Sunday, January 05, 2014

A House For Mr Kejriwal

By John Cheeran
Delhi chief minister is a homeless man today. Arvind Kejriwal, the
primal aam aadmi, has been forced to vacate his two five-bedroom
duplexes on Bhagwan Dass Road in Lutyens’s Delhi, even before he could
step in there with his parents, wife and kids.
What you are witnessing is another slice of direct democracy,
practised by Aam Aadmi Party. On Saturday, Kejriwal told television
channel reporters that after listening to aam aadmis within his party
and a late night call from his conscience he has decided to let the
bungalows go. So another round of house hunting is on.
It is notable that compared to the house occupied by former Delhi
chief minister Sheila Dikshit on Motlial Nehru Marg, Kejriwal’s chosen
bungalows were poor cousins.
There has been an outcry, most notably by BJP leaders, at the spacious
bungalows allocated to the Delhi chief minister. How can an ‘aam
aadmi’ chief minister live in opulence, asked the media and critics.
Now that’s a question Kejriwal himself invited after peddling needless
symbolism. Kejriwal is a prisoner of his own cheap populism. After
free water and cheaper electricity, does Delhi CM have a right to live
in a 9,000 square feet quarters?
Why should anyone object to a chief minister living in a five bedroom
house? Or should Kejriwal continue to live in his Kaushambi flat and
take Metro every day to the chief minister’s office?
Good governance can steer clear of gimmicks. That’s one important
lesson Kejriwal has to learn fast. It does not matter whether Kejriwal
lives in a downmarket DDA flat in Mayur Vihar Phase III or in a
bungalow on Bhagwan Dass Road. What matters is that how he can make a
difference to people’s lives by bringing down toxic levels of
corruption, flouting of rules, and ensuring an even spread of
development for aam aadmi as well as non-aam aadmis. Justice and
governance should get rid of trite labels.
In a wired world, it does not matter where you are. As long as you
have access to enough information, you can make correct decisions.
Yes, where you sit matters in Kejriwal’s case up to a point – the
whole India is talking about him precisely because he today sits in
the chief minister’s chair. That’s the power of symbol and that’s the
meaningful inch of real estate in Lutyens’s Delhi that people should
be worried about.
And it also matters that Kejriwal should sit in comfort. He should not
be imagining himself to be a political Bhishma, neither should his
critics and aam aadmis expect him to be one, and prepare a bed of
arrows to express solidarity with the homeless and shelter-less
denizens of Delhi.
It is time to throw out puerile symbolism and get ready to work.
Everyone has a right to live in comfort, if not in opulence. To live
and work in comfort is not a sin, not a crime.
It would be foolish to expect that aam aadmi will forgive your
administrative dithering and political pussyfooting just because you
occupy a cramped quarters. And let’s not worry about who wields the
broom in Kejriwal’s home.

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