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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2586

The Hug That Set Kejriwal On Fire

By Atul Cowshish - Syndicate Features

Watching the fallout from the Lalu Prasad Yadav-Arvind Kejriwal bear hug it would appear that politicians in India thrive on making ‘mountain out of a molehill’. Can one really believe that when two rivals, be they politicians or whatever, hug each other at a function it must mean a patch-up and alliance? In politics old ‘enmities’ are not forgotten and erased in a jiffy. It is almost always preceded by protracted negotiations, often in camera, but still known to the world.

Kejriwal, the Aam Admi Party boss, and the RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav may not exactly be ‘enemies’ in politics, but if their separate outfits have to come together they have to first talk things over and agree to some kind of a common approach to fight the common ‘enemy’. The RJD and AAP leaders were not known to be negotiating to be part of a common front against any ‘enemy’ when they found themselves face to face and locked in a tight embrace at the oath-taking ceremony of the Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar in Patna.

For the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the Big Bear Hug has proved conclusively that Kejriwal was a sham champion of probity in public life since he hugged a politician convicted on crime charges. The AAP leader on his part was so much on the defensive about The Hug that he actually blamed Lalu for the fire he was facing. He felt obliged to declare before a gathering of his party members in Delhi that it was the RJD leader who had taken the initiative to hug him at the oath taking ceremony in Patna. Would he have refused to be hugged? No!

And how could the AAP rebels not join the fray? Yogendra Yadav who was said to be the brain behind the AAP during the period he was with the party, took a dig at Kejriwal for the show of an unwelcome bonhomie with Lalu Prasad who was convicted of criminal charge in the ‘fodder scam’. How would have Yogendra Yadav acted if he was in Kejriwal’s place? No doubt other parties too had their own take on The Hug that set Kejriwal on fire.

Time for all good Indian politicians to mull over the consequences of embracing their ‘enemies’ at a public platform! The BJP can take the lead by declaring the hug a symbol of the decrepit ‘Western Culture’ or a ‘Nehruvian’ legacy; a ‘ban’ on it might be in line given the ruling party’s penchant for ‘bans’ and its earnestness in prescribing the codes for one’s eating, dressing, reading and viewing habits to preserve ‘Indian culture’.

More may be heard on the evils of hugging from the long line of sages, ‘Sants’, ‘Sadhus’ and ‘Sadhavis’ who are members or ardent supporters of the BJP supremo Modi --ministers, MPs and MLAs, and also men like Adityanath, Baba Ramdev and Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti or even the brave soldiers like a former army chief now adorning the ranks of junior ministers in the Modi Sarkar.

But the apparently growing number ‘anti-nationals’ may muster courage in a ‘tolerant India’ to ask: Is it not common, if not customary, to see two people otherwise not great friends to hug and smile at each other at a gathering oozing of festive spirit. Not everyone is expected to love Nitish Kumar, but it cannot be denied that at the ceremony where he was being sworn in as Bihar’s chief minister for the fifth time everyone seemed to be in a mood to celebrate.

Why should it be difficult to believe that the RJD chief acted purely on impulse to greet and hug Arvind Kejriwal, at the Patna ceremony? Or, should we believe that acrimony among rival politicians has now permeated so deeply that they should shed all signs of cordiality on all occasions?

Some might say that things unfortunately seem to be moving in that direction. Are they being needlessly pessimistic? If the new rule in Indian politics is that the ‘enemies’ in politics shall always remain hostile towards each other the first casualty will then be absence of any effort to build consensus on matters vital in the interest of the country.

But then again, how do we view the finance minister, among the fiercest critics of the top Congress leadership, going to Rahul Gandhi’s residence to deliver the invitation to his daughter’s wedding? Arun Jaitley may not have been heard say anything polite about the Congress vice president or his mother Sonia Gandhi, the Congress president, but he surely cannot be accused of changing his views on the mother - son duo following that visit of his to Rahul Gandhi’s house.

Old timers who have covered parliament would recall that after fierce exchanges between the treasury and opposition benches, members from the opposite sides would be found talking ‘normally’ and even exchanging pleasantries once the battle had ended in the hollowed chamber. No special meaning was ever attached to that, except that it would prompt the sceptics to say something like ‘they are all hand in glove’.

Perhaps, there is some truth in that cheeky remark. The ease with which so many politicians cross the floor, unhesitatingly shifting their positions and agreeing to dump the leader they had sworn allegiance to and ‘hug’ the one they were abusing, authenticates the dictum, in fact a cliché, that in politics there are no permanent friends or foes.

The two characters involved in that famous Patna Hug, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Arvind Kejriwal are politicians sharing qualities like cunning and sophistry. It is naïve to think that the one-time anti-graft crusader Kejriwal is a ‘different’ type of politician. He simply can’t be having become a full-time politician.

Like all politicians, Kejirwal is entitled to have big ambitions which include winning polls and becoming a bigger leader. He remains as much of an ‘anti-graft’ crusader as those who rode to power on the assurance of arresting all the ‘corrupt’ politicians and bringing back the ‘lakhs of crores’ of Indian money allegedly stashed in foreign banks but trot out various excuses for their failure to do so even after 18 months of being in power.

Nobody should be taken in by the fact that Kejriwal proved how ‘different’ he was when after taking over as the chief minister of Delhi he refused to accept any portfolio. That may be a ‘different’ approach in his style of politics which, all said and done, is as clearly identified with power and pelf as any other political party.

Kejriwal may have started dreaming big, but a mere hug by Lalu Prasad would not help him achieve his goals unless it was preceded or followed by more ground work to forge an alliance with other parties. Of course, that might be on the way in Punjab, to begin with. But that is a different story.

- Asian Tribune -

 Lalu Prasad Yadav-Arvind Kejriwal bear hug
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