The controversy surrounding former Delhi Law Minister Jitender Singh Tomar's alleged fake degrees and his subsequent arrest in an arbitrary manner has raised some very serious questions. The foremost is that it has for the first time questioned the ability of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to correctly assess his colleagues, thereby inviting accusations from his adversaries that he was prone to making grave errors. Expectations from Kejriwal are much more than from any other politician in the country, purely because he has ushered in a new style of politics different from what has been practised by other principal parties, including the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The top leadership of other parties has made mistakes with far reaching ramifications, but have got away because it is not seen as something unusual by people who are accustomed to seeing leading functionaries getting away with their actions.
The Congress high command, for instance, made the very obvious mistake of deciding to divide a united Andhra Pradesh. Its leadership was oblivious of the consequences, which are in evidence daily as the row between Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and his Telangana
counterpart K. Chandrasekhar Rao is taking an ugly shape. The Congress also paid the price of this division by losing the state which brought it to power at the Centre both in 2004 and 2009, by giving it over 30 MPs each time. It was something that can be compared to the famous tale related to Kalidas, who in his earlier years was described as a classified fool for cutting the very branch he was sitting on. All those responsible for the Congress decision continue to thrive in the party.
The BJP's grave error was when it selected Kiran Bedi as its Chief Ministerial nominee in Delhi, ignoring its local leadership and sidelining workers and cadres just because some top leaders believed that this would offset the AAP campaign and bring the saffron brigade to power. The central leadership had earlier also missed the opportunity of forming the government when six out of eight Congress MLAs were willing to break away from their party to support its nominee in the capital. Arrogance and over confidence prompted the party's decision to go to the polls under a leader who had been accused by its own workers of high handedness.
The result was for everyone to see and the party was reduced from 32 to mere three seats in the Delhi Assembly, with even Kiran Bedi losing from the safest seat of Krishna Nagar. No one was held accountable and the party continues to take pot shots at Kejriwal, who deprived them of an opportunity to return to power after 16 years in the opposition. The fact is that after Madan Lal Khurana, who is very unwell, the party has failed to produce even a single leader who enjoys the confidence of the people of the city, once its bastion.
Kejriwal was seen by many of his supporters as an apostle of virtues, who could not go wrong and that was the reason he got a mandate that nobody in the past has got in independent India. The mandate for him is to protect the interests of the people of Delhi, regardless of whether it has statehood or not. His party is very unconventional and therefore both vulnerable and loose structured. It is as a saying goes in Punjabi, a party where nine people have ten opinions. Even then, it is expected that those who lead it must be sure of what they say for their image to remain unblemished.
In the latest instance, Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia seem to have got so carried away with Jitender Singh Tomar's assertions that he had done nothing wrong, that they gave him a clean chit much before any inquiry had been completed.
Ordinarily speaking, an AAP MLA and that too a minister would have been expected to give an accurate account of his credentials. He did not do so and is now in police custody, an arrest described by former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju as illegal and in contravention of Article 21 of the Constitution as well as the rulings of the Apex Court and the recommendations of the Police Commission.
The Chief Minister's fault is that he needs to be more objective while evaluating colleagues if he wants his party to distinguish itself from others. He should therefore ask for voluntary disclosures from his MLAs to come forward and own up to any mistake they may have committed. There are several instances in other parties where people with fake claims to education have occupied key posts. These include a top Congress functionary and some in the BJP as well.
Kejriwal must realise that a factor contributing to his vulnerability is that he had won a historic election. Those he vanquished both in the Congress and the BJP shall continue to haunt him. His only defence is truth. Between us.