Journalism, unlike most white collar jobs, is a 24×7 affair. That means unlike other professionals, scribes hardly get time to catch up with life, like watching a good theatrical performance, for instance.
Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday showed great empathy and remarkable skill when he took it upon himself to deliver for the entertainment-starved patrakaars who went to cover his media conference an acting performance so accomplished that even the likes of Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Naseeruddin Shah or Leonardo DiCaprio would find it difficult to match.
Kejriwal’s timing, magnetism and an indefinable star quality captivated the audience and he held centrestage with such ease and panache that even when he had stepped out of the room without taking a single question, the congregated media stood motionless as magic hung thick in Delhi’s polluted air.
“I want to request Modiji with folded hands,” said the Aam Admi Party supremo by putting his palms together, catching his audience unawares by transcending the role as Laurence Olivier, for instance, frequently did on Broadway.
“Aap ki ladai mujse hai. Mujhe maarlo, mujhe pitlo, mujhe jo krna hai kr lo, meri Delhi ki logon ko pareshaan maat kro (Your fight is with me, so beat me if you wish, take revenge on me but don’t let the people of Delhi suffer… Don’t try to stop the good work being done in Delhi),” he said, prompting some among the media to fish out their handkerchiefs on the sly to wipe an errant tear while some were left gasping for breath.
The crux of Kejriwal’s monologue was to highlight the “selfless, passionate work” that his 21 MLAs are apparently doing which, he claimed, Narendra Modi wants to desperately stop. Why? Ostensibly because the Prime Minister is “scared” of him and insecure about the “good work” that Delhi government is doing.
These Parliamentary Secretaries put in a lot of effort behind all the development work we do. It is with their help that the Delhi government is functioning and they are not being paid for their work,” he claimed.
“They go to schools, hospitals, find out what necessities are required, they work very hard. They are our eyes, ears, hands and feet. They serve the people without remuneration,” thundered the Delhi Chief Minister, banging the table for maximum impact.
Watching the drama unfold, one was reminded of William Blake’s immortal lines: Tiger, tiger, burning bright/ In the forests of the night/ What immortal hand or eye/ Could frame thy fearful symmetry?/ In what distant deeps or skies/ Burnt the fire of thine eyes…?
Amid the unmitigated brilliance of the performer, one forgot to ask a simple question to the Delhi CM. Why would his selfless, altruistic, workaholic, hermit-like MLAs need the designation of ‘Parliamentary Secretaries’ to render their social work? Why can’t the work that Kejriwal claims that they do — scouting for mohalla clinic lands, for instance — be done without the sanction of a title?
The answer, as Kartikeya points out in an informative piece in Firstpost, lies in Article 239AA of the Indian Constitution.
It states that only 10 per cent of the total number of members in the Delhi Legislative Assembly could be appointed as ministers. Given that Delhi Assembly has 70 members, Kejriwal can at best appoint only six ministers (excluding him). This presented AAP chief with a problem. His party won 67 seats, yet only seven of them can be accommodated (including himself) in the Cabinet. To quell an internal rebellion and subsequent factionalisation which may even lead to breakaway or poaching by rival parties, Kejriwal circumvented the Constitutional mandate by appointing 21 MLAs as ‘Parliament Secretaries’ for a grand total of six ministers.
What was the legal tenability of Kejriwal’s move?
There is clear precedence of two High Courts (Bombay HC and Himachal Pradesh HC) quashing such appointments — in Goa and Himachal Pradesh — as violative of the Constitution on several grounds. The courts have ruled that these secretaries are de facto (as a matter of fact) ministers even if not ministers de jure (as a matter of law).
In addition, Kejriwal took further rick while appointing the MLAs because Delhi does not have any specific law to employ parliamentary secretaries unlike states such as Karnataka, Assam or West Bengal.
Sensing trouble, the AAP tried to sought an amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997. Through the Bill, the Delhi government wanted “retrospective” exemption for the parliamentary secretaries from disqualification provisions.
It is this amendment that the President refused to give assent to and the matter now lies with the Election Commission which will take a final decision.
Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote in 1947: “Do not go gentle into that good night/ Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light…”
As the light seemed to be dying on him, Kejriwal, sensing that his ingenuous move has been caught out for what it is, came into the media conference and blasted away at rivals, invoking the fury of a tornado.
“In 1952 there were three parliamentary secretaries. When BJP used to have parliamentary secretaries, then it was legal but when we do it, it’s illegal?”
In 1997, BJP CM in Delhi also appointed parliamentary secretary. Congress also did during Sheila ji’s time. Then it was right?”
If Kejriwal had flooded our eyes with all the pathos of a Greek tragedy when he beseeched Modi to “beat him” instead of making “Delhi suffer”, here he was at his vintage best, playing the character he was born to play — the victim.
Nobody plays victim as many times as Kejriwal did — be it during CBI raid on his principal secretary’s office, during the suicide of a farmer at an AAP rally or even when he expelled Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav from the party. During all of these times, Kejriwal made the humble ‘victim’ a legendary figure by playing the role to perfection, making us believe that the stars are aligning against his party and the entire world is involved in a mysterious conspiracy to unseat him.
When Kejriwal joined politics, Hollywood lost a star who could have won multiple Academy Awards. Instead of criticising, let us thank him for at least showing us flashes of his infinite genius.