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All guns blazing

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal seems intent on proving that he is in no way politically or morally obliged to the Congress, which is supporting his government from the outside. By lodging an FIR against former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit in connection with a street light project that was implemented ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the Delhi Anti-Corruption Branch furthered the political agenda of the Aam Aadmi Party government. It reinforced one of the core points of the AAP campaign, fighting corruption in high places. It also demonstrated the AAP’s resolve not to engage in any political compromises in return for an extended lease in power. The Delhi Police are not under the control of the AAP government, and Mr. Kejriwal therefore used his government’s own arm, the Delhi Anti-Corruption Branch, which is staffed by personnel on deputation from the Delhi Police, to register the case under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code. Of course, it is not as if the AAP government brought up the case out of thin air to prove a few political points. The findings of the Shunglu Committee and the Comptroller and Auditor General had pointed to irregularities in the tendering and allocation of work for street lights. Although the CBI registered a Preliminary Enquiry in this case, it could not find anything irregular against Ms. Dikshit. Mr. Kejriwal must be hoping that the ACB will come up with something substantial against his political rival.

The AAP recently targeted top politicians, including Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, P. Chidambaram, and Kapil Sibal, branding them all as corrupt. While the minority AAP government being supported by the Congress is unlikely to last very long, the Congress cannot obviously bring down Mr. Kejriwal on the ground that he is attacking its leaders as corrupt. The Congress strategy would be guided by political calculations, and party leaders might want to allow Mr. Kejriwal to continue for a little beyond the Lok Sabha election. So far, the Kejriwal government has shown that it wants to use power in Delhi to enhance its national image as an anti-corruption crusader. Governance benefits for the people of Delhi are only incidental to this larger agenda. How far the corruption case against Ms. Dikshit would go is not very clear, but the AAP government might already have achieved what it set out to do: present itself as a relentless crusader against corruption. Born as it was of a social movement, the AAP sees power as being only incidental to the larger purpose of eradicating big ticket corruption, and is ready to go down with all guns blazing.

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