The Arvind Kejriwal government’s recent approval to prosecute former JNU scholars Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and eight others in a sedition case, after sitting on the Delhi Police request to do so for 13 months, has kicked up a storm. The case is linked to slogans raised at an event in JNU on 9 February 2016 and the violence that followed, which sharpened the political divide on the campus. The Left-liberal sections and their influencers appear to be particularly aghast as they were the most vociferous in supporting the AAP’s victory march in Delhi’s Assembly polls.
When crafty Kejriwal lapped it all up but sidestepped the controversial CAA-NRC-NPR and sprinkled a bit of soft Hindutva in his campaign, they hailed it as a brilliant concoction to trounce the BJP. They even sought to condone his tepid response to the recent northeast Delhi riots, pointing fingers at the Centre instead. With the sedition case nod changing their tone and some of them calling it a sellout, Left-liberals ought to blame themselves for misreading the AAP. For, Kejriwal has always been against their brand of politics. Look at his systematic purge of liberals like Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan from the AAP. Opportunism and political flexibility, not ideological rigidity, has been his calling card. The Delhi CM’s latest strategy is to work in tandem with the BJP-ruled Centre instead of indulging in shrill confrontation—like a Naveen Patnaik, not a Mamata Banerjee.
In any case, Kejriwal couldn’t have refused prosecution sanction in the Kanhaiya case after recently claiming high moral ground, saying those in the wrong should be made to face the law’s full force. While he said it in the context of the Delhi riots, the prosecution sanction came on the same day, indicating he did not want to let the BJP accuse him of double-speak. Also, his party corporator Tahir Hussain was arrested on that day for his alleged role in the murder of an IB staffer in the riots. While the high-voltage sedition case will now be fought in court, Kejriwal just lost some political capital, which could show up when he tries to spread his wings beyond Delhi.