Stop hating Kejriwal for his good work, Delhi

Odd or even, the CM has been leading by example and quietly delivering governance.

 |  Fortune Cookie  |  4-minute read |   09-01-2016
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I have often wondered why Middle India loves to hate Arvind Kejriwal. I can understand the bhakts behaving like jilted lovers because Kejriwal effectively nixed their plan (nurtured by the same Ajit Doval who botched up Pathankot) to hijack Anna Hazare's movement. But why are people like you and me - regular people, not trolls - so rabidly anti-Kejriwal? What is it about Kejriwal that gets their goat.

They are so much against Delhi's chief minister that, going by their outbursts on social media, they did not even want the odd-even scheme - one major government-led initiative to battle the lethal levels of pollution - to succeed. Many of them went to the ludicrous extent of posting Diwali rush pictures at the Rajiv Chowk Metro station and claiming that it had been caused by the odd-even formula.

Of course, like all human endeavours, the plan had its imperfections, but there's no denying the fact that it has had a salutary effect on Delhi's peak pollution levels (a finding backed with enough good arguments by the Supreme Court-appointed Environmental Pollution Control Authority), that too in a month prone to foggy conditions and slow winds. It's no one case that Delhi's air has become breathable overnight (that's not possible in 15 days), but the peak levels have dropped perceptibly.

Not being able to stomach this inconvenient fact, Kejriwal-baiters jumped on the statistic that building construction sites are the biggest injectors of particulate matter into Delhi's ecosystem. They said Kejriwal did not want to upset the builders' lobby, so he has spared construction sites. What they conveniently forgot is the fact that cleaning up building construction sites is one of the six points on the Delhi government's environmental agenda. It's just that the odd-even formula hogged the mindspace of the media.

Selective amnesia? Or a crab mentality? Okay, you can't stand Kejriwal, but what prevents you from recognising the heartening fact that Delhiites have shown since January 1 that they are happy to suffer some initial inconvenience for the sake of their children's lungs? The same Delhiites who have been lampooned for not being able to see beyond their belly buttons are now talking about car pooling and have a chief minister who is leading by example.

I am a food writer and my work brings me in contact with the top honchos of the restaurant industry. It is the most licensed sector of our economy (you need 14-16 licences, to be renewed annually, to open one restaurant in Delhi) and therefore bribes keep it lubricated (in restaurant accounts, bribes are generally put under the head of "flower decorations!"). Now, when the chief of the National Restaurant Association of India, Riyaaz Amlani, informed me how Team Kejriwal had made the system transparent and made the licensing process, especially for big-ticket events, as seamless as possible by making it online, I knew we had a Chief Minister who was quietly making a difference, even as his critics kept snapping at his heals and he had to contend with a Lieutenant Governor hell-bent on not allowing him to function. Riyaaz Amlani is not a political animal; he's a young entrepreneur who's delighted that there's one city in the country where you can open a restaurant without spending all your time in government offices.

Kejriwal has done away with management quota in private schools. No chief minister was able to act against this single source of corruption in our education system. Social media responds with near silence. Kejriwal got a flyover completed 10 months before schedule for Rs 100 crore, way below its budgetary allocation of Rs 250 crore. Newspapers carried the news in their inside pages as if it happens all the time.

Thanks to the system of water billing introduced by Kejriwal, my mother, who's a pensioner, hasn't had to pay for water for the past one year. And our maid is delighted that her daughter, like every other girl child in her school, entered the new school year with a new uniform and books given by the government. Now, mohalla clinics are being opened all over the city in poor neighbourhoods like the one from where she comes. There's a widespread feeling among the unheard majority that the government is finally working for them.

Why, then, does Middle India love to hate Kejriwal? Does it not want a chief minister who works for the people? Maybe that's what troubles them. Kejriwal has re-defined the meaning of people in our public discourse. Finally, People Like Them are getting precedence over People Like Us.

Writer

Sourish Bhattacharyya Sourish Bhattacharyya @sourishb1963

The writer is a columnist for Mail Today, blogger at Indian Restaurant Spy and a founder member of the Delhi Gourmet Club.

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