In his first speech in his second term as chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal made a grand promise to make Delhi a “corruption-free” state in five years. He also offered more real glimpses of the way in which he means to govern. There were heartening signals and images of a more mature, less impetuous Aam Aadmi Party government — but also some early intimations of yet-to-be resolved challenges.
His party would do well to heed Kejriwal’s emphatic warning of the dangers of “ahankaar” or arrogance, which, he rightly pointed out, had dragged the BJP and Congress to their current Delhi low. AAP volunteers and workers have shown an unflagging energy that scripted its win, but Kejriwal shows wisdom and foresight in sending out a message that “goondagardi” or lumpenism will not be tolerated even by those wearing AAP caps. For parties like the AAP, born in movement and agitation, managing and restraining the energies of cadres and supporters after the site of action has shifted from the street to the secretariat, is an enormous and pressing challenge. Kejriwal’s assertion of his commitment to Delhi, and his reiteration that he would serve the full term of five years, was a rebuff to the argument being made within his party for a national expansion using Delhi as a springboard. It is also an effort to assuage the electorate’s anxieties about his staying power, sparked by his resignation that prematurely brought the curtains down on Delhi’s first AAP government. Of course, the last word is still not in on this conflict between the two impulses — to consolidate vs to expand. It will remain a niggling dilemma that the AAP will, in all probability, continue to wrestle with.
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Kejriwal’s restatement of an older resolve to do away with the capital’s lal batti culture was a good portent, as were his attempts to reach out to his political opponents and to Delhi’s minority communities — new gestures both. Delhi will hold him to them and especially to the latter. One of the first challenges of his government will be to address the insecurities and anxieties
that have been stoked in the Christian community because of recent incidents of targeting of churches in Delhi.
But as Delhi’s CM exhorted the citizen to carry out sting operations against the allegedly corrupt — “setting kar lena”, he said — and as he spoke of full statehood for Delhi, he seemed to underline the unresolved challenges. The AAP will have to find more enduring and systemic answers to corruption than either the all-powerful Jan Lokpal or citizen vigilantism. To solve Delhi’s problems, it will also have to settle down to a civil and patient conversation with the Centre that it ran away from the last time.