Here are some of my recollections of having worked in the past with Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi, and Kapil Mishra, who has recently been sacked from Kejriwal's cabinet.
They show that Kejriwal is dishonest in having Kapil branded a 'BJP agent'.
Kejriwal's own willing association with BJP goes back at least to the summer of 2009.
This article also shows that Kejriwal has turned his back on 'open meetings' that were to realise the 'Swaraj' that he promised to the people.
I had first met Kapil Mishra in July 2009 as a member of Arvind Kejriwal’s team participating in one of a series of Mohalla Sabha meetings we were helping organize in Delhi as part of our 'Swaraj' campaign.
These meetings were being organized in cooperation with two councillors of Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) both of whom belonged to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
One of them was Kapil's mother Annapurna Mishra who represented Sonia Vihar ward in the MCD; the other was Hari Shankar Kashyap who represented Trilokpuri.
I remember sometime in late June 2009 Kejriwal had given me and other members of his team the "good news" that “two BJP councillors have agreed to take part in the Mohalla Sabha experiment”.
“The first meeting will take place on 5th July in Sonia Vihar ward,” he beamed as his long effort to arrange a trial of the concept of Mohalla Sabha was finally making some headway.
I had then been working full time in Kejriwal team for about eight months.
Over this period, we’d been engaged in fleshing out the idea of Mohalla Sabha which was Kejriwal’s take on ‘Area Sabha’ provided in the Model Nagara Raj Bill 2008 that the Centre had proposed to the states to allow greater citizen participation in municipal governance.
We’d held discussions with S.C. Behar (former chief secretary of Madhya Pradesh), Medha Patkar, S.R. Hiremath (a Karnataka-based environmentalist), Anna Hazare, Ravi Chopra (People's Science Institute) and other knowledgeable people in drafting our own legislative proposals as to how local citizens’ assemblies can directly take decisions that affect their lives.
Kejriwal believed then that khuli baithakein (open meetings) of local citizens with their representatives would not only enable them to detect corruption in government, but also give them a measure of control over land acquisition and 'development' projects that had been riding roughshod over their rights.
Such open meetings of Gram Sabhas and Mohalla Sabhas sparing no one from scrutiny was an essential component of what Kejriwal called his idea of 'Swaraj'.
(He has since used that catchword to expand his political base. The topis that members of Kejriwal cult wear bear the slogan: 'Mujhe Chahiye Swaraj'.)
He loved to cite commonly reported cases of PWD contractors using substandard material or forged bills to siphon off public money in explaining how local citizens' assemblies would be able to expose corruption.
A beautiful example of the kind of projects Kejriwal the 'Swaraj' campaigner cited would be the drainage project along NH-44 in Delhi in which Kejriwal the Chief Minister has now been accused of having favoured his relative Surender Bansal!
"The Mohalla Sabha shall have the power to issue 'utilization certificate' only after which final payment can be made to the contractor," Kejriwal the 'Swaraj' campaigner wrote in his legislative proposals.
Kejriwal the Chief Minister is, of course, a different kettle of fish.
According to an India Today report, he allowed his PWD department to clear Rs two crore worth of forged bills, pending completion of the project, to his own relative!
The department is headed by minister Satyendra Jain whom former minister Kapil Mishra has accused of having handed Rs two crore in cash to Kejriwal the Chief Minister!
No wonder Kejriwal of 2017 won't even utter the word khuli baithakein, let alone have one conducted.
He now transacts his business behind closed doors and members of his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are frequently warned not to speak off message in public.
BJP Councillor, Her Son
The first Mohalla Sabha meeting that I attended took place on 12 July 2009 in Badarpur Khadar village of Sonia Vihar ward of north-east Delhi.
It was the second Mohalla Sabha meeting in the ward represented by BJP councillor Annapurna Mishra.
The first meeting had taken place a week ago in a different neighbourhood.
I was there along with Kejriwal and quite a few other members of his team.
Kejriwal had tasked me with the job of writing a detailed report of the meeting which we were to share with the media.
(The report that I filed then is pasted at the bottom of this article.)
Councillor Mishra was, of course, present there along with her son Kapil and an MCD official.
I found her to be a short woman with clear but slow, deliberate, Neta-like manner of speaking.
Kapil had a contrasting personality; he appeared dynamic, resourceful and outspoken.
That meeting is, of course, a testimony to Kejriwal's long association with Kapil and his mother.
There was no AAP then and no chief ministerial and ministerial posts to be had.
Kejriwal was then very happy to have been associated with a BJP councillor and her son.
And he continued to be happy to have been associated with Kapil after AAP was launched in November 2012 and subsequently won the election to form the government in Delhi -- right through his vicious turf war with BJP and NDA-II government.
That is until 06 May 2017 when suddenly Kapil Mishra, one of Kejriwal's closest cabinet colleagues, became a "BJP agent".
The Kejriwal cult has since been trying hard to portray Kapil a gaddar (traitor) and to "establish" his "collusion" with BJP in a "larger conspiracy" to finish off the AAP.
If association with BJP is all that's required to establish a person as a "BJP agent" and a gaddar to Kejriwal cult, then Kejriwal himself would be deemed a "BJP agent" at least since the summer of 2009 when he joined hands with BJP councillors Mishra and Kashyap in conducting Mohalla Sabhas.
Knowing Kapil Mishra
Being in Badarpur Khadar was quite an experience.
The village did feel like a village (to me, admittedly, rather pleasantly), as if in the middle of nowhere with no pucca roads, electricity, school, etc.
So there was plenty for the local people to talk about and for councillor Mishra to respond to.
I remember councillor Mishra making a pretty clear statement at the meeting of her submission to the principle that 'people are the boss and their wish is my command'.
Her son Kapil appeared smart. I learnt later that he ran an NGO called Youth for Justice.
I can't quite recall if it was that Mohalla Sabha meeting or the next (on 19 July 2009 at another location of the same ward) when I had an opportunity to speak directly with Kapil.
I remember him talking passionately about how National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NAREGA) had been harming agriculture because workers no longer had to do any any real farm work to earn basic income.
I also heard him asserting - primarily with reference to MCD - that there was absolutely no shortage of funds for any development work; the challenge was only to spend them sensibly.
Kapil seemed to complement his mother's cautious and deliberate manner of dealing with a matter at hand, intervening resourcefully whenever a meeting ran up against practical problems.
A few of these Mohalla Sabha meetings in 2009 was all I saw of Kapil then.
Those meetings had either stopped happening or were few and far between by December 2009 when I left the Kejriwal team.
I can't say for sure what became of Mohalla Sabha experiment after that point in time, but I don't think it made much headway.
I heard once again of Kapil Mishra in the summer of 2010 when I received an emailed invitation to the release of a book on Commonwealth Games scam that he had authored.
Towards the end of 2010, I was receiving emails suggesting Kejriwal was trying to rally people round in support of enacting a Lokpal (ombudsman) against corruption.
By February 2011, I felt drawn towards the swelling anti-corruption mobilization and attended a huge rally in Ramleela Maidan in Delhi along with my wife.
I was also one of the Anshan-kaaris (hunger strikers) at Anna Hazare-led dharna at Jantar Mantar in Delhi in April 2011 whereby we were demanding that the central government set up a committee including peoples' representatives to decide a draft of a law to enact Lokpal.
I don't recall meeting Kapil during that time.
My next and the last meeting with Kapil was sometime around September 2012, not long after the anti-corruption movement had been called off by the committee steering it.
That meeting took place at a public park in Connaught Place and was attended by me, Ashim Jain (of India Friends Association or IFA), Diwan Singh (a Delhi-based environmentalist), Kapil Mishra, and someone who was known to have been the main social media mobilizer for India Against Corruption (IAC) until he fell out of favour with Kejriwal.
I had been disappointed by the way the anti-corruption movement was brought to an end in July-August 2012 by Kejriwal and his coterie.
I was quite disturbed later to find out that the last round -- pompously billed a 'do or die' battle in which Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia sat on Anshan at Jantar Mantar rather than Anna Hazare -- had been pre-scripted by Kejriwal team to end in winding up of the movement and the announcement of a "political alternative".
It was a fraud to pre-decide the outcome of a supposedly 'peoples' movement' by some of those who were trusted with steering it, I thought then and still do.
Since the last round of the movement at Jantar Mantar became the basis for launching the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), this so called "political alternative" has been tainted from its inception with falsehood and deception.
That was also what I said at our meeting at Connaught Place.
Kapil Mishra then was in no mood to take seriously any such criticism of Kejriwal and of what for him would soon become a launching of a 'political' career.
After others had left, Ashim Jain, who had been working at the movement's headquarters, confirmed to me that all insiders did indeed know that the movement had been pre-decided to end in a certain way.
Fast forward to February 2015 when AAP bagged a landslide victory in Delhi assembly elections and Kapil was given a place in the cabinet headed by Kejriwal, the second-time Chief Minister.
An important memory that I have of Kapil the minister is the way he led the hounding at Kejriwal's behest of Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and others out of the National Executive of the AAP in March 2015.
I don't think highly of Yadav and Bhushan (think of their role in the "political alternative" drama in July-August 2012), but I feel Kapil Mishra acted totally as a henchman of Kejriwal at that time.
He now confronts the same situation, having been sidelined from the government and the party by the same coterie that he was once a member of.
Since 06 May 2017, he seems to have been discovering each day more and more evidence of what I have always believed - that AAP suffers from a congenital defect that not only has never been discussed in the mainstream media but was also sought to be covered up.
That congenital birth is the drama that was enacted in July-August 2012 to launch the 'political' careers of Kejriwal and his coterie, throwing ideas of 'democracy' and 'Swaraj' out of the window.
However, I admire the moral courage that Kapil Mishra has shown in showing up the corruption of the Kejriwal government since being chucked out of the government and the party.
(The following is the report of the first Mohalla Sabha meeting I attended on 12 July 2009 and filed the next day.
Councillor Mishra kickstarts participatory democracy in a
village that no one has heard of! Delhi
Conducts second Mohalla Sabha meeting in a week
With a population of about 1500, it’s a village that has no electricity, no school, no ration shop, no dispensary, no roads, no latrines, absolutely no sign of what has come to be recognized as ‘development’.
Approachable from Pushta Road, a few km into Tronica City (Ghaziabad district of UP), Badarpur Khadar, a part of Sonia Vihar municipal ward of north-east Delhi, took on Sunday, July 12, its first hopeful steps into ‘participatory democracy’’ – people directly and collectively taking decisions and telling their local representative what they want.
In an open ‘Mohalla Sabha’ meeting with Annapurna Mishra, Sonia Vihar Councillor, over 100 men and women of Badarpur Khadar decided they wanted a school, ration cards for every household, ID cards for every adult, widow and old-age pension for 8 identified women, and a pucca road from ‘Babu’s home to Jafru’s home’.
“From today, you will directly dictate the development of your village. Since you have voted me into power, it’s your right to dictate what you want. I’ll try my best to carry out your decisions,” Mishra told the gathering.
She had about Rs 50 lakh in councillor’s funds which would be spent according to the will of the people, said Mishra, attending her second Mohalla Sabha meeting in one week. She had conducted a similar meeting in a different area of her ward on July 5.
A ‘Mohalla Sabha’ meeting is an open meeting of citizens of an area or colony of a municipal ward with their councillor and some local MCD officials. The meeting allows local citizens to discuss their problems and collectively decide what they want. The councillor and the officials are expected to listen and commit themselves to carrying out the collective decisions.
Mishra is one of a growing list of MCD councillors who have been submitting themselves to the principle of participatory democracy by conducting Mohalla Sabha meetings.
In last three weeks, Mishra and Hari Shankar Kashyap, Trilok Puri councilor, have conducted 2 Mohalla Sabha meetings each in their wards.
“This village has never had any school. Most children don’t go to school. A few of them go to schools in Loni or Mirpur in UP. So a school should be our first priority,” Mahabir Singh, a respected local, told Mishra as Subhash Pandey, an MCD official, took notes.
A 10 bigha plot of land belonging to Gram Samaj (common land) had been identified for the school during Mishra’s earlier visit to the village; the school project was going to be her first priority, the councilor responded.
“I’ll go to the Town Hall with the school project. In the meanwhile I’ll also see if MCD could temporarily start teaching here in rooms that can be spared by some households,” added Mishra, as the discussion moved on to ration cards.
Hardly 10-15 households of Badarpur Khadar’s 180 households have ration cards.
“Earlier, almost 50 percent of families had ration cards. We used to go to the ration shop in Burari. Since then most people were either made to surrender their cards or have lost them,” said Soopanji, an elderly local, pointing out that Badarpur Khadar was made a part of Sonia Vihar only some years ago.
It was decided then that a team of local volunteers would collect documents from all households and complete the formalities for getting their ration cards made.
“About 30 per cent of the adult residents also don’t have voter ID cards,” said Rajendra Prasad, a local daily wage labourer.
The process of registering voters would start from July 15 and madam councillor would make sure that the SDM did not forget to send their team to the village, Kapil, Mishra’s, son who was helping her mother conduct the meeting, responded as the councillor nodded her agreement.
Except for a small road that was recently made pucca with cement, Badarpur Khadar has no pucca roads.
Soopanji and one Hashim Ali proposed that the path from “Babu’s home to Jafru’s home’ should first be turned into a pucca road. After others voiced their agreement, MCD’s Pandey conferred with the two to confirm the location of the proposed road and took notes.
The village also doesn’t have anything in the name of a dispensary or primary health centre (PHC).
Mishra said she suspected the village might not have enough population to qualify for a PHC, but she would nevertheless try. “What I can do immediately is to send mobile health vans here,” she promised as the gathering clapped their approval.
Mahabir Singh, however, pointed out to a more basic problem. “They say dispensary cannot be opened because you don’t have electricity.”
That was a tough nut!
“BSES has recently surveyed this area. So we hope electricity will come to this village in due course. I am not making any promise, however, because it’s outside my jurisdiction,” said Mishra.
Inhabited mostly by small land holders who grow vegetables to be sold at Azadpur Mandi and daily wagers, the village also suffers from a lot of poverty.
So MCD’s Pandey introduced the villagers to the three kinds of pension that the government provided: old-age, widow, and disability pensions.
“This woman is old and is also widow. She must get government pension,” Saroopji pointed out to a veiled woman called Sarwari.
“Do all agree that Sarwari should get the pension?” asked Pandey.
The gathering shouted and nodded its agreement.
Sarwari, Jameela, Roshni, Batul, Qaneez, Sayeeda, Jareefan, and Yasmine were the eight women who were finally identified as most deserving of old-age and widow’s pension. Each of those women would have to submit their ID card, an affidavit, and open their bank account in order to get the pension, they were told.
Mahabir Singh assured the gathering that arranging the documents would not be a problem.
Finally, a list of the tasks set by the Mohalla Sabha for Mishra was read out again and the date of the next meeting was unanimously decided as
12 September 2009.
“This Mohalla Sabha is not a one off affair. These meetings will now happen regularly and madam councillor will be before you to give you a progress report of the tasks that you have set for her,” said Kapil, Mishra’s son.
Mishra later told reporters that she was committed to conduct Mohalla Sabha meetings despite “the fact that a few MCD councillors and officials have already started inveighing against this model of participatory democracy because they won’t be able to make money in an environment of transparency.”
About ‘Mohalla Sabha’ meetings
A Mohalla Sabha is the body of all adult citizens (i.e. registered voters) of a smaller residential unit (an area, block, or colony) in a municipal ward.
The meeting of a ‘Mohalla Sabha’ is an open meeting of local citizens (i.e. members) with their ward councilor and some local MCD officials.
Every household of the area/block/colony is sent a written notice of the meeting in advance.
The councillor tries to ensure the presence of MCD officials who will be required to respond to citizens’ queries and complaints.
As the councilor and local MCD officials listen, the citizens collectively discuss and debate their problems, suggest solutions, and decide what facilities/public works they want. They citizens also decide who among them is most deserving of government aid or social security benefits.
All decisions are taken either consensually or through voting.
The citizens are able to directly question the councillor and local MCD officials present.
The councillor and the officials, on their part, respond to complaints and questions; they also offer clarifications and solutions. The councillor also commits himself/herself to the things that he/she can do or will try to do and points out to the things that are outside his/her jurisdiction.
The councillor also makes a commitment that contractors will be paid only after the local people have expressed satisfaction with the public work in question.
The principle governing the Mohalla Sabha meeting is: citizens will decide what they want and their representative (i.e. the councillor) will merely carry out their will within the limits of his/her jurisdiction, the law, and the availability of funds.
The minutes of the meeting, including the decisions taken, are signed by each participant, and copies are sent to each household of the area.
The participants also decide the time and place of the next Mohalla Sabha meeting in which the councilor will present a report of the progress on implementation of the decisions taken earlier.
In addition to the written notice of a Mohalla Sabha meeting, the councilor also sends at least one letter a month to each household of the area, informing them of the progress on the tasks that were set for him in the last meeting.