The alleged fake degrees of Jitender Singh Tomar should underscore to AAP that its weakness will be exploited by the System to retaliate against attempts to change it.
Indeed, the tussle between Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal over who controls the Delhi government is no longer just a proxy war between the latter and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It’s about the System resisting and reacting to reform it.
Jitendra Singh Tomar. AFP image
These reforms can’t be dubbed as revolutionary, but they are definitely of the order to upset the decades-old arrangement which enables officials and other interests to milk the System to their advantage, obviously, at the expense of the people.
Tomar and AAP may have lost this round of battle of perceptions, but there is no denying that the measures against him were disproportionate to the alleged crime. This was done to convey a message to Kejriwal – accept the System as is, otherwise expect a severe blowback.
You have to piece together seemingly disconnected elements of the Delhi drama to fathom its theme.
Despite a case against Tomar’s alleged fake degrees pending in a Delhi court, a posse of 35 policemen descended on him early morning to whisk him in custody. Such enthusiastic demonstration of force men in uniform display in nabbing a terror suspect – and Tomar isn’t one.
On the same day Jung appointed a joint commissioner of his choice to head the Delhi government’s Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB), which had over the last three months nabbed and instituted cases against several officials, including policemen.
Was this an ego battle over distribution of power between Jung and Kejriwal?
To answer this question, recall what happened when the ACB arrested a head constable for allegedly taking Rs 20,000 from a scrap-dealer. In response, the Delhi Police filed a counter-charge of abduction against the ACB, claiming the incarcerated constable’s wife had reported him missing.
Why did the Delhi Police file a charge of abduction against the ACB? This was because the Union Home Ministry issued in July last year a notification declaring central government employees were off-limits for the ACB. When the Hindustan Times filed an RTI asking for the documents which led to the notification, the newspaper was, not too surprisingly, denied access.
Since the Delhi Police comes under the Union government, the head constable was deemed a central government employee. He didn’t fall under the ACB’s ambit and, therefore, his arrest became abduction.
But what about the money he was allegedly extorting? In the System receiving money under the table is considered subservient to matters of jurisdiction! The Delhi High Court, however, rejected the bail application of the head constable. Whether or not the ACB’s ambit encompasses the Delhi Police is now for the judiciary to decide.
The parallel between police action against Tomar and the ACB’s against the head constable is too stark to ignore. Since the ACB swooped on the head constable, who was oblivious of the impending action against him, so must the Delhi Police on Tomar. Since the ACB boss, appointed by Kejriwal, was earnestly engaged in the anti-corruption drive, Jung had to supersede him.
This for you is what is called the System, the managers of which resist change not by invoking moral principles but by resorting to legalese and providing incentives to those who gain from status quo.
Here are the gains every actor in the Delhi drama hopes to reap from the crisis.
Considering the Modi government’s negligible progress in fulfilling its promise of bringing back the black money stashed abroad – on the issue of which Ram Jethmalani had quit the party – it wouldn’t want the Kejriwal government to succeed on its anti-corruption plank. This is because the BJP knows that it was Kejriwal’s drive against corruption in the 49 days of AAP government-I which turned the underclasses into the party’s mainstay in the 2015 election.
For the Delhi Police, the ACB poses a threat to the venal system from which they have gained immensely. From hawkers to three-wheeler drivers, from owners of kiosks to people in slums, to even those who break traffic rules but would want to be challaned, just about everyone has experienced the insatiable hunger of the Delhi Police to extort money. The crackdown on corruption in the 49 days of AAP governance last year was of immense relief to them – and of some pain to the Delhi Police. They wouldn’t want that pain to persist for five years.
Jung’s motivations are a tad more complicated. He has been arguing that the Delhi government can’t appropriate powers vested in him. Regardless of the debate on what his powers are, it does seem he wants power for power’s sake. Did we hear Jung argue that he superseded Kejriwal’s appointee at the ACB because of his deplorable performance?
Delhi loves to join the dots. People have marvelled at Jung’s ability to survive the Modi government’s culling of governors over the last 12 months. This ability includes preventing the smooth functioning of the Kejriwal government.
It works well for the BJP to have Jung do its dirty work. Jung was a Congress appointee, not the BJP’s, and therefore it helps to create the fiction that his over-the-top assertions are not at the Centre’s bidding. Over the next five years, Jung can hope his career graph rises.
But the Delhi drama is also about the Congress, which is the principal architect of the System. It is true the Congress must seek to wrest its support base which AAP has captured. But considering that the BJP has become an existential threat to the Congress, you’d have thought it would have found political language to oppose both the Kejriwal government and the BJP.
But the Congress won’t tread upon this path because it wants retribution. It was AAP which exposed Robert Vadra’s land deals and brought out into the public domain instances of crony capitalism, eroding the UPA government’s credibility. But for the secularism-communalism debate and relatively more welfare oriented than the BJP in policies, the Congress wants the System to exist as is, having gained from it. The Congress engineered the System to fashion its famed patronage system, of which corruption is an important element.
A year has passed and the nation isn’t yet wiser whether Vadra’s land deals were above board. IAS officer Ashok Khemka was the one who exposed the DLF-Vadra land deal, but he was chargesheeted for major penalities. None of the action against him has been reversed by the BJP government of Haryana or at the Centre. Instead, on April 2, he was transferred for the 46th time in his 22-year career.
This for you is the System, unchangeable and everlasting.
Then again, the alacrity shown by the Delhi Police, over which the Central government exercise control through the L-G, against Tomar stands in sharp contrast to the Modi sarkar’s inaction when Union Minister Nihal Chand Meghwal was summoned last year by a court in Jaipur in a rape case. The Rajasthan police reported they couldn’t find him though he was very much present in Delhi. Months later, he was again summoned and this time Meghwal sent his lawyer to the court. The lawyer said Meghwal hadn’t been served summons.
The System is inclined to acting selectively, only picking on those who challenge it.
This is quite true of Gujarat, where just about every police officer accused in the encounter cases walked out of prison in the months of the Modi government coming to power. That’s perhaps justifiable, but what is not are the promotions given to some of them.
Take a look at another set of statistics. The Association of Democratic Reforms says 112 members of Parliament have serious criminal charges against them, including murder, communal rioting and abduction of women. Of these 112, 63 are from the BJP, including 13 Union Ministers.
Securing a fake degree is both an offense and morally wrong, but not of the same magnitude as murder and rape and encounter deaths. Join the System to slip through the dragnet of laws.
As the nation moves closer to yet another anniversary of the Emergency, you can’t but help remember the poet Dinkar’s line, Singhasan Khaali Karo Ke Janata Aaati Hai (Leave the Throne the people are coming), which the JP movement appropriated to give a clarion call to people.
During those darkled days, Modi is said to have clandestinely passed messages from one leader to another; Finance Minister Arun Jaitley defied the police to hold a students meet in Delhi University; Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad belonged to the Bihar brigade of young Turks, of whom Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar too were a part.
In 2015, they all justify Jung’s highhandedness by quoting statutes. They forget Indian Constitution has the Emergency provisions, which Indira Gandhi invoked to subvert the democratic ethos of the country.
The anti-Emergency veterans now favour status quo in the System, which has retaliated against AAP because it has shown earnestness in reforming it.
Taking off from Dinkar’s famous line, a friend says the BJP’s theme for the summer – really, governance has now come to resemble event management – is: hum dilli sarkar ko kaam karne nahin deinge, aur hum India Gate pe yoga karenge. (We won’t let the Delhi government work and we will do yoga at India Gate.)
Take on the System, face the music.