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A House for Mr Kejriwal, with apologies to Naipaul

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By Sidharth Mishra

For celebrated writer VS Naipaul, fame first came with the publication of his novel, ‘A House for Mr Biswas’. Wanting to write a copy on the Civil Lines bungalow rebuilt by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal as his residence, the title of the novel read long years ago kept coming back.

Last week the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) registered a preliminary enquiry into alleged ‘irregularities and misconduct’ with respect to the construction of a new official residence for Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. The charge is that the Public Works Department(PWD) had initially issued a proposal only for the renovation and beautification of the bungalow. However, the original British era property was razed to the ground and a new bungalow built.

It’s been alleged that the PWD demolished the old structure without a survey report and constructed the new building without getting a new building plan sanctioned. Finally there is the issue of expenditure. It’s said that the PWD, which is under the Delhi government, increased the cost of renovation work at the controversial bungalow from Rs 7.62 crore to Rs 33.20 crore without any sanction.

Kejriwal has responded to the move the way he is best known to do. He has said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was nervous therefore he has instituted the enquiry against him. He has claimed that in the opposition block he was the only one capable of taking on the BJP.

This outburst may overtly look to be against Modi and the BJP but it also points towards the members of the opposition alliance – I.N.D.I.A and especially the Congress. Delhi Congress has refrained so far from giving any clean chit to the Kejriwal government on the issues of corruption.

In addition to this, influential leaders like Ajay Maken and Sandeep Dikshit have consistently opposed any truck with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The ruling AAP too has done sufficiently to add bitterness in relationship. It has announced to contest elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Campaign by AAP in the poll-bound states would have one outcome, adverse effect on the fortune of the Congress party.

How does that get interpreted? AAP is acting in this manner as it’s the only party in I.N.D.I.A alliance who runs on the counter-purposes with the Congress. Rest other prominent partners – Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Shiv Sena, and DMK have a settled seat sharing relationship with the Congress. AAP on the other hand replaced the Congress in government in the states of Delhi and Punjab.

The visible isolation of Kejriwal in the opposition alliance brings us to the theme of Naipaul’s novel – alienation. While joining the opposition ranks, Kejriwal was expected to merge his personal identity with that of the other members of the alliance. This he has found difficult and at times even makes him feel trapped.

However, similarities between Kejriwal and novel’s protagonist Mohan Biswas, both in the search of their respective identity, ends here. Kejriwal has not been as ‘innocent’ as Mohan Biswas. So far his government has not managed to get any clean in any of the cases of corruption filed against it. The addition of the Sheesh Mahal (the glass palace) scam is just another on the list sleaze charges against the Kejriwal government.

In the past too, whenever a charge has been brought against any of his ministers, Kejriwal has cried foul from the rooftops. However, this has not helped his two prominent ministers – Satyendra Jain and Manish Sisodia getting any reprieve from the court on the basis of the lack of merit in the cases.

 

The chief minister so far has managed to evade any direct linkage with the cases filed against the Delhi government. However, the house for Mr Kejriwal may cost the CM very dearly.       

 

(First Published in The Morning Standard)

 

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