The jury is out whether Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is walking his talk on fighting graft, or trying to retrieve the moral high ground by publicly sacking his minister for food and environment. As he has done several times in the past with big-bang announcements, this sacking too played out at a press conference on live television. The prima facie evidence against erring minister Asim Ahmed Khan was that he was caught on audio-tape, demanding a bribe of Rs 6 lakh from a builder to allow illegal construction on a plot in the walled city. Within 24 hours of receiving this complaint and listening to the tape, Kejriwal fired the minister and recommended a CBI probe into the matter. He is scheduled to talk to Aam Admi Party MLAs soon to remind them of the background of the party, its ideology and how it rose from An Hazare’s anti-corruption movement. ‘This decision will send a message to all that if they can take action against their own minister, no one will be spared, not even my son,’ the Delhi CM has warned. He also did not let slip the opportunity to dare the BJP to follow suit and remove Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan, who are facing graft charges relating to nexus with disgraced former IPL czar Lalit Modi and the Vyapam scam respectively.
Kejriwal’s detractors are now posing questions about his true intentions, criticising him for ‘sacrificing’ a minister on flimsy grounds merely to grab the headlines once again. They are saying he is no longer the fire-breathing, anti-corruption activist he was once, that in fact, he has morphed into a regular politician after ejecting former comrade-in-arms like Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan. The AAP government’s bruising fight with the Lieutent Governor and embarrassment with former ministers Jitender Singh Tomar for allegedly faking his educatiol qualifications and Somth Bharti for domestic violence — are fuelling suspicions that its chief minister is now trying to ‘look good’ at the expense of his party. Be that as it may, Kejriwal’s act is likely to touch a chord with the ‘aam admi’ in the capital, with at least, petty corruption reportedly on the wane in Delhi’s notoriously vel officialdom. For quite some time, there seems to be a perceptible hardening of public opinion there against official graft, a stiffening resolve of not putting up any longer with government servants shamelessly demanding bribes. There have also been allegations against a few AAP legislators of being involved in cheating, land-grabbing, hoarding and other offences, which hardly seems surprising considering the suspect credentials of some AAP members who got tickets to contest elections. Kejriwal’s move may yet be designed to reach over such party malcontents and strengthen his direct connect with voters, an art in which he is a past master. How one wishes Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi takes a leaf out of his Delhi counterpart’s book. Gogoi has not only deemed it fit in staffing his ministry with MLAs with extremely dubious records, he has also set an obnoxious trend of defending their many omissions and commissions with a dismissive air. The Congress government battling anti-incumbency in its third consecutive term, can ill-afford such callousness in an election year.