It’s not everyday that we drag out a dead wag to illustrate the situation in the national capital. But Oscar Wilde was not only wisecracking when he said that those who try and lead the people can only do so by following the mob. During the last three days, various parts of New Delhi were held under siege by irate shopowners and traders protesting against the Municipal Corporation of Delhi’s drive to uproot illegal constructions and shops. These are the usual suspects venting their fury for being finally held accountable for illegalities that they had committed in the past. But what is less blatant is the way the political class — both those in power and in the opposition — has played along with this mob fury. And it is nothing short of a kicking-screaming display in which the ultimate aim is to portray law-breakers as victims. But when self-styled victims go on the streets on a rampage — as they did in parts of Delhi, smashing the windowpanes of blueline buses, schoolbuses and other public and private properties — any sympathy that one may have felt for them over the last few months evaporates quickly.
Political parties in this country sniff out any opportunity to cater to a vote bank. The situation in Delhi is no different. The ruling Congress has ho-hummed, pussy-footed about and, for all purposes, used all its pleading powers to stop the courts from ensuring that the urban mess created over the years is corrected. The opposing BJP, on its part, has jumped in with the law-breaking shopkeepers and has tried to make the drive against illegal construction something akin to a human rights violation. Thankfully, the court has not paid either party much heed in the matter. But on Tuesday, the political forces trying to ride a ‘wave’ seemed to lose control, as the authorities were left blinking while the law was being violently broken right before their eyes.
Delhi’s citizens do not deserve a scheming political class in league with a blackmailing horde of law-breaking traders. The irony is that law-abiding citizens were made to feel the brunt of a drive that plans to correct the policy of rewarding law-breakers. While the comparison is a bit stretched, it would be wise to note that the last time the political class decided to look away and the police remained a bystander, a large number of Sikhs were massacred in 1984 amid conditions of violent anarchy. Whatever be the grouse of those terrorising the capital today, it cannot be allowed to overwhelm the law and order in a city that purports to be the national capital of a rising superpower.