Kejriwal must learn to be pragmatic

Never mind the hung assembly in Delhi, the decimation of the Congress and the BJP’s emergence as the single largest party. The real winner in the three-way contest is Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Admi Party.

But by rejecting a mutually-honourable working pact with other parties, Kejriwal is pushing the city to another round of elections with no surety of a decisive outcome. He refuses to acknowledge that after the no-holds-barred battle, it’s time for accommodation without compromising on the fundamentals of a clean and efficient regime. If not supplemented by humility, reason and a far-sighed vision, rhetoric loses its appeal.

The people of Delhi hadn’t voted for AAP — the new kid on the block — to deny the city a government. What’s plausible cannot be cynically dismissed as undoable or immoral. In a fractured polity, adversaries are expected to work together on the basis of a common agenda that cannot be dictated by one stakeholder.

When Kejriwal must yield an inch to gain a mile in the longer run, he’s behaving like a trade unionist rather than the leader of a party mandated to govern. It’s the absolutist in the former civil servant that has pitted him against the BJP-Congress on government formation and Anna Hazare on the Lokpal Bill set to have Parliament’s consent.

Much of AAP’s support indeed was for its avant-garde approach to politics and governance. Kejriwal must keep that novelty. But he must not forget that he’s disrespecting the majority of the popular vote he did not get by refusing to do business with others who have a legislative presence in the yet-to-be constituted House.

In fact, the seemingly inevitable President’s rule preceded by a repeat election will be a vote of no-confidence in the native wisdom of the Delhi electorate. The people know pretty well that post-election arrangements are a necessary compromise when the verdict’s fractured.

Even as he acts stubborn and uncompromising, Kejriwal’s detractors have started against him a whisper campaign, the thrust of it being that he’s running away from responsibility as there’s no way he can fulfill some of his “unrealistic” campaign-time promises. In the event of another election, the impatient electorate might opt for the devil they know (read the BJP).

If that happens, it’ll be a tragic set back for a promising political venture, not to mention the popular desire for change.

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