When Arvind Kejriwal addressed his delirious supporters 50 days ago after delivering Delhi to them, the air hung heavy with admiration and hope.
The admiration was for a man who had come from nowhere to lead his fledgling party to victory, along the way slaying the Congress’ resident Goliath, Sheila Dikshit.
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The hope was that Kejriwal’s ability to work his magic would be just the thing for a capital city sick of corruption, violence and official apathy, never mind that much of it was linked to the Central government it houses.
But now Kejriwal the genie is back in his lamp, doubtless with the intent of reappearing as a fortified CM with an absolute majority , or better still, as a major figure on the national stage.
His supporters, and there are many, are probably thrilled at his guerrilla-style tactics. To them, he burned brightly during his short stint, and only whet their appetites for a good political bonfire.
But neutrals swayed to vote for him by his obvious sincerity are not so sure. The CM they created lived life on the brink, daring Congress to pull support on several occasions. When he finally leapt off the cliff on Friday, he left behind an agenda that was substantially unfinished.There was no jan lokpal within 15 days, as promised in the manifesto. No women’s commando force, no regularisation of employees from civic and other bodies.
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And some of what was done was quixotic: A free supply of some water for a few, and an outrageous decision to partly waive power bill arrears for those who had supported his agitation on electricity.
The most enduring memory of the capital’s first tryst with Kejriwal in power: the CM sitting in protest in the heart of the city, even threatening to disrupt Republic Day .
His supporters will argue that he did more in less than two months than any other CM, and that he ran out of time. But it was Kejriwal who implanted the self-destruct gene in his government; neutrals will question whether a CM bent on losing his job is really in their best interest.Worse, he often came across as a man who cynically chose his targets, picking on public hate objects with a view to propitiating voters.
An unseemly agitation against the police, a vigilante raid on Black residents by one of his ministers that he did not condemn, and a slightly incongruous FIR against the rich and powerful which had little to do with his own state.
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All this was good politics, but in a sense, that was the pity. Floating voters will worry that politics overcame intent, and that with Kejriwal you run the risk of cynical means being adopted even if the desired outcomes are idealistic.
Now he moves on to a larger canvas. There is little doubt that he has captured the public imagination, and changed the discourse of politics, a remarkable achievement in itself.
But his brief, breakneck stint in office has done little to prove his administrative skills and more to raise the question of whether it is better to have him in opposition than in office.