Has Arvind Kejriwal Lost His Way?

Published: May 24, 2014 12:51 IST
(Captain GR Gopinath founded Air Deccan and is considered a pioneer in the low-cost airline sector. He quit Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party on May 24, five months after joining it)

Arvind Kejriwal burst on the Indian political scene with the launch of the Aam Aadmi Party. He grabbed the attention of the country straight off the block when he announced that every week he would expose corruption in high places. The people of the country and the hungry media waited with bated breath. He did not disappoint.

He went for big game and first attacked Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, taking the battle right to the doorstep of the Congress High Command. He alleged that Vadra used his family connections to amass huge wealth in sweet-heart land deals. He flashed documents acquired through RTI to support his charge and gained credibility.

It shook the Congress. The BJP loved it and also went in for the kill against the Congress. While every one attacked a party or a minister over scams, there was a cozy unwritten rule among politicians to abstain from going after each other.

Kejriwal was brazen and broke that rule. He went for the jugular. What was rumoured in whispers, he stood up to in public, which made him the darling of the people and the media.

The Congress party accused him of being a BJP agent and stooge.  Unfazed, he sprang his next surprise, targeting Nitin Gadkari, then the president of the BJP. He alleged that Gadkari had misused his position as party president and that he had used his clout with the Maharashtra government to secure many unfair advantages for himself.

Kejriwal did not stop there. He made allegations against other high and mighty of the land.

It was commendable in a way. Here was a newcomer to politics who was fearless and ready to face intimidation, threats, and witch hunts. It also seemed to imply that he was not making insinuations and wild charges and playing vote bank politics and people assumed he was armed with evidence and that he would brave the litigations that would follow or that he would take his allegations to their logical conclusion of bring those he accused to justice through the courts and vindicate himself.

It's one thing to gossip about it in private but when one holds a responsible position as head of a political party, one has to take responsibility and not, as some one described it, indulge in shoot and scoot politics, denigrating people's reputation, however credible the rumours may seem and however tempting the chance to score brownie points or capture media attention and public sympathy as a crusader against corruption.

Nitin Gadkari filed a defamation case against Kejriwal soon after, as he had said he would. He is well within his right to do so.

The court summoned Kejriwal. He should have presented himself in the court. His lawyers argued he was busy with elections and pleaded for time. That was the first mistake. If one has time to accuse some one, then one must also find the time to appear in court and defend oneself and not only present evidence to prove the allegations but also press charges for prosecution. An arrest warrant predictably was issued under the law of the land against Kejriwal for contempt.

The judge rightly asked for a bail bond to release him. Kejriwal refused to furnish a bail bond.

Here is the rub. Kejriwal refused to furnish a bail bond pleading that he had not committed any crime as his action was political.

That seems to be convoluted logic. His actions of naming high profile politicians or businessmen may have a worthy political cause of exposing corruption in government and crony capitalism, but it cannot by any stretch of imagination be equated with political activism.

When Mahatma Gandhi took part in the non-cooperation movement against the British or refused to pay the salt tax after the Dandi march, or when Kejriwal's erstwhile mentor Anna Hazare fasted at the Ramlila grounds against prohibitory orders to demand the Jan Lokpal , they refused bail and volunteered to court arrest. That was political action for a noble cause.

The distinction is obvious. Kejriwal's present case cannot be equated with that even if he is right in his accusations and possesses all the hard evidence.

He must respect and obey the laws of the land and offer a bail bond and prove his charges in court. That will elevate him in the eyes of the public.

There is no occasion in this instance for playing a martyr or for protests and bandhs by his supporters. Hope he perceives the difference and prudence prevails. He must focus now on building the party.

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