Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party chief, Arvind Kejriwal, has punished the wrong person.
Instead of sacking minister Sandeep Kumar for what he has officially declared as "galat harkat", he should have penalised himself for gross inability to create structures to ensure that AAP had adequate systems of checks and balances, and does not function on the whims and fancies of either a single person or a coterie around him.
Kejriwal and his associates are riding a high horse by comparing his response time to prime minister Narendra Modi, who retained a minister, Nihal Chand, in his ministry till July this year, more than two years after rape charges against him became public.
Kejriwal, his supporters argue, took just 30 minutes to sack his minister, and that too on Twitter. He, however, did not say what Kumar, who served as SC/ST welfare and women and child welfare minister in Delhi government, was guilty of, or what his crime was. The tweet just said that AAP stands for "propriety in public life. That can’t be compromised."
But when compromises should not have been made, Kejriwal looked the other way.
During the election campaign for the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections, there were several discordant voices in the party over the way candidates were chosen. The controversy over donations made to the party coffers is still fresh in public memory.
Even if one accepts the AAP coterie’s view that messrs Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan parted over personal issues and because they wanted to "control" the party and the chief minister, there is no way one can accuse Admiral L Ramdas of political ambitions.
Within weeks of the AAP’s spectacular victory in Delhi, the party had begun going back on three of its most essential promises: financial transparency, internal democracy and internal vigilance of leaders, legislators and office bearers.
|Kejriwal, his supporters argue, took just 30 minutes to sack his minister, and that too on Twitter.|
This is not the occasion for it, but one can draw up a long list to point out instances of how Kejriwal has undone the idea of AAP. The party, to start with, was not just another political outfit, with a photocopy of the internal command mechanism borrowed as blueprint to structure the party.
But to give an example, when the controversy over legislators being appointed political secretaries became public, the AAP's defence was that the practise had been followed by other parties as well. AAP was not formed to become like others. But Kejriwal has not penalised anyone responsible for converting the party into a "me-too" setup.
In 1978, during the Janata Party regime, Surya Magazine, then edited by Maneka Gandhi, shook Delhi durbar by publishing photographs of Jagjivan Ram’s son, Suresh Ram, frolicking with his amorous mistress Sushma Chaudhury. The incident was the first time that gossip became news. With visual backing, Surya Magazine was catapulted into national fame, and Jagjivan Ram’s career was virtually stymied. Ironically, Suresh Ram had committed no crime, and later married the lady in the pictures.
Four decades later, India’s tryst with hypocrisy continues.
Adultery is a criminal offence but the incident is to be investigated only if either of the spouses files a complaint. No one knows when this visual clip was recorded. But Kejriwal already declared that the action has been taken against the former minister because he acted "like this" after becoming minister. His response in the video message is akin to the "tauba-tauba" reaction of the hyped Pakistani TV journalist when Narendra Modi visited Lahore in December 2015.
In recent years, there have been various video clips of sexual acts between two consenting adults that have been made public.
In 2012, a CD featuring Abhishek Manu Singhvi and a friend surfaced and resulted in political din. People derived vicarious pleasure and the Congress leadership quietly sidelined him. But for the past year or so, he is back in the limelight. Clearly, he was penalised for no fault of his but only to placate middle-class hypocrisy.
In 2005, a CD featuring Sanjay Joshi, the former BJP general secretary, was leaked. Fingers were pointed at various influential people in the party for having the video shot clandestinely. The truth has never been unearthed and no case was ever filed by Joshi or against him. The incident, nevertheless, sidelined him politically and he still languishes without any significant charge.
Initially, one had MMS clips doing the rounds featuring all and sundry, from school students to film actors. With technological advancement, circulation of private content has become easier. There is no way one can laud any person for shooting personal moments with another person. There is always a possibility that the relationship may sour and the clip can be used to either blackmail or embarrass. Political rivals can also use intimate clips for their benefit.
The sacking of Sandeep Kumar is a knee-jerk reaction of Kejriwal. If he was so worried about propriety in public life, he should have ensured that AAP had a better system of background checks of potential candidates and legislators before they were made ministers and given other charge.
Three ministers have already been sacked in the 19 months that AAP has been in power. Kejriwal must take responsibility for having appointed them ministers in the first place. Sacking Sandeep Kumar is an escape route.