For the people of Delhi, the first half of 2020 brought many lessons. But the one they would keep most close to their heart is the unravelling of the carefully constructed image of Aam Aadmi Party convener and their chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal.
Whether it was through his silence over the Shaheen Bagh protests, or his stand during the Northeast Delhi riots, or the mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis, Arvind Kejriwal exposed not only his conservative and narrow-minded politics, but also his incompetence and hunger for power.
Meandering through each crisis by playing the victim card, and projecting himself as India’s most helpless chief minister at every turn, Kejriwal has shown himself as the opportunist that few might have expected him to be while supporting him not once but thrice against a resurgent BJP riding high on the ‘Modi wave’.
Now, Kejriwal seems to have perfected the playbook — of creating a scenario bound to put him in the Lieutenant Governor’s crosshairs, and, in turn, the Narendra Modi government at the Centre. His latest decision to reserve Delhi’s hospital beds exclusively for the residents of Delhi, which LG Anil Baijal immediately overturned, is a classic example — draw populist sentiments from voters first, and when the policy move runs into a hurdle, redirect their frustration and anger towards the Centre.
His initial reply to the LG’s order was that opening Delhi’s hospitals to ‘outsiders’ will increase Delhi’s problems and pose a ‘huge challenge’ for the city’s residents.
LG साहिब के आदेश ने दिल्ली के लोगों के लिए बहुत बड़ी समस्या और चुनौती पैदा कर दी है
देशभर से आने वाले लोगों के लिए करोना महामारी के दौरान इलाज का इंतज़ाम करना बड़ी चुनौती है।शायद भगवान की मर्ज़ी है कि हम पूरे देश के लोगों की सेवा करें।हम सबके इलाज का इंतज़ाम करने की कोशिश करेंगे
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) June 8, 2020
He later agreed to implement the LG’s order, but his objectives had been served by then — of portraying himself as a leader driven solely by his concern for the people of Delhi, playing the victim card when the LG refused to approve his decision, and shielding himself from any blame that might have come his way because he tried to do something for the people but ultimately couldn’t.
Kaagaz dikhao politics
Arvind Kejriwal’s conservative and unconstitutional order may have been overturned, but his plan to exclude ‘outsiders’ from getting treatment can’t be ignored.
Moreover, this is not the first time the Delhi CM has tried to limit access to medical care only to Delhi residents. His 2018 call was ruled by the Delhi High Court as unconstitutional.
Kejriwal’s actions betray a mindset prone to making citizen-based distinction, a territory more actively pursued by the RSS-BJP ecosystem.
The Modi government implemented the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam and the countrywide Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that excluded Muslims. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological mentor, firmly believes that “India is a Hindu rashtra (nation)”, which the organisation’s chief Mohan Bhagwat often reiterates. The Right-wing doesn’t want India to be secular but a nation ruled by the Hindutva ideology, which sees Muslims as ‘outsiders’.
Similar to the CAA-NRC’s requirement of ‘papers’ to prove citizenship, Kejriwal’s recent order also contained a list of documents that Covid-19 patients needed to show to secure admission in Delhi hospitals for treatment — much like the Modi government’s ‘kaagaz dikhao (show papers)’ politics. In fact, Raghav Chadha of the AAP himself drew a parallel between Kejriwal’s politics and that of the BJP in Karnataka.
Recently BJP ruled Karnataka blocked entry of all patients from Kasargod (border district of Kerala) and refused treatment to them in hospitals of Mangaluru after Kasargod reported a steep increase in Covid-19 cases.
Just thought I’d mention it.
— Raghav Chadha (@raghav_chadha) June 8, 2020
Delhi under Kejriwal has been battered by one crisis after another. The Northeast Delhi riots, in which 53 people were killed and scores of houses and shops were gutted in loss of property worth crores, was an opportunity for him to prove his administrative skills, and prove to the people that he is their leader. Since Delhi Police falls under the control of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Kejriwal was safe from blame for police brutality or inaction. Just blame Amit Shah for it. But what about providing help to riot victims?
He also didn’t go to meet and listen to the protesting dadis of Shaheen Bagh even once, just watched the show from a distance after using their votes.
The Covid situation in the national capital has worsened. Every day, Twitter is filled with videos of people crying, talking about how they didn’t get any help from the AAP government. Ambulances aren’t provided, hospital’s have no beds, funeral grounds have no place. His repeated failure only proves that people of Delhi may have misunderstood him.
My dad is having high fever. We need to shift him to hospital. I am standing outside LNJP Delhi & they are not taking him in. He is having corona, high fever and breathing problem. He won’t survive without help. Pls help @raghav_chadha @ArvindKejriwal @SatyendarJain
— Amarpreet (@amar_hrhelpdesk) June 4, 2020
I lost my father today morning to COVID
we want other family family members to get tested today only. which labs are not doing they are in danger. We are trying since morning.
My mother, brother, his wife and two kids. Pls help.
— Amarpreet (@amar_hrhelpdesk) June 4, 2020
For the millions of my sisters and brothers like Ajay, we share your pain. We will do everything to protect you.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) June 9, 2020
My wife on written advise of her doctors was asked to test for COVID-19.Fortunately she tested negative.Despite growing up on a hospital Campus&knowing every Medical Proffessional of consequence I had to move heaven& earth just to get her tested.Delhi’s health systems are broken.
— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) June 9, 2020
She was neither provided ICU care nor put on a ventilator despite being very critical. Hospitals are not even trying to save people. I feel sorry for the people of Delhi. Let’s not play politics & go into blame game, Delhi needs close coordination between State & central govt https://t.co/qtMEz4FGy2
— shahid siddiqui (@shahid_siddiqui) June 7, 2020
An India TV coverage exposed the conditions of Covid patients in Delhi government-run LNJP Hospital recently. Horrific footage from inside the hospital’s Covid ward showed patients lying on the floor and rooms filled with dead bodies. Patients and dead bodies kept together. Clearly then, under Kejriwal, Delhi is the real BIMARU state.
Arvind Kejriwal’s trump card is playing the permanent victim. In 2014, he resigned just 49 days after taking charge as chief minister by citing lack of opposition’s support in passing the Delhi Jan Lok Pal Bill. Even though this was a clear disdain of the people’s mandate, Delhi again elected him with another majority.
From then on, he has only repeatedly accused the BJP-led central government of being a hurdle and how all his schemes to make Delhi prosper is blocked by Modi and Amit Shah. His methods drew voters towards him for the third time last year, which has meant he can keep at it with more vigour and never ‘apologise’ to the public for his failures.
Ironically, Kejriwal, who claims to be the anti-corruption crusader, had to issue ‘warnings’ to private hospitals not to ‘black market’ beds and charge patients more during the current Covid crisis. This is the same man who has been promising for the last six years that Delhi will be corruption-free. Does Kejriwal have a period in mind by when it would happen?
Arvind Kejriwal was voted to power because people thought he would bring a change and transform Indian politics. But all he did was use people’s woes and their hopes to devise a new formula of winning elections in the age of Modi-Amit Shah.
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