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Congress summer hope spoiled

New Delhi, Feb. 14: The Congress leadership views Arvind Kejriwal’s exit as part of a larger political mission in which the sacrifice of the Delhi government was an important ritual.

The Congress, which was supporting the AAP government from outside but voted against the introduction of the Jan Lokpal bill, feels such desperate tricks to fulfil political ambitions were worse than the Machiavellian designs that mainstream political parties had traditionally adopted.

A senior Congress leader said minutes after the Delhi chief minister declared his intention to quit: “This is a cunning ploy, not a moral or political response. This reflects a lack of commitment to the people who voted for him, inability to deliver on the false promises he made and a fierce ambition to grab a bigger pie of the political cake. He is free to contest national polls but we are anguished because he used lies and slander to build his political strategy.”

Congress communications chief Ajay Maken echoed the sentiments, contending that Kejriwal demonstrated no real intent to fight corruption and fulfil the promises he made to the voters of Delhi.

Maken laid stress on the dreams Kejriwal sold to the people and said: “The manner in which he took stands on issues and finally resigned anguished us. He was not serious, showed no commitment.”

Maken pointed out that the voting in the Assembly was on the validity of the lieutenant governor’s letter against tabling the bill and not on the legislation itself. The clarification is being seen as a counter to AAP allegations that the Congress had ganged up with the BJP to vote out the Jan Lokpal bill as well as the Kejriwal government.

The Congress leadership had not planned to withdraw support at this stage but it suspected Kejriwal would not like to remain under the obligation of fulfilling promises made to the people of Delhi when the country would be in the midst of a bigger political war, the general election.

A Congress general secretary had predicted a couple of days ago: “Kejriwal possesses too big an ego to be content with the leadership of a city. He will take the first flight to Parliament with or without ticket.”

Shakeel Ahmed, the party general secretary in charge of Delhi, tweeted today: “People say despite Congress support, the government will be in minority soon due to revolt by a few AAP MLAs. To hide this, Kejriwal will resign soon.”

This argument has a limited purpose: the Congress should not be blamed for the fall of the government. Congress leaders insist the real reason for Kejriwal’s desperation to escape the confines of governance is that he doesn’t want to be tested on his ability to deliver.

Kejriwal knows his popularity was on the decline in Delhi and he should return to the battlefield without losing any time to use his agitation skills to tap the people’s discontent instead of being judged on delivery parameters, according to another Congress leader.

A top Congress leader said: “If we fight election in Delhi today, we will lose. But if the election is held in April-May, we will do well as by then the people will know the truth behind the AAP’s miraculous promises to solve water and power issues. The intellectuals have already found him out and the poor would know the truth when power bills won’t come down and electricity won’t come for hours in the summer.”

The plan clearly was to fructify with the arrival of summer when water-power woes peak but Kejriwal is smart enough not to play according to the rival’s convenience.

The Congress knew Kejriwal could make the pre-emptive strike and hence took care not to play the toppling game explicitly.

Even on the question of the Jan Lokpal bill, the Congress did not declare its opposition and only insisted on adherence to rules. “Even if he quits on this issue, we can say we didn’t pull down the government. Our eight MLAs have not voted out the government. If the chief minister is not prepared to abide by the constitutional principles, nobody can help,” one leader had said earlier.

Although Kejriwal’s exit is not an ideal proposition at this juncture for the Congress, it hopes to get significant takeaways for future electoral discourse, primarily woven around the escapism of a government that couldn’t deliver.

While the fall of this bill doesn’t entail the fall of the government, the chief minister’s tendency to deploy ‘my-way-or-highway’ tactic in the Assembly is bound to raise uncomfortable questions for the AAP.

The Congress, having passed the Lokpal Act in Parliament, is better prepared to counter Kejriwal now than it was in the past when Anna Hazare caught the fancy of the masses on the question of corruption. Hazare is not with Kejriwal anymore.

The Congress also feels the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi would feel more disadvantaged in a Lokpal-centric discourse as his record in Gujarat on this issue is poor.

But what is more important is the freedom Kejriwal will acquire to dance and play in the general election instead of being tied down to the Delhi chair during the prime battle.