An activist from AamAdmi Party hailing from Odisha was recently in Delhi in connection with the campaign of the party in the recently conducted elections for electing MLAs to the Delhi Assembly. On his return to Odisha he shared with a friend that in a closed door meeting of his party its leader Shri Arvind Kejriwal stressed on Odisha Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik’s approach of dealing with dignity the political opponents who often use acrimonious language while taking on their rivals.
It is indeed noteworthy that Delhi Chief Minister Shri Kejriwal’s campaign style during the recently concluded elections to Delhi Assembly was marked by his sober, restrained and positive approach. His calm and composed manner of dealing with the vitriolic remarks and criticisms hurled against him by the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) very unmistakeably brought out his more mature handling of the political opponents represented by top leaders of the BJP. They crossed all limits of decency by calling him a terrorist and Naxalite and describing the Delhi Assembly election scheduled on 8th February 2020 as an India and Pakistan match. The Election Commission censured many BJP leaders and barred them from electioneering for some days.
Shri Kejriwal’s sober campaigning centred around his work in improving the educational standards in Government schools, extending health facilities to the people and providing certain units of water and electricity free of cost to the poor caught the imagination of the people who were mobilised by him on the basis of issue based politics. It stood in sharp contrast to the toxic campaign of BJP which aimed at polarising the electorate on Hindu -Muslim narrative.
Greater sanity manifested in Kejriwal’s campaign because of his decent language and dignified conduct closely resembled the campaign style of Naveen Patnaik who is well acclaimed for his civility and grace while engaging in politics and taking on his political rivals. Shri Patnaik has never ever responded to his critics, detractors and his bitterest opponents who often employed unforgiving language, harsh tone and tenor and indecent remarks for the purpose of politically attacking him. In fact Shri Patnaik hardly replies to them even in the face of their very harsh and disparaging observations on him. In not joining issue with them and his dignified silence on such matters has enhanced his self-esteem and elevated his stature in public life. Even when he responds to such attacks on him he does so in an exemplary manner richly informed by high bench mark of decorum, values and graciousness. For instance when Prime Minister Modi in his election speech in April 2019 in Kendrapara very contemptuously said that people of Odisha would give an insulting farewell to Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik after his party’s defeat in the hustings, Shri Patnaik gave a dignified reply by saying that he got the majority in the third phase of elections to Odisha Assembly and would extend an invitation to Shri Modi to attend his swearing ceremony.
Such a civilised response to Prime Minister Modi’s uncalled for remark brought out his gracious approach to deal with political opponents. Invocation of Shri Naveen Patnaik’s name and conduct by the Aam Admi Party leader to engage with political rivals underline the national rather universal significance of civilised conduct of Shri Patnaik in India’s public life.
Shri Ashutosh, a prominent media personality and who earlier was part of Aam Admi Party, in a discussion in NDTV on 12th February 2020 on Delhi election results flagged the point that Shri Kejriwal, unlike a few years back, has stopped becoming reactive to many things done by Prime Minister Modi. For instance, he stated that when Shri Modi touched his mother’s feet in presence of media Shri Kejriwal reacted to it by saying that Prime Minister converted routine event of showing respect to his mother to a publicity stunt. Shri Ashutosh opined that there was no need for Shri Kejriwal to be so reactive to that event involving Prime Minister Modi and his mother. He also underlined that Shri Kejriwal changed himself and became much less reactive and even talked much less and focussed more attention on his work. Such a narrative from Ashutosh that Shri Kejriwal talked less and did his work with much more dedication is evocative of Shri Naveen Patnaik’s personality profile which is summed up in his succinct expression “My work speaks for itself”. Shri Patnaik speaks less and more than his speech his catalogue of work carried out over two decades is extraordinarily eloquent.
It is quite appropriate to recall the words of Shri Sekhar Gupta, the founder and current editor of the Print, on Shri Arvind Kejriwal. He explained that Shri Kejriwal emerged as a leader who in contrast to his earlier role became more positive and affirmative and refused to join issues with his opponents from BJP who set a narrative completely driven by hate and bigotry. Shri Gupta said that willing choice of Shri Kejriwal to keep away from noxious narrative of his opponents and flag the work done by him during his five year tenure as Chief Minister of Delhi took away the wind out of the sail of his contestants. In other words the politics centred around people and their basic issues became the focal theme for Shri Kejriwal and this issue based politics trounced the politics based on hate. Such issue based politics remained central to the politics of Shri Naveen Patnaik and he famously said, while being acknowledged as the Ideal Chief Minister of our country by the World Peace University in Pune, that when people are at the centre of politics the journey in public life is no more political but spiritual. Shri Kejriwal’s approach in putting people’s issues at the heart of his politics is indeed reminiscent of Shri Patnaik’s approach which is getting deepened and expanded by the concept of “Mo Sarkar” or “My Government” anchored on five Ts- Technology, Transparency, Timeliness, Team Spirit and Transformation. These Five Ts have produced Trust of people on the Government. This Trust embodied in sixth T is a product of Five Ts.
No wonder that Shri Rajesh Ramachandran, Editor in Chief of the Truibune wrote about Shri Naveen Patnaik in his article “Beyond Manufactured Identities”, “Naveen Patnaik has never practised the politics of caste or communal polarisation, nor does he belong to a numerically significant caste group, nor does Odisha have a sizeable Muslim population. Yet, he wins election after election defeating the BJP twice. That ought to be the new normal in Indian politics: victory for transformational politics.”
It is sincerely hoped that the issue based politics beyond identities would be the transformational politics for India of twenty first century.
.The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan and had a tenure in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Views expressed in the article are in his personal capacity.