Denying Denmarkhttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/arvind-kejriwal-copenhagen-visit-permission-denied-6061360/

Denying Denmark

Government says it’s sure-footed on global stage. So, its refusal to let Delhi CM attend climate summit overseas is petty, cussed

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As an elected chief minister, Kejriwal would have been among unequals at a mayors’ conference, it has been suggested. But by the same token, surely an elected chief minister has the right to decide to attend, or not to

Are there some in this government, that rules the Centre with such a handsome mandate, who feel insecure by the prospect of an Opposition leader going overseas — especially if the latter also has a perceived success story to showcase? This is the dispiriting question prompted by the curious denial of permission by the Ministry of External Affairs to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to attend the C40 Cities Climate Summit this week in Copenhagen. Look at the sequence of events. Delhi’s CM is scheduled to join leaders of the world’s major cities in deliberating on urban strategies and solutions for climate change at a global forum that brings together mayors, climate experts, business leaders, innovators. Kejriwal is all set to highlight the work his own government has done — of course, together with the Centre, neighbouring states, pollution watchdogs — in reducing air pollution in Delhi over the last five years. It is enough, at the very least, for the metropolis to be seen to be working to combat its notoriety as one of the world’s most polluted. He would speak of experiments and innovations, like the odd-even campaign, slated to return to Delhi soon, perhaps face questions on what has worked, what hasn’t. But after days of being kept hanging by the MEA — according to protocol, the giver of political clearance — permission is refused. It reeks of politics, not bureaucracy. Is it any wonder, then, that it should invite accusations of Central petty-mindedness?

As an elected chief minister, Kejriwal would have been among unequals at a mayors’ conference, it has been suggested. But by the same token, surely an elected chief minister has the right to decide to attend, or not to. And since when has the BJP government become such a zealous minder of the AAP leader’s status, anyway? While the BJP has seldom been seen to be respectful to rivals and opponents, or a keeper of the federal spirit, the jousting and hostilities between the BJP-led Centre and AAP’s Delhi government, relatively muted for some time, have always been special. The upcoming Delhi election early next year is likely to renew and sharpen this rivalry. If fought on local issues, the record of the AAP government on school education, mohalla clinics and air pollution could matter. It is this possibility, presumably, that is now preying on the mind of the BJP leadership, and holding its hand. Or, it could be sheer, no-reason, cussedness.

Either way, the scuppering of Kejriwal’s travel plans sends out messages unflattering to the BJP — and to India. The government prides itself on being more self-possessed and sure-footed on the global stage. That image is dented when it is seen to show mean-spiritedness to another leader, especially of the Opposition, in full view of the world.