Kejriwal’s subsidized pilgrimage to Ayodhya distorts welfarism

Ramdev Bakshi |

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (https://commons.wikimedia.org/)

All ideologies tend to become statism in India—and that includes anarchism, the exact opposite of statism. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s announcement regarding free pilgrimage to the Ram Temple in Ayodhya for Delhi’s senior citizens underscores this point.

Seven years ago, he had famously accepted the term “anarchist” for himself. Addressing a crowd, he had said, “Some people say that I am an anarchist… I accept that I am an anarchist.”

Encyclopedia Britannica describes anarchism as a “cluster of doctrines and attitudes centred on the belief that government is both harmful and unnecessary. Anarchist thought developed in the West and spread throughout the world, principally in the early 20th century.” Considered against this backdrop, Kejriwal’s recent action, of subsidizing pilgrimage, is an assault not just on secularism but also on the cardinal principle of anarchism.

It needs to be mentioned here that his confession, of being an anarchist, should be taken with a pinch of salt. For he had accepted of being an anarchist in response to the charge he political rivals were hurling at him—that he was an anarchist. Further, it is also not clear how much he and his opponents knew about the origins and philosophy of anarchism.

Come as it may, Kejriwal’s pilgrimage subsidy not just perverts welfarism but also militates against the very spirit of secularism. Welfarism is not a sound ideology; while its impulse, philanthropy, is good, it invariably results in various distortions, massive waste, and general corruption. Providing succor to the poor like providing food to the starving and shelter to the homeless as government policy may have some merit, but spending taxpayer money for the salvation of some souls is complete perversion of welfarism. It looks that welfarism has gone berserk.

If the Delhi state government gives money for Hindu pilgrims, how can it confront demands for similar subsidies for Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, etc.?

It may be recalled that till a few years ago, the Central government used to give subsidy to Haj pilgrims. In 2012, the Supreme Court had invalidated the Haj subsidy, ruling that it was not just unconstitutional but also not in consonance with the teachings of Quran. A Muslim is expected to go on Haj spending his or her own money. The apex court had mandated that the subsidy should be phased out by 2022. The government did that in 2018.

Now, if Muslims demand some sort of support for Haj, the Kejriwal government would face a grim dilemma: either be consistent in appeasement of all religious groups and thus violate the apex court order, or attract the charge of being pro-Hindu.

For all we know, Kejriwal, a wily politician as he is, may be yearning to be accused of being pro-Hindu. He has already been advertising himself as a devotee of Hanuman (Hanuman-bhakt). He may also be vying with the Bharatiya Janata Party in Ram bhakti (devotion to Lord Ram).

In a nutshell, while all ideologies degenerate into statism, secularism tends to get corrupted by religious sentimentalism.

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