The Big Story: Sour grapes

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal sounded like he had already thrown in the towel just a few days before results were to be announced in the polls to Delhi’s three publicly elected municipal corporations. Speaking on Monday, with results two days away, Kejriwal said he would launch a new “movement” if the exit polls projecting a sweep by the Bharatiya Janata Party turned out to be true. “If such results come in,” Kejriwal was quoted saying, “it will prove that manipulation has happened.”

Early leads seem to bear out what the exit polls were suggesting, with the BJP taken the lion’s share of the votes, and the Congress – as of 9 am – coming in second, ahead of AAP. Those positions may yet change as more votes are counted. But by promising a movement only if the exit-polls turn out to be accurate, Kejriwal continues to remind the public that AAP remains a party that has not learnt how to deal with loss.

It is not as if people expected AAP to be the front-runner. The party’s recent loss to the Congress in Punjab and the BJP’s huge victory in Uttar Pradesh suggested the tide in the capital might have turned too. To add to this, though the BJP was already in control of all three municipal corporations, yet because the AAP is in power in the Delhi government, many voters thought of Kejriwal’s party as the incumbent that ought to be changed.

Still, an AAP loss is significant because parties that control the state government are usually able to leverage that into also controlling local municipalities. AAP’s inability to do that will hamper its attempts to show positive development in Delhi, especially when it is already hemmed in by a BJP-appointed Lt Governor questioning its administrative decisions from the other end.

Either way, Kejriwal continues to seem like a young-politician-in-a-hurry. AAP emerged from a public movement a few years ago and sailed to power in Delhi, first on the back of anti-incumbency sentiment against the Congress, and later by promising to improve the city even in the face of a BJP onslaught. In many ways, AAP’s uniqueness – as a successful party that doesn’t have a parochial votebank, and no inherent identity politics – also leaves it weak when it faces a loss.

When it derives its legitimacy entirely from a movement and public support, what is expected to do if it isn’t getting that? Kejriwal’s answer seems to be: insist that the public support is still there, just that the Electronic Voting Machines are being rigged to hide it. This is not only dangerous to democracy, even if one believes EVMs need to constantly be updated so they are not manipulated, it also suggests a party that simply has not learnt how to accept a defeat.

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  1. Anand Venkatanarayan on Medianama responds to a number of claims made by former chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India Nandan Nilekani, who insisted Aadhaar as a safe, successful mechanism put in place by the government.
  2. A lack of adequate leadership, an absence of strategic clarity and a huge gap between Central and state forces explain why the fight against Maoists is languishing, writes Prakash Singh in the Indian Express.
  3. Niranjan Rajadhyaksha in Mint points out the difficult questions involved in looking at the split between India’s formal and informal economies and what it will take to bridge those.
  4. “The government seems to either not notice or not care about the many glitches in the Aadhaar system, as it enters more and more parts of our lives,” says Usha Ramanathan in the Wire.
  5. Irfan Habib in the Indian Express looks back at Champaran, a 100 years later, saying the satyagraha was a crucial starting point since it attached the peasant movement to the drive for liberty.


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M Rajshekhar begins his Ear to the Ground reports from Bihar, where he discovers that cancer has exploded in the population as people drink water that contains arsenic.

“Sunil Kumar, a professor at the agriculture university in Bihar’s Sabour block, studied arsenic levels in 16 blocks of Bhagalpur district. He found safe levels in just three blocks. Levels in other blocks were 3,880 parts per billion in Kahalgam, 3,610 parts per billion in Pirpainti and 3,500 parts per billion in Nathnagar.

Nupur Bose, a professor at Patna’s AN College, found arsenic levels as high as 1,861 parts per billion and 500 parts per billion in Bhojpur and Vaishali districts.

Arsenic has entered Bihar’s drinking water from the Himalayas, washed down in the form of arsenopyrite, a conjugate of arsenic and iron, till it settled in riverbeds along the Gangetic plain as silt. When the rivers changed course, human settlements sprung up on the floodplains. People in such settlements in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh,West Bengal and Bangladesh, used river water for drinking and irrigation.”