Kejriwal’s failure to act during the riots leaves voters feeling cheated

There was total silence, lack of response on part of Kejriwal and his team while violence took over parts of northeast Delhi, making his supporters question their decision to have voted for him

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal

Bula Devi

On January 26, Union Home Minster Amit Shah said at a rally in Babarpur, “When you press the button (on the voting machine) on February 8, do so with such anger that its current is felt at Shaheen Bagh”.

Although a peaceful protest is still continuing at Shaheen Bagh, Babarpur was rocked by riots on February 23 when violence convulsed various parts of northeast Delhi. There was bloodshed on the streets and properties were damaged. The death toll has touched 53. As many as 148 FIRs were registered, but that too only after court orders.

In the midst of this mayhem, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his AAP team remained silent; neither Kejriwal nor his MLAs reached the spot to try pacify rioters and protesters. AAP was nowhere to be seen in the affected areas while Kejriwal’s kingdom was burning. His supporters claimed that AAP felt completely helpless since police were also allegedly involved.

This was the first acid test for Kejriwal after Delhi voted him to power for the third consecutive term. But he has failed Delhiites. Some politically attuned people are now trying to shield him saying that Kejriwal and his team were taken by surprise as the riots spread like wildfire and they did not know how to tackle it.

To add insult to injury, they defend him saying he did not even get breathing space since he returned to power when the riots happened. But an atmosphere of hatred was already growing in the past few months that finally snowballed in northeast Delhi. It would be too naive to say that he did not feel the pulse of the situation.

His defenders may claim anything, but ordinary Muslims are not just disillusioned with him but sad. The confidence that they had on him is shaken. He is seen as a leader who did not show "effective concern".

Not just the MLAs but even government officials were nowhere within reach also. His administration simply failed. Post riots, forms were distributed for compensation claims but photography and videography for verification were missing until it was flagged to him on March 2.

Every Muslim has only one question to ask Kejriwal: a big “Why”. They want to know why he has not taken a principled stand against the BJP, why he did not speak of Gandhian non-violence, and so on.

He sought shelter in a spider's web during Delhi assembly elections and earned the trust of the Muslims but the same web appears to have now become a trap for him.

His silence, while his kingdom was burning, is seen with contempt. His government's reaction is being ridiculed.

Kejriwal should have acted smartly, said a former bureaucrat, adding he could have just taken water tankers to the riot-hit areas to provide drinking water to the victims. The Delhi Police is not under the local government, but the Delhi Jal Board is under the Chief Minister. So sending water tankers wouldn’t have been difficult.

“Imagine if he had sent water tankers and was stopped by the police, the impact of the inhuman act would have been huge. Ordinary people would have come on the streets protesting against the police. If rioters threw stones at the tankers, people would have sympathised with Kejriwal for at least trying to do something. Newspapers and television channels would have splashed the images. Kejriwal would have only earned brownie points. This would have been a politically correct move by Kejriwal in the garb of a humanitarian step, but he failed,” said the ex-bureaucrat.

Kejriwal failed to take the risk, which would have left him with the stature of a statesmanlike leader. Success was inevitable but he was too cautious. He held a studied silence to win over the lost ground of Hindu votes. He avoided taking the risk lest he gets branded as a pro-Muslim leader. He just watched everything through the glass door. If this is his philosophy, Kejriwal should not be saying in his campaign that he never discriminated in implementing government policies.

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Published: 06 Mar 2020, 5:01 PM