How Kejriwal’s Political Ambition Could Tear India Apart
A nightmare scenario of what could happen if Kejriwal’s demand to have control of the Delhi police was met.
The sight of workers of the ruling party in the Delhi semi-state protesting in front of the police headquarters like a band of anarchists, is enough to send a shiver down the spine of any right-thinking Indian. Ever since being elected with a massive majority, Arvind Kejriwal has been looking for a fight to pick with the national government, mainly in order to elevate himself in the national media to the stature of Narendra Modi and presumably to face off against him in 2019 or 2024.
In his first term, the excuse was the Jan Lok Pal bill, and this past week, it has ostensibly been the law and order situation. What is clear is that Kejriwal’s ambitions are too big for a small semi-state like Delhi.
In and of itself, a politician looking for every legal and political opportunity to elevate himself is both normal and expected in a noisy democracy like ours. But Delhi is a place like no other in India, and we have to recognize the danger that Kejriwal’s tactics pose to our very nation’s fabric.
It is essential to realize that Delhi is a loudspeaker. A protest in Ramlila Maidan will get covered by the national news in a way that a protest in Mumbai’s Shivaji Park will not. Delhi, only the 19th largest state in the Union by population, is much smaller than Jharkhand, Assam or Chhattisgarh. Most Indians do not know who the Chief Ministers of those states are, but most Indians have heard of Kejriwal.
Delhi has partial statehood, which means that its police are not under the purview of the local government. The most important thing we need to know about this arrangement is that Delhi was not a state to begin with, but was given that status only in 1992 under an Act that kept law and order in the hands of the central government. As the seat of the national government, with all the security considerations that it brings, this was and is a prudent thing.
Many other democratic countries with a Federal structure, like the USA, Australia, Canada, have similar arrangements where either the capital remains under direct central administration, or a dual arrangement where law and order remains with the national government while other powers are devolved locally.
Historically, whoever has controlled Delhi has laid claim to rule India, given its strategic location at the crossroads of the Indo-Gangetic population centres and the Himalayas. From the Indraprastha of the Pandavas, to modern Delhi, geography places it at the very heart of India. The objective of many an invader was either to sack Delhi or to conquer it, for it brought as its spoils the entire sub-continent.
This is why we must be exceedingly cautious on who controls the security apparatus that protects Delhi.
Let us now imagine how a modern attempt to take Delhi and mount a coup could play out. Let us imagine a future anarchist or foreign-funded provocateur who manages to win the Delhi state elections. Let us also imagine that we conceded to his demand and put law and order for the city under his command. What if he then systematically replaced the police leadership with his own ideologues. What if he then launched a coup and took over the national capital, Parliament, the ministries, Rashtrapati Bhavan, and arrested the entire elected and constitutional representatives of the nation in one fell swoop?
Today, with modern communications and the might of the Indian armed forces, no one seriously believes that it is possible to hold on to Delhi and take over the nation. In other words, this anarchist could quite possibly take over the capital, but within a few days, Army 1 Corps from Mathura and Army II Corps from Ambala would surround the capital, retake the city and put an end to this misadventure. But what if there was a simultaneous attack from Pakistan while this was going on, in a well-coordinated move? Even then, it is fair to say that our armed forces would put down this potential coup within a couple of weeks.
But therein lies the rub. The moment you undermine the national government and central authority even for a few days, states could well take matters into their own hands, and take direct control of the armed forces stationed within their own borders. In the absence of a civilian leadership giving orders at the national level, elected representatives in the states, i.e. the Chief Ministers, will have the most legitimacy to do precisely that.
And having once tasted this kind of power, it is very easy to see Tamil nationalism or Maratha pride or any number of other revolutions surfacing and quickly gaining traction. And if this scenario unfolds in enough states, the severely weakened national government could well find it impossible to reestablish central authority without an untenably costly civil war. The result: a breakup of the Indian Union. Guess which of our neighbours would love to see this scenario play out? That’s right, ALL of them!
Now some of you think this scenario is far-fetched. If you do, please look at what happened in the Soviet Union in 1991. There was a coup in Moscow by elements of the Russian army that briefly toppled Michael Gorbachev. This coup fizzled out after just two days, but Gorbachev’s and the central government’s authority was gone forever. The Soviet Union broke up into its constituent states shortly thereafter.
This is the kind of nightmare scenario that we must fight at all cost. Kejriwal’s demand is cynical, self-serving and ultimately against the national interest. It must not be allowed to succeed.