Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal is from the ‘new’ generation of political leaders, supposedly more in tune with the democratic aspirations of the people and ‘progressive’ values. How then is his announcement that a Sikh would be the chief minister of Punjab should his party win the elections in that state to be interpreted? Is this his understanding of Punjab’s political culture? Does he believe that by nature of their belonging to other religions, otherwise deserving candidates are not eligible? Were such a statement to be made by a BJP leader, all the politically correct warriors would be up in arms at the communalisation of politics. In his case, there is deathly silence.
The unfortunate truth is that, apart from Kejriwal’s ignorance of democratic norms, this statement reflects his willingness to pander to the worst sentiments for electoral gain. He cannot be entirely blamed because the electorate in Delhi has consistently backed his populist schemes uncaring of their adverse long term economic impact and unrealistic nature. This is the mix of economics and politics that has destroyed the economy of many a left wing government in South America. If such tactics work with one set of people, it is natural for him to try these in Punjab. It shouldn’t be forgotten that it is irresponsible politics of this sort that created the conditions for emergence of the Bhindranwale and Simranjit Singh Mann types.
Is the lust for power so strong in the political class that the nation’s well-being is so easily ignored? It becomes all the more important, therefore, for civil society to raise the bar so that such tactics do not find traction. What announcement will AAP make in Uttarakhand to try and exploit societal fissures? Actually, it is ironic that in the midst of such politics, ‘nationalism’ has become a dirty word. How do such leaders believe they will go on to national level politics? Race, region, religion can only provide limited dividends, but they ultimately go on to face the natural contradictions in a nation full of diversity. The politicians of the future need to march to a different drumbeat.