Tag: Kamal Mitra Chenoy

News Analysis : Learn from the rising star

Source: IndiaTV

By Kamal Mitra Chenoy

New Delhi, 17 May : Though the results of the state elections in Kerala, Bengal and Assam have left people agog, there is another phenomenon which has not been adequately assessed and analysed. That is the rise and rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). When it won the largest share of Assembly seats in early January 2014, many saw it as a one day wonder. It’s efforts to get through a Janlokpal Bill were scuttled by a combination of the BJP, Congress and the Lt. Governor. Instead of struggling through with little autonomy, AAP’s charismatic leader Arvind Kejriwal (AK) decided to resign.

The Union government delayed the Assembly elections as long as it could, until the judiciary intervened, after the General Elections. Even then the AAP performance in Varanasi was formidable. Despite fewer finances, limited local cadre and the alleged deals by one of the parties with the jailed Don Mukhtar Ansari, apart from denial of access to the Banaras Hindu University where Amit Shah held court, AAP came a creditable second. National politics witnessed the rise of a new star then.

In the Delhi Assembly re-election, the AAP had a historic landslide. It won 67 seats out of 70, with the BJP getting a paltry 3 seats, and Congress a whitewash. It then began to fight a two-sided battle. On the one hand, it fought the Union government and its proxy the Lt. Governor. Whether it was shared control of the Delhi Police, Bills that the LG wanted to scrutinise, yet not pass, even the civil service officers who would serve in the Delhi government, every issue became a major contest.

The root cause of this was that the Delhi government was neither a Union Territory nor a state. For reasons best known to itself, the Congress which ruled Delhi for the greatest period, with stalwarts like Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, never moved to make Delhi into a Union Territory, much less a state. Yet despite this politically motivated act, AAP though under some pressure fought its way out.
Shrewdly it sidelined its concerns about statehood, though keeping up its campaign about it, and concentrated on development, particularly for the poor and the middle class. Unusually for a political party, it stuck to its manifesto. Water is a critical issue in Delhi. AK insisted that the poor and middle classes get sufficient water, and allotted 20 kilolitres to the poor and lower middle classes, free!

Similarly, he substantially subsidised electricity, another critical requirement which the poorer sections often could not afford. In recent months, drains have been cleaned to guard against flooding during the monsoon. Water pipelines have been put in place where none existed before. Critically, the repair and up gradation of government schools became an urgent task. Educationists and well regarded social workers were made members of the School Management Committees ( SMCs). Many schools did not have serviceable toilets or no separate toilets for girls. That was quickly addressed. New schools were constructed with gymnasium facilities and swimming pools. Most importantly, private school fees were controlled.

Apart from the great support from the Delhi public, AAP in the municipal bye-elections has won 5 out of the MCD seats, Congress 4, and BJP 3. The MCD was long a BJP stronghold, but the AAP impact is clear. Reading, seeing and speaking about AAP’s innovations e.g. 10 litres of drinking water for Rs. 2 available in an increasing number of areas, has led to increasing support and interest in Punjab.

The idea of Mohalla clinics is a masterstroke as well as a boon for all types of people in a city that has a variety of diseases including dengue. Punjab has a serious drug problem. More clinics would be a boon for the harassed people. For decades, people in Punjab and elsewhere have looked for better civic amenities. AAP has provided this in a relatively short time in Delhi. This experiment in better civic life and amenities was scoffed at initially. Other political parties and movements would do well to learn from this experience, as Punjab seems to be doing, and take from it what they may need in their own towns and cities.
Source: Facebook

Why are India’s rulers afraid of Kejriwal?


By Kamal Mitra Chenoy*

New Delhi. 26 January: Why are dominant sections of India’s rulers so afraid of Arvind Kejriwa l? So afraid indeed that the Union Home Minister publicly calls him “mad”. Kejriwal is sharply criticized by the media for the dharna outside the Rail Bhavan but Kejriwal has every right as Delhi Chief Minister to agitate for control of the police, which is a common dispensation throughout the world. Sections of the media were aghast when he and a significant number of AAP members spent the night with him outside Rail Bhavan.
The politicians and police have ghettoized dissent in Delhi. Couple of decades ago demonstrations in India Gate were commonplace. For a couple of months after December 16th, year before last, the Nirbhaya agitation spread to India Gate. At that time the Union Home Minister and the Police Commissioner claimed that constable Subhash Tomar had been trampled upon and killed by unruly demonstrators. The doctors of Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital certified that Constable Tomar had died of a heart attack. So it is clear that the Union Government and the police under them will even resort to blatant lies to prevent demonstrators from being able to demonstrate in publicly visible places.

By staging a dharna near the Rail Bhavan, Kejriwal tried to force the Delhi Police to open up new public spaces for protest. His dharna which was basically to empower the Delhi electorate by insisting on new public spaces for dissent was thus entirely legitimate. It was also entirely in keeping with the promises of AAP that the workings of the Government would be made as public as possible and be answerable to the public.
But the powers that be, cannot stomach this. AAP’s decision to hold a special session of the Vidhan Sabha at Ram Lila Maidan for passing the Jan Lokpal Bill in February is being opposed by the police on the grounds that it may create law and order problems. This is another instance of elite denigration of poorer sections who are not found fit to attend such events.

Let us examine the sanity of AAP. In less than a month AAP has significantly cut the charges for electricity and water as they promised. They are pushing through the Jan Lokpal Bill as they promised.

The epithets by the Union Home Minister are embedded in a colonial mindset. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called Gandhi “Naked Fakir”. Kejriwal and AAP which is influenced by Gandhian politics would know that Churchill was a resolute opponent for independence for India. Obviously Churchill considered the independence movement mad. Just like the ruling elites consider Kejriwal and AAP mad.
In their understanding tax cuts, monetary incentives and subsidies are good economics. But cutting artificially hiked public utility charges of electricity and water is very bad economics. In a sense both are right. The rich want to get richer and the poor want to be empowered. The attack on Kejriwal is precisely because of his commitment to the poor and for transparency of rule through decentralization and mass participation.

It is commonplace to hear that the AAP is anti-police. But when brave cop Vinod Kumar was beaten to death by the liquor mafia, the Delhi Government handed over a cheque of Rs. One crore they had promised to the family. The Delhi CM in his usual frank style stated: “There are lots of good people in Delhi police. We will give medals and cash prizes to all those who perform and do good work….”

In a sense the statement of Churchill was redolent of an imperialist mindset which held even the greatest Indian leader of the time as a freakish and irresponsible mad man. The Union Home Minister it seems unwittingly followed the same trajectory to declare a charismatic Delhi Chief Minister as mad. For some one trained in law, where large portions, including in important judgments are influenced by British laws and their interests in India, Mr. Shinde is understandably aghast at AAP Party’s functioning. But there is good news for Mr. Shinde. The AAP Party will continue to increase democratic spaces for the people, ensure that the fundamental right to assembly will not be hemmed in by archaic laws. No matter what the consequences Kejriwal and AAP will forge ahead.

It is a pity that TV Channels and other media do not investigate the living conditions of the poor and middle strata. That is the real India. That is what Kejriwal and the AAP are fighting to uplift and empower. In a sense Mr. Shinde is right. Kejriwal and AAP are mad because they seek to build a system outside the comprehension of the dominant elite. It is to be hoped that AAP and all others dedicated to the masses will continue to remain mad in continuation of their promises to the people.

* The author is teaching at the JNU. He broke his 40 years association with the CPI and joined the AAP recently.

Source: Posted by the author on the Facebook.(Heading changed)