Delhi High Court has pulled up Arvind Kejriwal govt for its failure to manage the oxygen crisis in the national capital. But the CM is busy hampering India's foreign relations

by Seshadri Chari

After its worst handling of the demand for medical oxygen and the fiasco that tragically resulted in loss of many precious lives, the least that the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government could have done is to set his “house in order”, as advised by the Delhi High Court. Instead, Kejriwal chose to advise the Narendra Modi government on a subject that neither concerns him nor comes anywhere close to his list of official duties. External affairs and civil aviation are not state subjects. The Delhi CM could have written to the concerned ministry or even just picked up the phone and spoken to the Civil Aviation Minister.

During a crisis, any citizen is welcome to give suggestions as to how best the government can handle the given situation. But such liberties should not be entertained by a chief minister of a state who is expected to be extra careful in sensitive matters like foreign relations. Kejriwal’s penchant for seeking undue publicity probably got the better of him. Like a coxcombical dilettante, he preferred to trumpet his unsought suggestion through social media that the Centre “should cancel” all incoming flights from Singapore due to the “Singapore variant” of Covid-19. It evoked a sharp rebuttal from the Singapore government, with its foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan asking Kejriwal to “stick to facts”.

When Crisis Becomes Secondary

Both the Union government and the high court have pulled up the Kejriwal government for its abject failure in managing the supply chain mechanism of the much-needed medical oxygen to homes and hospitals. The high court went to the extent of suggesting that in the event of the Delhi government’s inability to resolve the issue, it would ask the Centre to take over.

Earlier, at a Centre-state meeting on Covid-19, Kejriwal had shared ‘live telecast’ of his interaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He was heavily criticised and forced to apologise for any “inconvenience caused”. A chief minister who feigns ignorance on administrative norms is an embarrassment to the governing system and becomes an object of ridicule.

Thankfully, Kejriwal’s recent tweet won’t likely cause much damage because the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) stepped in.

MEA To The Rescue

Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar as well the High Commissioner to Singapore clarified India’s position on Kejriwal’s tweets, saying that the “Delhi CM has no competence to pronounce on COVID variant”.

Singapore High Commissioner to India Simon Wong later said the CM’s remark “would not impact our hand-in-hand fight against Covid-19”, and added that Singapore wishes to “put an end to the episode”.

We can only appreciate that India and Singapore’s relations are not affected by a foot-in-the-mouth comment. Acknowledging India’s efforts in continuing bilateral trade and “keeping supply chains open and essential goods flowing” in spite of pandemic-related difficulties, Singapore’s Second Minister for Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman handed over the two planeloads of oxygen cylinders to India’s High Commissioner P. Kumaran at Paya Lebar Air Base in April. In less than a month, the Singapore Red Cross collected $2.6 million towards medical assistance in India. Not only that, Singapore was one of the first countries to send oxygen cylinders to India.

It is important for India, too, to show a united face at a time when global aid and communication is becoming more and more necessary. Because in a crisis like this pandemic, until everyone is safe, no one is.

Lesson For Kejriwal

If Arvind Kejriwal was unaware of the protocol, he should have refrained from making such comments. If Kejriwal knew the consequences of his statement and yet made it, he should demit office for gross misuse of his rights. If this is part of his “toolkit” to tarnish the image of the central government, then it is all the more serious as a conspiracy.

Perhaps the World Health Organization (WHO)’s recent announcement that it would soon come out with a system for naming viruses would be helpful for Kejriwal. As of now, these virus variants are numbered. Replacing numbers with names would be easier for the general public to identify and remember the variant. On the flip side, it could lead to stigmatising a particular country or location. But then, once this system is mandated, “Wuhan Virus” will be the official name for the original Covid-19, which has mutated into variants (like the UK variant or the South African variant) and infecting countries wave after wave.

But until the WHO comes out with its official notification to name these viruses, Arvind Kejriwal should attend to his designated duties in Delhi and try governing, for a change.