Resilience of India’s Democratic Institutions

The allegations against Kejriwal stem from his tenure as the Chief Minister of Delhi, where he is accused of granting undue favors to certain individuals and misusing his official position for personal gain.
Keywords: Kejriwal, Corruption, Allegation, Liquor Scam, Legal, Liberty
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On 21st March 2024, a scene unfolded in the streets of New Delhi that gripped the nation and sparked fervent debates about democracy in India. Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi and the convener of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on corruption charges. As Kejriwal was led away in handcuffs, his supporters took to the streets in protest, decrying the arrest as a politically motivated act of vengeance by the ruling party at the Centre. It has understandably ignited concerns about the erosion of democratic norms and the potential misuse of investigative agencies for political ends. However, amidst the clamour and the polarised narratives, it is imperative to take a step back and examine the broader context, lest we lose sight of the resilience of India’s democratic institutions.

The allegations against Kejriwal stem from his tenure as the Chief Minister of Delhi, where he is accused of granting undue favors to certain individuals and misusing his official position for personal gain. The CBI claimed to have amassed substantial evidence against Kejriwal, including financial records, witness testimonies and intercepted communications. While the charges are undoubtedly grave, it is essential to keep in mind that Kejriwal’s arrest is not a conviction. It is merely the initiation of legal proceedings, and he will have the opportunity to defend himself in a court of law. In the aftermath of Kejriwal’s arrest, the opposition parties have rallied behind him, decrying the move as an assault on democracy and calling for nationwide protests. This unified front, transcending party lines, is a heartening display of the checks and balances inherent in a functioning democracy. The opposition’s vocal criticism and ability to mobilise public opinion counterbalance the government’s actions, ensuring that no single entity can wield unchecked power. It manifests the fundamental democratic principle of dissent and the right to hold those in power accountable. While the rhetoric from both sides may often veer into hyperbole and partisan grandstanding, the mere existence of a robust opposition is a bulwark against the erosion of democratic norms. It reminds us that power is not absolute and that the people’s mandate can be challenged and revoked through the ballot box.

About the Kejriwal account, the role of the media and the public sphere has been pivotal. The arrest has dominated news cycles, dissecting and analysing every twist and turn from multiple perspectives. The Indian media, for all its flaws and alleged biases, has remained a vibrant platform for debate and discourse. Pundits, analysts, and everyday citizens have taken to the airwaves, social media, and op-ed pages to voice their opinions, critique the government’s actions, and scrutinise the evidence against Kejriwal. This cacophony of voices, this marketplace of ideas, is the lifeblood of a healthy democracy. It ensures that no single narrative can rule unchallenged and that the truth is constantly contested and refined through the crucible of public discourse.

While the Kejriwal arrest has dominated the national conversation, it is crucial to situate this event within the broader global context. Across the world, political leaders have faced similar legal challenges, from the impeachment trials of former US presidents to the prosecutions of heads of state in various European nations. Though often contentious and divisive, these legal proceedings are a testament to the enduring principles of accountability and the rule of law. They reinforce the principle that no one is above the law regardless of their station or popularity. Moreover, the international community has closely monitored the developments in India, with various human rights organizations and foreign governments expressing concern over the implications for democracy. This global scrutiny checks for any potential overreach or erosion of democratic norms are significant because India’s reputation and standing on the world stage are inextricably linked to its adherence to these universal principles.

As the legal proceedings against Kejriwal unfold, there will undoubtedly be more twists and turns, more protests and counter-protests, and more heated debates over the state of democracy in India. This is expected in a vibrant and pluralistic society, where passions run high, and stakes are elevated. However, it is important to maintain perspective and realise that democracy is not a fragile construct that a single event can shatter, no matter how disruptive. Democracy is a dynamic mechanism constantly evolving and adapting to its challenges. The true strength of India’s democracy lies not in the absence of turmoil or controversy but in its ability to weather these storms and emerge stronger on the other side. It is a system built on the bedrock of institutions, checks and balances, and the indomitable spirit of its people. As Kejriwal’s legal battle unfolds, the onus falls on all sectors – the judiciary, the media, the opposition, and the citizens – to uphold due process, transparency, and accountability. It is a test of resilience, a crucible in which the mettle of India’s democratic traditions will be forged anew. For those who fear that Kejriwal’s arrest heralds the end of democracy, they need only look to the nation’s history, replete with examples of leaders who have faced legal scrutiny, only for the democratic process to emerge triumphant. From Indira Gandhi’s controversial tenure to the numerous corruption scandals that have rocked successive governments, India’s democracy has repeatedly proven that it is not a fragile construct but a robust and enduring force.

In the grand tapestry of India’s historic journey, the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal is but a single thread woven into the larger narrative of a nation committed to the ideals of freedom, justice, and the rule of law. While the events of his arrest may have sent shockwaves through the political landscape, they do not signal the demise of democracy. Instead, they serve as a reminder of the resilience and dynamism of India’s  institutions, which have withstood far greater challenges and come out stronger. It is a testament to the nation’s unwavering commitment to the principles enshrined in its Constitution, which have guided India through tumultuous times and will continue to do so in the face of future adversities. As Kejriwal’s legal battle unfolds, it is incumbent upon all stakeholders – the government, the opposition, the media, and the citizens– to uphold the sanctity of due process and the rule of law. It is a moment to reaffirm the nation’s unwavering faith in its traditions and to demonstrate to the world that India’s polity is not a fragile construct but a living, organic entity that draws strength from the very challenges it faces. 

And as the dust settles on the Kejriwal saga, one thing will remain clear: India’s democratic spirit is indomitable, and no single event can extinguish the flame of liberty that burns bright in the hearts of its citizens.

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Dr Prashant Barthwal Mr Divyansh Kala

Dr. Prashant Barthwal teaches Political Science at Sri Aurobindo College,
University of Delhi and Mr. Divyansh Kala is columnist and political analyst.

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