Arvind Kejriwal needs to focus on policy instead
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has focused national attention on “VIP culture”. This is a serious issue, for it relates, at its core, not only to the lifestyle of the political class but its commitment to the nation, especially to improving the lot of the poor and marginalised. By its shrill articulation and narrow and sharp spotlight on ministerial houses and flashing red lights atop official cars, the AAP obviously succeeded in striking a chord with a large section of the Delhi electorate for whom these are symbolic of much that is wrong with the political class. However, now the debate must be on larger policy issues; it has to be rescued from the farce of Arvind Kejriwal’s somersaults on the size of his official residence.
The AAP should consider this: were Gandhiji and the leaders of our national movement judged by the houses they lived in or the transport they used? Gandhiji lived in all kinds of houses, from spartan ashrams to the comfortable Birla House on Tees January Marg in New Delhi, where he was assassinated. Jawaharlal Nehru’s home was Anand Bhawan, the majestic house in Allahabad that his father Motilal built. He did not give it up to establish his credentials with the people. Many other Congress leaders who achieved material or professional success also lived in large houses. And all of them earned people’s trust and honour because of their dedication to the country, their simple, often frugal, lifestyles, their work and also their sacrifice when the call came to walk that path.
As Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru moved into Teen Murti, the official residence of the commander of the British forces in India, and some cabinet ministers occupied the residences of the members of the viceroy’s executive council, no one questioned their bona fides. All of them also used official cars for their official work, but this too evoked no negative comment. Many used small personal cars for their private trips.
Kejriwal showed a degree of pragmatism and courage by abandoning the sterile inflexibility the AAP had earlier adopted on government formation in Delhi. He may have done so by seeking people’s views but unless he was inclined to form a government, Delhi would have been without an elected government today. He must now show the same courage by declaring that the size of ministerial residences or the use of official cars with red lights, for these are needed at times, are not significant. What matters is the AAP’s policies, their implementation and the honesty of its ministers on which there will be, as he has said already, no compromise.
Kejriwal may indeed raise the general issue of a need to change the norms for official accommodation at a time when pressures on land have increased. A change in the layout of Lutyens Delhi is continued…