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Capital Grapevine
Capital Matters

Capital Grapevine

Virendra Kapoor

A desperate Kejriwal: Take everything free but give me your vote

Here is an old fable appropriate for our times. An old and aging king was on deathbed. But what had his Mantris worried was the lack of an heir. The king had no children. When his condition further deteriorated, his aides asked about his successor. `Get hold of the first guy who enters the kingdom next morning’, was the curt order. Dutifully, a beggar who would routinely leave the forest at early dawn to locate himself in the market square, was whisked away against his will and produced before the king.

`Maharaj, here he is. What do we do with him?’ “ Give him a bath, clean him properly, dress him in finest of the clothes and produce before me.” Soon a fully spruced up `beggar’ was face to face with the Maharaj. “ After my death, he would be the king,” came the mind-shattering diktat. Soon, the king breathed his last.

Every morning they would ask the new king for orders. There will be only one: Make ~halwa~ and distribute throughout the kingdom. Next day, more halwa but with more ghee and pistachios. The routine continued for weeks till the neighbouring king was at the border, threatening to overrun the kingdom. Soon the enemy had ringed the palace, threatening to ransack it. Told by a panicky aide, the king asked for his old clothes, the begging bowl and the walking stick. Within minutes he was on his way to his old perch in the market square where he had sat asking for alms.

The moral of the story for our current times is that the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal can continue to distribute halwa, and more halwa but this does not impress anyone. In fact, it has led to open derision in public places, with ordinary voters deprecatingly remarking that he is doing all this to win elections. Free bijli, paani, free rides in DTC buses and Metro for women --- why not men, they too are voters and tend to vote in larger numbers than their female counterparts --- writing off of all water arrears. Why not power arrears?

At this rate, as the poll approaches, Kejriwal might try and sew up a certain win by announcing free home delivery of ten kilos of wheat or rice, five kilos of sugar, five kilos of cooking oil et al for every single adult in the capital.

Now these little things about revenue losses and lack of funds for urgent infrastructure development, etc, can be dealt with once he is re-elected. One should never lose sight of the target: And that is to win over the voters by giving everything and anything free.

If only Kejriwal was to gauge the reaction of the ordinary middle class voter, he would cease this reckless wastage of precious taxpayers’ money on frivolous freebies. You insult the intelligence of people if you believe they are blind to your real game. Most people are put off by this blatant bribing, vote-buying. An efficiently- run power and water system, public transport, clean roads and drains, etc. are any day better to impress voters than wasting public funds on blatant bribes to voters.

Meanwhile, we are dumbstruck by Kejriwal’s logic that even though he would write off water arrears and make it free for all, he would still increase the Jal Board annual collections by over Rs. 600 crores. When the water is free, arrears written off, where will additional Rs. 600 crores come from only Kejriwal’s can understand.

Such trickery is unlikely to fool people a second time. In our fable above, replace that king with Anna Hazare --- may God bless him with a long life --- and you get the picture. Hazare has not stopped ruing the day he patronized this charlatan, this fake who will take credit even for a good monsoon should it bring him votes.

By holding back 70 to 80 percent students in Class IX, he would go to town claiming great transformation in government schools. By blocking the implementation of Pradhan Mantri’s Ayushman Yogna, he would tom-tom the success of the so-called Mohalla Clinics which can barely serve a small fragment of the population for such everyday ailments as cold, flu, stomach pain, etc.

Last but not the least, when will Kejriwal end this tomfoolery ---- witness the multiple full-page ads in dailies --- and settle down to actual governance? Never, if you go by his record.

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Jaitley, the gentleman-politician

Arun Jaitley, who died last week, was really dealt a bad hand by whoever does that job. For, weeks before the end came, he would mutter weakly that he had done no harm to anyone, not strayed from the straight and narrow and then leave unsaid that `look at my awful condition, full five years of medical emergencies from bariatric surgery to kidney transplant to, finally, sarcoma, the tissue cancer, etc’.

It was said of Vajpayee that he was the right man in the wrong party. This description was more appropriately for the suave and successful lawyer with a huge practice. He was far removed from some of the most despicable doings of his party men. He may have often mocked at the Khan Market gang, but, to tell you the truth, he himself was an integral part of it.

It was ideology which he pursued that separated him from its members, otherwise he was a covenanted member of the Lutyen’s Delhi in thinking, mores, ambitions and even in the off-duty company he kept. In this sense, he was a paradox, standing out as a well-educated westernized professional in a crowd which oozed rural and unrefined in the ways of the urban elites.

BJP veteran L K Advani, who would often claim proudly that he had gathered an excellent team around him when he was party chief, would single out Jaitley for being the best. Advani as party chief had groomed Pramod Mahajan, Sushma Swaraj, Govind Acharya and Jaitley as general secretaries. Each one of them had qualities, but Jaitley’s legal acumen coupled with wide-ranging contacts with people from diverse fields in corporate, academic, media and sports, etc. made him valuable. Jaitely once revealed that one of the first lessons Advani taught him was ` to not attack your rivals below the belt, attack them politically, never personally…’ A mantra Jaitley heeded all his life. You don’t have the like of him left in our politics any more.