There is only one chief minister in the country not to be exempted by the Delhi government’s new odd-even formula on vehicle numbers to be implemented from next year. Arvin Kejriwal, the Delhi chief minister, made this exception for himself – to his ‘disadvantage’ – while exempting all chief ministers from the new system to control pollution in the national capital. There are many other dignitaries including the President, the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court judges and Union ministers who are also exempted from the anti-pollution measure. In fact, chief justice HL Dattu had offered himself and his fellow judges ‘ready’ for the arrangement and go for carpooling.

Kejriwal’s decision to exclude himself was obvious. An exemption for the Delhi chief minister, who has proposed the very idea, would have further hit his popularity, which is not the same when he rose to power last year creating record in India’s election history. By announcing that there would be no preferential treatment to the chief minister or his family, Kejriwal made a mark and set an example for his counterparts. But he is not alone in the race of austerity. There are others well ahead of him. Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar is the best example of how should be a ‘people’s leader’ in country like India. Sarkar’s wife, a retired government employee herself, was seen travelling in sleeper class without any security recently. The CM’s wife, Panchali Bhattacharjee, travelling in a rickshaw, is a common sight on the streets of Agartalla. The Sarkars also don’t own any car as the CM travels in his official car. He too hit headlines by travelling in a train in Assam recently.

Of course, people do not expect chief ministers just to show examples of austerity. An austere leader would fail if the people he leads indulge in extravagance, over-exploiting the resources. Kejriwal making exception for himself, against the exemption, will have little worth if people of Delhi start buying more cars to crack the odd-even puzzle. However, symbolism is necessary for any kind of revolution. The symbolism of Mahatma Gandhi’s work on the handloom drove an entire country towards shunning clothes made in the West. India should follow austere steps of the likes of Kejriwal and Sarkar positively and not go by the politics, if at all, behind it.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on December 25, 2015)

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