The recent Delhi elections have grabbed eyeballs. Primarily because of the Shaheen Bagh protests being sought to be pitted against the AAP’s governance paradigm. Because, no matter how much we want to ignore or deny it–the singled out ground reality which even the most biased eyes can see is that AAP is asking to be judged on the basis of the implementation of promises it made to the ordinary citizens of Delhi.
On the one hand, we have its leader Arvind Kejriwal asking citizens to focus on issues that concern’s each citizen and the common man’s life. Issues of access to the most basic necessities for survival and livelihood, hygienic and civic living conditions water, electricity, good and affordable schools and hospitals to every single citizen. In short, on his ability to govern and the possibilities that lie ahead for such a model.
In contrast, the BJP is unable to showcase even a single member of its party in Delhi who it considers fit to lead Delhi, one whose track record of governance or social commitment or vision for Delhi it can bank on. Faced with such a strong pro-incumbency factor, virtually the entire ruling party has had to get down on the streets of Delhi to try and wrest power back from AAP and its intrepid leader, Arvind Kejriwal who refuses to back down from the fight or buckle under any sort of pressure.
Some of us may feel honoured that such mighty and busy leaders (mostly men) have come down to canvass for the party, but ask yourself just how desperate they are? That they’ve had to deploy 200 ministers – various Union Ministers, BJP Chief Ministers of States and a huge army of non-local volunteers to fight the battle of Delhi? That the Home Minister of India has had to get down on the streets copying the election campaigning style of the Chief Minister of Delhi?
Or let’s plainly say something that a lot of us educated, middle and upper class do not want to acknowledge that this army was made necessary to counter the charisma of Kejriwal and the sheer hard and focussed work he and his small army of newbies in politics and governance have done to implement the vision of a modern, progressive and citizen-centric Delhi that he promised.
As much as many of us may have scoffed at his dream of making Delhi like Singapore, not many of us can question the execution of the educational and civic reforms that are necessary to make this dream a reality that has been achieved under his leadership. What seemed laughable then, seems doable now. From a “How’ we’ve all subconsciously begun asking “Why not?” That one question that is the biggest disrupter of rusted, moribund systems.
The Government school systems whose low standards that we all bemoaned and considered beyond repair, are up and about, and challenging the expensive private schools in the quality of education, facilities and delivery. That 3 Delhi Government Schools have already found a place in All-India rankings of the top ten in just 5 years, doesn’t merely speak, it screams for itself…waiting to be heard.
If the fact that 61% of Delhi respondents in a recent independent survey said they would now prefer to send their children to government schools and 80% said they would prefer the government hospitals, isn’t a true revolution along the lines of the most modern countries in the world, then I don’t know what is.
Delhi, under Arvind Kejriwal, has the dubious distinction of providing health services for all its citizens…rich or poor…for free. The question some of us still ask is…why should we not be paying for a doctor or the best hospitals? The answer is …we already are…in the form of taxes on every single commodity we purchase, every single penny we earn.
We, the privileged who pay high taxes and look down on government subsidies as alms. And yet we also know that we get irritated and dismayed at the sort of civic infrastructure the government provides us in return. We need to be selfish and clear about who is ensuring that our rights, financial, economic and social are secured and upheld.
The last CAG report has praised the Delhi government for its efficient use of the tax-payer’s money. The tax collection, despite subsidies and lowering tariffs has gone up. This blows a hole in the argument that is falsely served up that giving subsidies even where needed will ensure that the government coffers will go empty.
Arvind Kejriwal promised and everyone, including me, brought up on a reasonably heavy dose of trickle-down- economics wondered if he knew what he was talking about. But 5 years down, with his financial model, his government has reported a budget surplus in the kitty, that too in these difficult economic times.
Now, why would I as a citizen, not want to vote for someone who is smart and prudent with how he spends my money. Because as public representatives that’s what our elected members are…mere trustees of our money in whom we place the trust that they use our taxes wisely to ensure good living standards and civic infrastructure like roads, hospitals, schools and opportunities for social and economic growth.
Unfortunately, the unthinking lambs that we’ve become, we just mechanically live out our roles of citizens, depositing our ever-increasing taxes, without asking, “What am I getting in return? Where is my money being deployed?”. We don’t focus on the fiscals of the government, we don’t see and monitor how much and where or whether this money is being invested for our betterment? And then we never even bother about reading the annual report of the CAG, that audits all government finances every year.
We remain, at best passive citizens, too busy in tea table arguments, oblivious to the facts on the basis of which we are forming our opinions. We remain ignorant about where to source real and true information. And in our ignorance run the risk of making the wrong choices.
So, the question I’ll get back to is…Is Arvind Kejriwal a terrorist? Yes, and but of course he is! By definition, a terrorist is someone who, through his actions puts fear in the minds of others. Going by this definition, this fiesty and intelligent man has terrorized traditional politicians used to doing the same old regressive politics of caste, creed, religion and region.
Arvind Kejriwal terrorises their imaginations day in and day out because he’s aroused the imaginations of the people. A whole generation of people so far used to mere divisive and untrustworthy politics, ridiculous and opaque governance have now started to imagine better possibilities, of doing things differently, more progressively, for the betterment of the city, the state, the nation.
He has once again ignited hope. As he did when he came in at the beginning of the decade was trusted by the citizens to implement his vision in 2015 and now, backed by a five year enviable track record of governance ‘for’ the people.
So, while for the average, corrupt, and divisive politician Arvind Kejriwal is a terrorist, for the ordinary man on the street, no matter whether uneducated, educated, poor or rich, he and his vision of a modern, progressive, responsive and humane governance system remains the only beacon of hope in an otherwise despairing and corrupt system, a system that thrives on the belief that if we try to raise everyone, we’ll fall, so let’s just take care of ourselves.
A belief so warped and contrary to reason but stemming and rooted in insecurity and fear, that for centuries we’ve bought into it. If a leader promises me that I’ll rise even more, if all rise and work towards it, if a leader rids me of that fear and builds systems that restore my confidence in myself and the power of ‘we’ as opposed to confining me to my weakest and smallest version of “I”, I’ll choose him.
If a leader can activate a democracy ‘by the people, of the people’ to be “for the people’ too, I would choose that leader. If a leader can fight those whose grip over power seems fierce and still uphold power ‘for’ the people, can still execute and implement his vision of a government for ‘all the people equally,’ if a leader can restore my faith in the basic tenet of Raj-Dharma, that the ruler must view all those he must govern equally if this leader can force the strongest in the opposition camp and their whole army come at him charging and still not bow or despair, it is the leader I will back. Anyday. Because a leader without courage cannot implement a vision of a “government for the people” that you and I dream of.
Such a leader is doing the difficult task of “leading” not merely for me, but for my children and the generations thereafter. The difficult task of creating a progressive, educated, equal, humane and peaceful world. A leader who recognises that you cannot make a city, state or nation great on the broken backs of many. A leader who understands that financial strength precedes moral strength. That investing in basic infrastructure of livelihood is the only way to create a developmental model that works. And that development needs peace.
So he chooses to not go down the black hole of the self-serving traditional politics of division. And he asks you to vote not for your class, caste, creed or religion, but as a Citizen of Delhi and for Delhi alone. Because he shares with you the dream of making Delhi one of the best cities in the world to live in. It is a monumental task. Stand by him. And if his progressive agenda terrorises those who stand to lose from it, so be it!
The Author Dr. Shalini Yadav is an Advocate, Political Scientist, Writer and Social-Activist.
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