Delhi Chief Minister’s outburst against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitely in a highly abusive language after his Principal Secretary was raided by the CBI, reminds me of a folk tale (with some modification I will mention later), perhaps one of the Akbar-Birbal stories, I had heard in my childhood and I am sure several readers also must have heard. The story is that a very learned person came to spend some time in the emperor’s court. He could converse in several languages so naturally that nobody was able to find out his mother tongue. Birbal offered to solve the mystery. One day while engaging the scholar in intense conversation, Birbal pushed him from staircase. The scholar fell down and got hurt. In a fit of anger, he started abusing Birbal in his mother tongue.
When Arvind Kejriwal appeared on the political horizon of the country, the people fed up with corrupt and selfish politicians, saw a ray of hope. The young man with degree in mechanical engineering from the IIT, Kharagpur, had resigned from the Indian Revenue Service and had been honoured with the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership. The people learnt that before joining the IRS, he had worked with the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, at the Ramakrishna Mission in North-East India at Nehru Yuva Kendra.
The people also learnt that from the very beginning Kejriwal had made it clear that he was determined to fight corruption even at the cost of his own career in the IRS. He, along with his like-minded friends, first formed an organisation called Parivartan and then an NGO called Kabir to fight corruption in the income tax Department, Delhi administration, Delhi Municipal Corporation, etc. and to empower the poor people to fight for their rights. Once he organised a satyagraha outside the office of his own Chief Commissioner of Income Tax. He succeeded in exposing corruption in the Public Distribution System (PDS), electricity and water bills, and several other areas. In 2006 he resigned from the service to devote full time to public cause. In 2010 he was heard loudly telling everyone about corruption in the Commonwealth Games, an allegation that proved to be correct.
He became a household name when he joined Anna Hazare’s movement for Jan Lokpal. Along with Anna Hazare and Kiran Bedi, he was one of the original founders of India Against Corruption (IAC) and was seen fasting for eradication of corruption from the public life. Naturally, when in July 2013, he formed the Aam Adami Party (AAP), a political party to cleanse politics from within, people believed. In the first round of attempt in December 2013, his newly formed party got 28 out of 70 seats in the Delhi Assembly and he became Chief Minister of a minority government. He resigned after just 49 days and many thought that the people of Delhi would punish him for forcing mid-term election. But he apologised and the voters of Delhi not only pardoned him but gave him unprecedented mandate – 67 out of 70 seats –to fulfil his promises.
The promises were really very high sounding. The official website of the Aam Adami Party (AAP) says that:
“Since most political parties are corrupt, greedy and thick skinned, it’s time to bring political power back the people’s hands. … Our aim in entering politics is not to come to power; we have entered politics to change the current corrupt and self-serving system of politics forever. So that no matter who comes to power in the future, the system is strong enough to withstand corruption at any level of governance.”
“This national demand for a change in the way our political system works has forced our anti-corruption drive to enter the political arena to clean it from the inside. Politics itself is not a dirty word – it is our current breed of politicians who have made it dirty. Aam Adami party wants to make politics and noble calling once again.”
“With the Broom which symbolizes dignity of labour, the party hopes to clean the filth which has permeated our government and our legislature. The country needs a clean sweep of its corrupted main stream political parties.”
Unfortunately, it did not take much time to realise that the man the people had believed would ‘cleanse the filth’ had started enjoying the same filth. A series of controversies – complaint of receiving cash donations from shady companies, arrogance of party men, charges of flaunting false degrees and corruption against ministerial colleagues – started eroding the people’s faith.
More shocks came when Kejriwal was found embracing those convicted of corruption or facing corruption charges. It started dawning upon the people that instead of transforming the politics, his political ambitions had started transforming him and gradually he was appearing in his true colour of an ambitious politician. On several occasions he was seen defending his wrong actions with great conviction. (It is for this reason that I have said in the beginning that he reminds me of the folk tale with some modification.)
The climax – similar to the push given by Birbal to the scholar in the folk tale narrated earlier – came on December 15 when Kejriwal lost all his pretensions of being different from other politicians. When he learnt that the CBI had raided the office of his favourite Principal Secretary, Rajendra Kumar, instead of taking the stand that he would not spare anyone, however near or dear he may be, if there was even a shadow of doubt about that person’s integrity, he took the raid on his secretary’s office and residence as raid on his own office and shamelessly started abusing first the Prime Minister and then the Prime Minister as well as the Finance Minister in a language – he called the Prime Minister a ‘psychopath’, a ‘coward’ and the Finance Minister a ‘liar’ – which is used only by low-level politicians, which is not expected of a highly educated person honoured with Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership.
FM lied in Parliament. My own office files are being looked into to get some evidence against me. Rajender is an excuse
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) December 15, 2015
Modi is a coward and a psycopath
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) December 15, 2015
Kejriwal says that he has a serious grievance that he was not taken into confidence before the CBI raided the office of his Principal Secretary. This is a strange grievance coming from a person who was once in the IRS. The IRS officers always conduct raids maintaining complete secrecy even from their own bosses.
If Arvind Kejriwal has forgotten the practice adopted by the income tax Department in conducting raids on unearth black money, let me remind him of a very important decision taken more than 30 years ago because a senior officer with the mentality which Kejriwal has shown today insisted that should be kept in loop if the investigating officers working under him were going to conduct any raid.
One day, the Director of Investigation (DI), Delhi, a Joint Secretary level IRS officer who was making arrangements to raid premises of some tax evaders, received a telephonic order from his immediate boss, Member (Investigation), Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), to come with files to discuss the details of raids being organised. The DI went to his boss but politely refused to share any information. The boss got wild and said he was giving order to his subordinate. Instead of obeying the order, the DI brought the matter to the notice of the Chairman, CBDT. The Chairman supported the DI but the Member asserted his right as the DI’s boss.
To resolve the matter, all the three went to the Revenue Secretary and ultimately the four officers went to the Finance Minister. After hearing the entire story, the FM asked the Chairman to write on a note-sheet that no one other than the officers directly involved in investigation, not even Member (Investigation) or Chairman, CBDT or Revenue Secretary or Finance Minister, had any right to ask for any information before the search and seizure operation actually started because any leakage of information would defeat the purpose of taking the tax evader by surprise.
It is strange that the man who successfully fought against the ‘single directive system’ under which it was mandatory for the CBI to seek prior approval of the government before initiating any investigation against any officer of the level of joint secretary or above to the government of India, demand restoration of the same system. Has he forgotten that following protests by him and his group, his former friend and colleague Prashant Bhushan filed a PIL in the Supreme Court against the ‘single directive system’ and demanded grant of complete freedom to the CBI to investigate and prosecute senior officers? The Supreme Court accepted the petition and scrapped the system which had been used by several Chief Ministers and other politicians to shield corrupt officers.
After the Supreme Court order, the AAP had issued a press statement welcoming “the long awaited judgement of the Supreme Court striking down the ‘Single Directive’ introduced” in the CBI and CVC Acts in 2003.
Arvind Kejriwal may claim that as a crusader against corruption, he would not have leaked the secret information out and would have extended full cooperation to the CBI but does it require great knowledge to realise that the same privilege will have to be extended to all the Chief Ministers and the central government? We all know how several central and state ministers have been indulging in corrupt practices with the help of their favourite officers. Or, does he want special privilege because he claims to be ‘different’ from other politicians, despite embracing convicted politicians and hobnobbing with those facing corruption charges?
In any case, when it is known that Kejriwal had selected Rajendra Kumar, an officer of doubtful integrity but very close to him, as his Principal Secretary, it is impossible to believe that he would be impartial. More than six months back the Indian Chapter of the Transparency International had sent him a letter, by registered post, with copies to the President, Prime Minister, CVC and Lt. Governor of Delhi, that there were serious allegations of corruption against Rajendra Kumar but he just ignored the complaint. It is now known that the CBI took action after watching Kumar’s activities for several months.
After the Transparency International and the CBI have exposed his hypocrisy and he has come out in his true colour, Kejriwal’s aggressive attempts to defend himself by abusing the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister and his claim that the CBI acted only to save the Finance Minister against whom he was going to initiate action appear very childish. He has called Rahul Gandhi a ‘kid’ but he himself is behaving like a very immature person. Perhaps he believes that since he has declared himself a crusader against corruption, no body has right to question his own integrity.
Some opposition leaders see this as an opportunity to settle scores with Prime Minister Modi and to win over the support of the AAP in elections. They are saying that a CBI raid against a Chief Minister’s Personal Secretary without taking the Chief Minister’s approval was an attack on the federal structure of the country.
It is really shocking that we are asked to tolerate all sorts of corruption in the name of saving parliamentary democracy, federal structure and secular character of the country. For a decade we had to tolerate corrupt ministers headed by a spineless Prime Minister whose only qualification was that he was the nominee of the leader who controls the country’s oldest political party, all in the name of compulsions of coalition government in a parliamentary system.
Today Prime Minister Modi’s critics are crying that never in the past the CBI had taken such an action which is a direct assault on the federal structure. There are actually demanding that the CBI should act in violation of law and seek permission of the Chief Minister before taking action against his corrupt officers otherwise the federal structure of the country would be threatened.
This is high time we realise that it is only because of failure to take action against corrupt politicians and officials that our country is among the most corrupt countries of the world. The World Bank’s ongoing Enterprise Survey has placed India among the top 14 most corrupt countries (out of 135 countries surveyed). This is worse than the 85th rank given to India among 175 countries by the Transparency International.
As a result of rampant corruption and widespread inefficiency, even after 68 years of independence, about 40% of Indians need subsidy for survival, 194 million Indians do not get square meal a day, India is home to one third of the hungry in the world and one third of malnourished children of the world are in India.
Before concluding, let me add that while others may be surprised by Arvind Kejriwal’s attempt to defend the indefensible, I had lost faith in him when on February 24, 2014, in his address at the Jamia Islamic Cultural Centre; he declared communalism a bigger problem than corruption.
Now no one should have any doubt that for Kejriwal the campaign against corruption was a ladder to join the rank of politicians who matter. For every politician, ultimately what matters is the number of votes and no election can be fought without money, far beyond the mandatory ceiling on election expenses.
By Devendra Narain in indiaopines blogs