BY NOW INDIANS have got used to the strange and incoherent rants of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. His personalised attacks on political rivals, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are well known. But even by his usual standards, he took a bizarre leap on 27 July. He said that Modi could get him killed for vendetta. In a video uploaded on the internet, he asked his partymen and members of Delhi Assembly to “discuss it with your families”: “They can go to any extent and may kill us. They can kill me as well. They are capable of doing anything.”
It is true that in the past few days and months, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been under ‘pressure’ of sorts from law enforcement agencies. Its MLAs in Delhi have been arrested on assorted grounds. But in all cases, those detained have been produced before judges and courts. India is not a police state, it has the rule of law.
For a moment, forget the so-called rivalry between Kejriwal and Modi, and take a step back and ask a question: when do conspiracy theories become fashionable? Social scientists such as historian Richard Hofstadter and legal theorist Cass Sunstein have argued that an inability to explain facts and events rationally lies at the root of such thoughts. Also, ‘fear of the unknown’ makes people see ‘hidden hands’ as being responsible for inexplicable turns of event. In an earlier age, this was called a belief in magic.
India is not unacquainted with it. In the 1970s, the ‘foreign hand’ was a popular explanation for a lot of what was wrong with India. The US Central Intelligence Agency was endowed with mythical powers to intervene in a country that was only of marginal interest to Washington. The difference this time is that Kejriwal has condensed and domesticated the hidden hand and projected it on a single persona: Modi. It is not worthwhile to detail how the Prime Minister of India is one of the most watched and guarded persons in the country, and has virtually no time, unless his bureaucracy gets involved, to hatch conspiracies. The very thought is ludicrous.
A better explanation—if Kejriwal would consider it—is that his party has grown rather rapidly, and under such conditions, bad apples do slip into one’s basket. Best to weed them out instead of blaming others.