Aditya Sinha Column: Je suis Delhi-walla

Kejriwal calling PM Modi names brings out the latent ‘offense is the best defense’ spirit in all of us

Aditya SinhaMany of us Delhi-wallas are okay with our chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, calling our prime minister, Narendra Modi, names. Many Bombay aunties are not, and they’re right, it was in bad taste (even if those names were technically correct). No matter. When have we Delhi-wallas worried about propriety? Also, like Kejriwal we believe ‘offense is the best defense’, and thus his actions have unleashed the inner Delhi-walla in all of us. Well, it was already unleashed in the only Bollywood Khan brought up and raised in Delhi: Shah Rukh Khan. When recently confronted by taunts by cowards-and-psychopaths over his remarks about growing intolerance in India he told them to “just shut up”; he essentially dared them to show up and face him in person. As is typical with bullies, they hid behind their IP addresses and the din immediately died down.

No favourites: Modi is unlikely to forget either the walloping in the Delhi Assembly elections he got at the hands of Kejriwal, or the thrashing that that Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad gave him in Bihar. file pic
No favourites: Modi is unlikely to forget either the walloping in the Delhi Assembly elections he got at the hands of Kejriwal, or the thrashing that that Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad gave him in Bihar. File pic

Similarly, Modi tried to bully Kejriwal with unannounced raids by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on the CM’s secretariat. True, the raids are a regular feature of CBI nationwide action against corrupt bureaucrats, and true, they were aimed at principal secretary Rajender Kumar, but such technicalities elude the point. If you don’t inform the chief minister before encroaching on his turf — particularly hypocritical, given how this PM has publicly said that the C in CBI stood for Congress — well then you’re gonna get a Delhi-walla earful. A panicked PM took refuge hiding behind his trophy Delhi-walla, Arun Jaitley.

The trouble is that Jaitley belongs to another breed of Delhi-walla. Unlike Kejriwal or even Modi, Jaitley is not a street fighter. Rather, he is fey. He loves his chhole-bhature served on the finest china, and sticks his little finger out while eating it — all while trading gossip in some South Delhi boudoir or other. Yes, Jaitley is the hub of the Lutyens Media universe, telling unctuous proprietors and slobbering editors that Kejriwal’s is the worst government Delhi has ever seen (it is thus strange that the cowards-and-psychopaths whine endlessly about the bias of Lutyens Media).

Jaitley is the kind of Delhi-walla who rents his property out to ex-media biggies like Peter Mukerjea — who, incidentally, will get home-cooked meals in prison because his English passport rejects Indian cooking and hygiene. (Odd, that. Perhaps Jaitley should send him home-cooked chhole-bhature.) And Jaitley pretends to have the refinement of Delhi-wallas like Raghuram Rajan, who as India’s central banker is behind-the-scenes running India’s economy; because for all their bluster, Modi and Jaitley haven’t a clue as to how to cut the Gordian Knot of heavy corporate debt and low corporate investment.

Thus Modi threw Jaitley under the bus, a Delhi Transport Bus at that. All Kejriwal had to do in retaliation was mention the Delhi and Districts Cricket Administration (DDCA), a legendary cesspool of corruption because of which the recent fourth Test between India and South Africa was nearly cancelled. Jaitley says no wrong-doing was found against him but that basically means he admits to having been the Dr Manmohan Singh of the DDCA, Dhritarashtra-like blind to the wrong-doings around him. Against the aam aadmi, a Delhi-walla like Jaitley doesn’t stand a chance.

Probably Jaitley should have tried to be like another typical Delhi-walla, namely Robert Vadra, whose acquisition of land in Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan (and God knows where else) during the Manmohan years can easily qualify him to be India’s Donald Trump. Truth be told though, every time that Trump speaks on the US presidential campaign trail, he goes beyond sounding like an uncouth Delhi-walla and in fact makes our politicians look sober, staid and balanced. On second thoughts, there is something sinister about Vadra that Jaitley can never emulate.

So what do Modi and Jaitley do about a thorn in the side like Kejriwal? If they’re smart, they should do nothing. Yet, as pointed out by former US Consul General Michael S Owen in a 2006 cable exposed by Wikileaks, Modi “rules more by fear and intimidation than by inclusiveness and consensus, and is rude, consdescending and often derogatory to even high-level party officials”. He is a vindictive and ruthless man who will never forget the 67-3 walloping he got at the hands of Kejriwal in the Delhi Assembly elections earlier this year; come to think of it, Modi is unlikely to forget the thrashing that Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad gave him and his sidekick Amit Shah in Bihar last month either, so expect some payback there as well. Yes, this nonsense about CBI raids and other petty harassment is not going to end.

It takes a divisive figure like Modi for us to realise that if Delhi is the source of many of India’s problems, Delhi-wallas are possibly the solution to problems as well. That’s why I say, Je suis Delhi-walla.

Journalist and writer Aditya Sinha is the co-author of Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years. He tweets @autumnshade

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