on either Mr Kejriwal or his government. An admittedly poor act is over but the play can continue if the plot is corrected. This means if last week’s events are not to overshadow his tenure, Mr Kejriwal needs to quickly identify the lessons he must learn.
First, his days of agitation are over. If he wishes to register his protest with the central government it can’t be through dharnas. He needs to identify another way of doing so.
Second, he must mind his language. He has a tendency to get carried away under pressure. That can’t continue. Or else it won’t just be his foot he puts in his mouth!
Third, he must dispense with Somnath Bharti. How, is for him to decide, but the sooner the better.
Views expressed by the author are personal